Bear paw shaped bunkers backdrop the first hole and tall maples, oaks, and sycamores add a cathedral-like closing on No 18. It is Scottish plaid and parkland golf merged together.
Cicero's Bear Slide Golf Club is a study and an interesting tour of golf contrasts. Architect Dean Refram, who worked extensively with Arnold Palmer, blended a links style front nine with a more wooded back nine. Refram's routings make creative use of a variety of hills, valleys, creeks and water landscapes. The settings provide both conservative play and risk reward options.
It is not just this review that recognizes the uniqueness and beauty of the course. Head professional, Mark Wisman, notes that Bear Slide is ranked as one of the premier courses in Indiana and a top rated public course by Great Lakes Golf Magazine.
Superintendent Chris Thuer, CGCS, directs great attention to course condition. Manicured tees, greens, and fairways are well evidenced. There are no cart ruts on this public course. Tall fescue grasses add aesthetics to the look but they more frame the fairways than find its tee shots.
Bear Slide's greens, while often noted to be among the fastest in the county, have none of the severe undulations that can make arrival on the green a new scoring threat for the golfer. They are maintained at quick, but grass healthy speeds.
Among the front nine holes, Mark likes the No 1 hole, with a fairway guarded left by a bunker and it subtly tilts right to water. A narrow left to right sloped green starts your putting day on this par 4. The backdrop of bear paws bunkers (see picture above) reminds you are on the right track.
He adds No 5, a long uphill par 4 as a signature hole. Once a good drive is hit, pull a long iron or fairway wood from the bag if you're hoping to reach a small elevated green bending back to the left. A prevailing breeze always add to the distance and a par is your friend.
Adding to the list of memorable front side holes, my playing partner, David Hinds, and I find No 3, a straight-away par 5 to be the "sneaky tough" hole on the front. Check the cart's yardage book carefully. Beware of bunkers! It's a deceptive hole with both grass and sandy hazards all along the way. Only a 30 yard chip-in to save par helped my disposition here.
For the back nine, Marks offers the par 4, No 15, as one of the best. From scenic elevated tees, the golfer has two branches Bear Slide Creek which challenge both lay up and go-for-it options. A grassy hill slope on the right and bunkers left front protect the green.
My brother and I would add the back nine's only par 5, No 12, to the list. It's a fairway that takes a drive toward water and then around water to peninsular type green. Facing a stiff SW wind, we both remarked this must be where they get the "bear" in Bear Slide.
Mark's other signature hole on the back nine is the No 18. This home hole closes the well-crafted adaptation of golf architecture with the natural terrain. An avenue of tall trees guides a drive to a valley and then up over Bear Slide Creek again to an amphitheater green. You will remember your par or birdie here.
It now up the steps to the Bear's Den, the 19th Hole served by the cordial Jill Wisman providing what every relaxing scorer's table should have...cold beverages and hot popcorn.
In Cicero, you follow the bear tracks if you are hunting for birdies. This season the conditions are very favorable at this award winning golf club.