“It is not an easy golf course,” stated Jeffrey C. Williams.
At the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course at the historical Indianapolis Motor Speedway par is 220+. That’s par for the IndyCars screaming around at over 220 miles per hour at the famed 2.5-mile oval in Speedway, Indiana. For golfers fortunately, par is only 72.
Voted one of America’s Top 100 Public Golf Courses by Golf Digest and GolfWeek, four holes of the Brickyard Crossing are actually inside the famous brickyard racetrack.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is known as The Brickyard because of the 3.2 million paving bricks used to pave the track in 1909. The Brickyard Crossing takes its namesake from the famous oval nestled in the middle of Speedway, Indiana.
Since the Speedway opened in 1909 it has hosted 96 Indianapolis 500 mile races, 19 Brickyard 400 NASCAR events, eight United States Grand Prix Formula One events and 5 Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP races, playing host to some of the biggest names in racing history such as Foyt, Unser and Andretti.
Although not widely known, Gary Player, Billy Casper, Gil Morgan, Doug Ford and Mickey Wright can also be added to the list of winners at the Brickyard. While not winning on the racetrack, all won major PGA or LPGA tournaments at the Greatest Race Course in the World.
Sitting on 253 acres, Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman Colosseum and Vatican City can all fit inside the IMS oval where part of the Brickyard Crossing golf course is located.
Through his leadership, his staff has maintained the rich heritage of the course and the traditions of the Speedway while giving the golfer one of the most unique experiences in the world of golf.
In his eighth year as the PGA Director of Golf, Williams and his staff are responsible not only for the golf course maintenance and supervision, but for the entire Speedway complex including the infield portion of the racetrack.
The Perdue graduate went to Speedway High School, only about a mile from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway located at 16th and Georgetown Road. Speedway High School is also the same high school that racer John Andretti attended. Andretti was just a few years ahead of Williams in school. While a student at Speedway High School, Williams played the Speedway’s course and it was considered as his home course.
The original Speedway Golf Course was built in 1929 and has undergone several renovations over the eighty-four years it has been on the IMS grounds. The current layout was designed in 1992-1993 by noted golf course designer Pete Dye and became known as the Brickyard Crossing once the renovation was completed.
Adjoining the Speedway Golf Course until the fall of 1998 was the 96-room Brickyard Crossing Inn. Built in 1963 and originally known as Indianapolis Motor Speedway Motel, the building’s age along heating and cooling cost made maintaining the facility difficult. Only showing a 20% occupancy rate other than at race times, the Speedway chose to raze the building since it was not cost effective to maintain it as a functioning motel.
While the old 500 Motel was never an architectural masterpiece like today’s modern luxury high rise hotels, during its 45-years on West 16th Street it saw many celebrities including The Beatles, James Garner, Jim Nabors and Paul Newman. Newman along with Joanne Woodward and Robert Wagner filmed a scene of the movie Winning in room 212.
Originally nine holes of the Speedway Golf Course were inside the racetrack and an additional nine holes were located east of the Speedway, just a club’s throw outside the 5/8 of a mile back straight. In the late 1960s the course was remodeled to have a full championship 18 holes outside the racetrack with nine holes inside the racetrack for a total of 27 holes.
When the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum moved from the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Ave to the present location inside the Speedway, part of the land the golf course utilized was lost so a new nine-hole lesser or “Executive” course was built inside the track.
From the late 1960s until the redesign of the course in 1992-1993, the Speedway would park thousands of cars on the fairways of the infield nine-hole course on race day.
The Pete Dye designed course now known as the Brickyard Crossing would change the layout of the golf course to contain four holes inside the racetrack and fourteen holes outside the race track where the old championship 18 was located. All parking would be eliminated on the fairways for race day events. The new championship caliber course would host several PGA and LPGA tour events from the 1990s up to the year 2000.
An average of 20,000 eighteen-hole rounds are played each year at the Brickyard Crossing. In May an average 200 golfers per day try to get on the course to say they have sank a putt with an IndyCar screaming by at 220+ miles per hour.
Golfers start at early as 7:00 a.m. each morning and play continues until dark in the months the course is open. Weather permitting, the course tries to open around St. Patrick’s Day each year and play continues until around Thanksgiving Day in late November.
The course rating and slope for each of the four tees are: Gold 74.0/143, Blue 72.0/138, White 69.3/133 and Red 68.8/127.
A common question Williams is asked several times a week is, “Can a golf ball actually end up on the racing surface of the oval?” U.S.G.A rules govern all play at the Brickyard Crossing and one local rule addresses this question. Each score card contains the local rule, “A ball crossing the Raceway and coming to rest on another part of the golf course is deemed to be out of bounds.”
“Golf balls can end up on the speedway but it would have to be a shot designed to hit the actual racing surface,” Wallace said. “The Speedway and golf course are so massive and spacious inside there you would really have to be trying to put one on the track.”
“It is a couple of hundred yards from the playing course to the oval track,” Williams stated. “The road course however in the infield comes right up next to the golf course.” Each side of the oval and road course have massive catch fences that a golf ball would also have to clear to land on the racing surface.
There are about 30 days a year you can play golf at the Brickyard Crossing when cars or motorcycles are actually on the track. Currently the MotoGP motorcycles and the Grand Am Rolex Series use the Speedway’s infield road racetrack.
The Brickyard Crossing is not in play on any qualification day, Carb Day for the Indianapolis 500 or any race days at the Speedway. During the NASCAR/Grand AM Rolex Series Super Weekend at the Brickyard in July each year, the outside holes only are open except for qualifying and the race days. “With all the foot traffic and 100,000 people in attendance it is impossible to open the course,” Williams said.
Mr. Hulman’s wishes and legacy are still alive today as he is credited for not only saving the Speedway, but the golf course as well. Hulman had obtained control of the Speedway after purchasing it from Eddie Rickenbacker.
The facilities were in deplorable condition after four years of deterioration during World War II. Hulman brought the Speedway back to life, including the golf course. Mr. Hulman’s policy has been expanded to include any race winner at the speedway since at the time Tony Hulman made the policy; only the Indianapolis 500 was run at the Speedway.
“There are as many NASCAR participates that play golf or maybe even more than the IndyCar drivers,” Williams added. “I don’t know if it is because they are busier but it seems that the NASCAR drivers play more golf.”
On Thursday before the Speedway opens in May each year the Brickyard Crossing host the “Indy 500” tournament. Drivers Simona de Silvestro, James Jakes and Graham Rahal all participated in the tournament this year.
During race week for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 several events are planned at the Brickyard Crossing. Tuesday of race week is the “Foyt Family Golf Classic”. A.J. Foyt IV and A.J. Foyt Jr. will be at the course along with one of A.J.’s winning cars from the infield museum.
Wednesday of race week is the annual driver’s tournament hosted by the Graham Rahal Foundation. It is expected that around 10 current IndyCar drivers will show up to play in the event. So far this month Graham Rahal and James Jakes have already played additional rounds of golf on the course as a tune up for the fundraiser.
The Brickyard Crossing has a rich heritage on the PGA Professional Tour. The 500 Festival Open was held from 1960-1968 and had notable winners such as Billy Casper, Frank Beard, Dow Finsterwald, Bruce Crampton, Gary Player and Doug Ford.
Williams stated, “They would play the PGA tour event here on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, rounds one, two and three. They would have the race on Sunday and then the final round of the tournament on Monday.”
Old photos of the winners of the 500 Festival Open are still displayed inside the pro shop. Williams added, “When you walk inside the front desk which used to the be lobby for the old Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hotel, several pictures still hang of famous golfers who played the course. All the big names played at the course including Arnold Palmer.”
In later years Gil Morgan, Hugh Baiocchi, David Graham, Jimmy Powell, Simon Hobday and Isao Aoki all won later PGA tournaments at the club from 1994-2000.
The LPGA 500 Ladies Classic was held in 1960 at the old Speedway Golf Course with Mickey Wright winning the event. Her winnings that day totaled $2,250. Williams noted, “To host a PGA and LPGA event in the same season was great. Very few venues in the country have ever done that.”
When NASCAR came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994 the walls of the racetrack proved to be too low for the larger heavier stock cars. The Speedway had to remove all the outside retaining walls and add new higher walls. Tony George, Hulmans’ grandson asked Pete Dye to incorporate the old walls in the new design of the course.
Dye used the old racetrack walls to build retaining walls around the golf course. The old walls can be seen around several lakes and hills both inside and outside the Speedway.
As with Augusta National Golf Course, home of the Masters Golf Tournament, people request to have their ashes scattered on the Speedway’s famous golf course. “All the time,” Williams said. “Happens a few times a year for sure. People request it. People that worked here; some people attended here; people that played here.”
“Some people do it on their own and tell us after they do it. It is such hallowed ground for people. They have some of their best memories being here. We get request all the time.”
When golfers play the course they can smell the ethanol from the cars streaking by, especially early in the morning when the air is damp and heavy. While the odor of the new racing fuel is not as pungent as the older style ethanol, the eleventh hole is noted for especially catching a lot of fumes.
While foot traffic may be the main problem for the golf course on race weekends, Williams and his crew face a bigger task inside the huge oval. Wrecking cars and victory celebrations take their toll on the infield grass on both the oval and the road course racetrack.
The Brickyard Crossing’s staff is responsible for all the grass inside the Speedway including the grass that is seen by hundreds of thousands on race day in the stands along with the several millions of viewers on television.
“We have a large maintenance crew. Our maintenance crew does all the irrigation in the infield. There are 4,000 sprinkler heads here in the entire complex. 2,000 on the golf course and the other 2,000 on the race track.”
Jeff Stuart, the course superintendent, must work with network television, the race officials and all the other parties who need access to the grass and other areas of the track.
“Our irrigation system in the infield is shut off around race time. There is irrigation all around the racetrack, so if there is a crash a car could hit an irrigation head. They don’t want water shooting out of the broken head sprinkler head onto the racing surface,” noted Williams.
The strangest thing that still happens at the track is also potentially the most dangerous. “We are always chasing people down out on the race track in golf carts,” Williams said as he smiled.
“It is an ongoing chore for us. Once they go from number 6 to 7 inside the race track they off and on it. We have a GPS system on each cart now to keep track of the golfers so we know when they leave the course.”
“There could be pace laps going on and we tell them it is dangerous to be out there. The Chevrolet Corvette pace car this year tops out around 198 miles per hour. There could be a pace car coming down the track at 198 and we don’t need a golf cart on the track. It is an ongoing babysitting job.”
“People want to get out on the yard of bricks; people want to get on the racetrack. Monthly we will have to go get people off the track in their golf carts,” Williams concluded.
Just to the east of the pro shop sits and old stately white and green barn with the Brickyard Crossing logo on the side. The barn is the oldest building on the property of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Around 105 years old, the barn is from the original farm that was on the property where the IMS complex would later be located. Still in use today, it has been refurbished inside and out and is used by the golf course for storage.
“It is a great piece of history here,” said Williams. “A lot of the other buildings here have burnt down over time or gotten brittle so we have really tried to hang on to that one. It is the oldest building on our property.”
Playing golf at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway while cars are practicing for the Indianapolis 500 is on many a golfer’s bucket list. “Everyday I get a call from someone in the country,” stated Williams.
“Everyone wants to play during race time. It is one of the most unique venues in the world. We were voted the number one Most Wanted Place to Play in the United States by Japan Golf Today. It is great to have a nice destination golf course. People want to be here.”
With thirty employees on the staff for the golf shop and another 35 on the maintenance crew, the Brickyard Crossing gives outstanding service to its customers. The pro shop is filled with towels, balls, hats, golf flags and bags all bearing the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wheel and Wings logo.
“With people coming to town we want to give them first class service. We know their hard earned money is being spent here and we want to give them the best experience possible,” said Williams.
With a beautiful and challenging professional course, an outstanding and caring PGA Director of Golf, a first rate maintenance crew and a course filled with such rich history tucked inside the most famous racetrack in the world; no golfer will leave the Brickyard Crossing without a lifetime of memories on the day they played at the Greatest Race Course in the World.
Just as long as they don’t try to set “A New Track Record” in a golf cart on the famous yard of bricks.
The Brickyard Crossing is located at 4400 West 16th Street, Indianapolis, Indiana. Green fees are $100.00 per player and include a cart for 18 holes with GPS. Twilight Golf after 4:00 p.m. is $60.00 per player.
Annual membership is $3,000.00 and includes unlimited golf, cart and range with reduced guest fees. The website for the Brickyard Crossing is Brickyard Crossing and the Golf Shop may be reached at (317) 492-6572.