The Pfau Course History

As part of Indiana University’s Bicentennial Campaign, Indiana University Athletics made ambitious plans to transform an outdated golf course from the 1950s into a top-flight layout that is on par with the best courses in the Midwest. The $12 million renovation included the complete overhaul of the course as well as the construction of a new clubhouse facility. The successful end result is a championship caliber par-71 course, The Pfau Course at Indiana University, opening May 1, 2020.

IU partnered with Steve Smyers Golf Course Architects and Fuzzy Zoeller of Zoeller Inc. on the project, two important and influential names in the sport of golf and in the world of golf course design.

Smyers arrived with nearly four decades of golf course design experience. His course layouts can be found both near and far. His first career design was Indianapolis’ Wolf Run, which opened in 1989, and is one of the top courses in the state of Indiana. He has also been involved with some of the top designs around the world, including courses in Australia, Zimbabwe,England, France, Eduador and the Philippines.

Zoeller, meanwhile, is a native of New Albany, Ind., and a two-time major winner. In addition to being a long-time supporter of IU Athletics, he’s been an influential golf course designer in the state of Indiana. Near his hometown of New Albany, both Champions Pointe and Covered Bridge are Zoeller designed courses and considered among the top public courses in the state of Indiana.

That tandem joined forces, and were given the mission of designing a course that would:

  • Attract high-caliber events
  • Provide for the future of the game of golf
  • Require golfers to execute a variety of shots
  • Preserve and enhance the environment
  • Be environmentally and economically sustainable

They clearly were successful in that mission. As a result, Indiana University Athletics has a golf facility that is among the best home courses in the nation. Indiana University, the city of Bloomington and the state of Indiana have a new destination golf course that will attract visitors and events creating significant economic impact on their communities.

While The Pfau Course at Indiana University is a new, welcomed addition to the golf community, the land on which it sits has a long history as well.

The golf course property, located on the east side of the Indiana 45-46 bypass, has been owned by Indiana University since the early part of the 20th century. In 1954, Indiana University Athletics officials chose it as the location for a championship golf course they hoped would rival the elite courses that its Big Ten counterparts enjoyed.

That layout was the brainchild of former Hoosier golf coach Jim Soutar, a native of Carnoustie, Scotland, who doubled as the golf professional at the Bloomington Country Club and co-head coach of the IU men’s golf team. He worked alongside former IU Athletic Director Paul “Pooch” Harrell to make the new par-71, 6,813 yard course a reality. It opened in 1957.

Shortly after its opening, it hosted its first major event– the 1961 Big Ten Men’s Golf Championship. It was there that a soon-to-be-well-known youngster dominated the field to win the individual conference championship– Ohio State’s Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus would go on to win the NCAA individual championship weeks later, and then went on to capture his second U.S. Amateur Championship later that same summer.

But Nicklaus isn’t the only famous golfer who has walked these same hills in years past. Shaun Micheel starred for the Hoosiers from 1988-91, concluding his IU career by winning the Big Ten individual championship in 1991 while leading IU to the team title. Micheel would go onto a lengthy career on the PGA Tour, highlighted by winning the 2003 PGA Championship and finishing as the runner-up in the same major event in 2006.

Jeff Overton, meanwhile, became the first IU player to ever record a single-season scoring average of under 70 when he accomplished the feat during his senior season in 2004-05. A two-time Big Ten Player of the Year and All-American, Overton has played professionally since 2005. His most notable accomplishments came in 2010, when he finished 11th on the PGA money list and earned a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, where he earned two full points in the U.S.’s 14 ½-13 ½ loss to the European team in Wales.

On the women’s side, legendary IU Golf Coach Sam Carmichael called this area home for all 24 years of his coaching career, which included seven women’s Big Ten team titles to go along with his two Big Ten men’s championships. Two of those titles came while three-time Big Ten individual champion Erika Wicoff was leading Carmichael’s squad in the mid 1990s. Among the big names to play for Carmichael was Michelle Redman, a two-time All-American who won the 1987 Big Ten individual title. Redman went on to win more than $5 million on the LPGA Tour, including a pair of tournament wins.