Quail Chase Golf Club: Louisville's Best Bet for Golf

By Kiel Christianson, Senior Writer

LOUISVILLE, KY -- Golf takes a back seat to horseracing in Kentucky, as does most everything else, actually. But the two sports have certain commonalities: Both can break your heart. Both can be addictive. And both can be expensive, unless you know which horse to bet on or which course to play.

And while War Emblem may have been an unknown before this year's Kentucky Derby, golfers from the Great Lakes to the Deep South have discovered that the best bet for golf in the Louisville area is Quail Chase Golf Club. With its 27 championship holes, great service and unbeatable rates, Quail Chase guarantees a golfing trifecta.

Quail Chase is Louisville's only 27-hole championship facility, and as such it has locked up its own niche in the area: Golfers can choose between private clubs, municipal courses, or Quail Chase. And as the course's Cary Clark says, "If folks don't have the pull to get on at [private] Valhalla, Quail Chase is where they come."

California course architect David Pfaff built the original 18 holes - South and West Courses - in 1989, and added the East Course in 1991. All three nines are routed through prototypical Kentuckian countryside, replete with rolling hills, hardwood groves, and the occasional barking dog (watch out for the neighbors' terriers on No. 8 of the East Course!).

Course owner Clarke Fenimore's goal in creating Quail Chase was, and is, to offer golfers an upscale public facility with top-notch service and quality at a reasonable price. "If you're going to do it, do it right," explains Fenimore. "All of our equipment and clothes are top of the line, but the same prices as the discount golf chains. The course is equipped with defibrillator paddles, and all our staff are trained in CPR. All beer and drinks are top shelf, and they all cost the same low price. Our goal is to speak personally with every golfer at least five times from the time they arrive to the time they leave. It makes people feel welcome."

The three nines are every bit up to Fenimore's standards, as well. The Bermuda grass fairways and bent grass greens are in tremendous condition, even though the rain was falling heavily at times during our visit. Fairways ranged from very tight to very forgiving, and the wall-to-wall 8-foot wide cartpaths and well-marked yardages made for a convenient, comfortable round. Of the 27 holes, the best nine are on the East, so we chose to play the West and East Courses the day of our visit.

West Course

The West Course starts off with a pet peeve: OB right. But if you can fend off a slice, it makes for an easy start. Overall, the par 4s on the West were a bit short (357-390 yards from the tips) but quite enjoyable, and the par 3s were very nice, incorporating a testy elevation change on No. 2 and a lovely brook on No. 6.

The centerpieces of the West Course are the two par-5s, Nos. 3 and 5. The 516-yard 3rd starts out with an uphill tee shot with a dead drop-off to the left from tee to green. The approach shot is downhill to a seemingly miniscule green, which has nothing but penalty strokes to the left and a large bunker and overhanging maple to the right. The 561-yard 5th also runs uphill and then back downhill to the green. Lots of sand and another small putting surface force very precise approach shots.

East Course

Almost every hole on the East Course deserves mention, with equally strong par 3s, 4s, and 5s. The hole that everyone who plays Quail Chase remembers, though, is No. 1: This 461-yard monster has been named the second-toughest hole in the Louisville area by local publications. And according to some course staff, golfers come in daily and report that it's the hardest hole they have ever played.

No. 1 runs uphill from the tee to a wide landing area, but then straight downhill 200+ yards to a green that looks as if it might just slide at any minute into the water fronting it. Even scratch players are going to have to have plenty of club and lots of balls to score well on this hole (you know, in case they lose a ball or two in the pond). Most players are going to have to lay up short of the water, though, and simply play it as a 5-shot par 4.

The 507-yard, par-5 3rd features another wonderful vista from the fairway down to the green. And Nos. 4 and 6 are two of those elevated par-3s you'd be happy to go back and play again and again all day long. On No. 4 (158 yards), water fronts the well-bunkered, diagonal, Redan-style green. And on No. 6 (190 yards), the view from the elevated tees down to the large green and the water just beyond it is worth the price of admission.

The 536-yard, par-5 8th is another stunning par 5. The fairway is bisected by rough at about the point where the hole bends sharply around bucolic McNeely Lake. Seven bunkers and a massive tree stand between you and the green, forcing either a fade around the corner or draw over water, depending on your position in the fairway. As hard as No. 1 is, this hole is rated as the highest handicap hole on the East Course.

The Experience

Quail Chase's facilities are more than adequate to host the numerous banquets and 150+ outings scheduled here each year. The course caters not only to groups, however. Mr. Fenimore and his friendly staff have made a concerted effort to make their quality course accessible to golfers of all ages. LPGA teaching pro Brenda Daniels offers lessons to players of all levels, including fee golf clinics for golfers 15 and under every Saturday from 2-3 p.m.

Juniors also get great deals on green fees on Fridays-Sundays after 4 p.m., when golfers 15 years and under play for free when accompanied by a paying adult. On weekdays after noon, they pay only $5 when accompanied by an adult.

Those of us who are over 15 are still treated pretty well: Weekday rates are only $24 to walk 18 holes ($34 with cart), and weekend rates are just $31 ($41 with cart). At these rates, it is easy to see why the course can see as many as 400 golfers a day on weekends. If there is one knock on the course it is the pace of play - 2 hours 15 minutes are scheduled for each nine. But as Mr. Fenimore says, this allows for hot-dog and beer time at the turn.

So you didn't bet a bundle on War Emblem to win wire-to-wire in this year's Kentucky Derby, eh? Well you can still afford to play great golf at Quail Chase - the best golfing bet in Louisville.

Kiel ChristiansonKiel Christianson, Senior Writer

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • price

    mike cundiff wrote on: May 27, 2008

    we range from about an 8 to a 12 hdcp so we're not to bad as golfers but we are just blue collar working stiffs and as much as we like playing quail chase we only play there once maybe twice a month because of price and although the course is great and staff is great because we have families and the economy stinks we have to play less quality courses because they are cheaper and thats not your fault just the way it is and i personally think $32. is good price for public weekend golf with use of cart