I've often heard, "The best things in life are free." That may be true, but this is not one of those things.
Nevertheless, it is a de-lovely opportunity that doesn't come around very often, and might not come again if too many fools rush in to seize it before you do.
I'm referring to the Asherwood Estate, located in Carmel, Indiana and developed by Mel Simon, of Simon Malls empire fame and fortune. Simon passed away in 2009 and his wife, Bren, recently donated Asherwood and its two Steve Smyers-designed courses to the Carmel-based Great American Songbook Foundation.
Located just around the corner from Pete Dye's famed Crooked Stick Golf Club, the 106-acre Asherwood is one of America's most impressive private homesites. The mansion comprises more than 50,000 square feet, and much of the rest of the space on the property is devoted to golf. Steve Smyers designed a big course with 13 greens that can be played as 27 discrete holes from different teeing grounds and angles, and a short course with 13 greens of its own and all sorts of par-3 possibilities, including an island green with a bunker in the middle.
For years, it was a totally private playground. Simon had the run of the place, along with any guests he may have invited.
The gift came as something of a surprise to its new owners. The Great American Songbook Foundation are custodians of music, not golf courses. They are eager to turn the mansion into a museum dedicated to great 20th century artists like George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Duke Ellington.
As for the golf course, the long-term future is uncertain. But in the short-term, the Foundation have begun allowing select play at Asherwood over the rest of the fall. Foursomes can pay $1,500, $2,500 or $3,500 for all-day (7 am to 5 pm) access to the short course, long course or both courses, respectively. Slots are available Tuesdays through Sundays from now through November 4. A portion of proceeds from these rounds will go back to the foundation.
At $625 per person, access to the long course becomes one of the most expensive tee times in golf, exceeding Pebble Beach's $525 base green fee by $100, although because only one group is allowed on the course per day, it would be very easy to play 36 holes or more.
Carts are available at Asherwood, but there are no caddies or available on-site food and beverage. Visitors will, however, have access to the course clubhouse (separate from the main house) and locker room.
For golfers with some spare time, cash and the desire to have a golf course to themselves for a day, this is a potential once-in-a-lifetime experience. And it may well be the last chance for anyone to play golf at Asherwood, as beyond November 4, the future of these unique courses is uncertain.
Another course of your own...for a day, at least
If the asking price for access to Asherwood is beyond your price range, there is another private estate golf course out there that can be accessed more affordably...as long as you bring a bigger group.
It's called Oakmoore Golf Course. Located on the outskirts of Stockton, California, the nine-hole layout was built by local engineer Stanley Moore more than 50 years ago and operates as a wholly rentable space for groups. If you want to play, bring 40 or more golfers, at between $40 and $50 each, and you can have all-day run of the facility, which includes not just the course but clubhouse, kitchen and cart fleet.
It's not as opulent as Asherwood, but it's a lot more affordable and, seemingly, enduring.