by Tony Coppi
The championship 18-hole Salt Creek Golf Course is surrounded in part by beautiful Brown County State Park scenery. Half of the course is carved through mature forests with hills and deep ravines, while the balance of the holes wind through the meadowlands—crossing Salt Creek seven times.
The hills and ravines on the course create 60-foot elevation changes and the paved cart path winds through the spectacular southern Indiana landscape.
The challenging course, which plays to 6407 yards from the championship tees, was originally built in 1991 with nine holes and increased to 18 the following year. At present, the premier magazine of the fairways, Golf Digest, rates the course with three and one half stars. With the constant improvements being made on the course, a four star rating is forthcoming.
Bent grass fairways, tees, and greens surround the course and are kept beautifully manicured by greenskeeper Terry Arnt.
Two PGA professional golf pros are available for private and group lessons.
The two pros are Tony and Ben VanNess—brothers born 16 months apart. They both attended Methodist College in Fayetteville, North Carolina where they starred on the varsity golf team. The team was rated number one in Division III schools and in the top 30 in Division I schools.
On January 1999, co-owners Diana VanNess-Gabriel and Mark Gabriel assumed ownership of the course and made extensive improvements.
The Overlook Lodge will open this month featuring 36 condos available for overnight lodging. Each unit sleeps one to four guests and is fully furnished with a full kitchen, appliances, and fireplace.
The condos are available for purchase as a primary residence, as a secondary residence, as a vacation home, or may be rented on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
The Overlook Restaurant can accommodate large groups and events as well as individuals. Diane Paine, director of marketing and events explained, “We plan everything from weddings, rehearsal dinners, corporate meetings, dances, high school proms, style shows, and more. We have seating for 300 guests with specially designed menus by our chef, Wayne Hawrys, and we have over 150 types of wines with more to be on the list this year,” she added.
The standard menu selections by chef Hawrys are pasta dishes (spaghetti and lasagna), prime steaks (filet mignon, porterhouse, New York strip), salmon filet, shrimp scampi, and chicken piccata along with terrific deserts and fruit pies.
Operation of the Salt Creek Retreat is a family affair.
Jennifer VanNess, wife of golf pro Ben, manages the office affairs and the restaurant. She attended Purdue University and majored in elementary education.
Heather VanNess, wife of golf pro Tony, is in charge of the Overlook Lodge operation for reservations, bookings, etc. She is an Indiana University graduate and recently obtained a real estate license and has joined Hills o’ Brown Realty.
Before becoming a co-owner of the golf facility, Mark Gabriel was an outstanding basketball player. He was recently elected into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. He earned this honor by being named to All America teams while attending Hanover College where he majored in business administration and minored in economics. He is Hanover’s leading scorer averaging 23 points a game with 12.5 rebounds. He takes his place into the Hall of Fame along with other legends of Indiana basketball such as Oscar Robertson, Rick Mount, Larry Bird, Bob Leonard, and John Wooden.
Diana VanNess Gabriel is very active in community affairs along with her duties at the golf club. She serves on the board of directors for the Brown County Chamber of Commerce, the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Indiana Health Care Association. She has been in long-term care for 21 years and is part owner of four long-term care nursing facilities in Madison County.
Salt Creek holds fundraising and charity events for organizations such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters, YMCA, and the Rotary Club. The Brown County high school golf team practices and holds their matches with other schools there.
A putting and driving range are available for guests, and a wide variety of clothing for men and women are well stocked in the Pro Shop.
Salt Creek Golf Retreat is located two miles east of Nashville on State Road 46 and is open to the public. For more information call 812-988-7888.