The third leg of my Kansas/Oklahoma swing brought me to Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa Oklahoma. After visiting Prairie Dunes and spending the night in Kansas Fred, Kyle and I hit the road in the morning for the three and a half hour drive to Tulsa. One of the pros at my club in Virginia had been able to arrange a game at for us. We were playing unaccompanied which meant we could not tee off until 1PM. That worked out just fine as we were able to stop at a golf shop and pick up some more balls to replace all the ones we left in the gunsch at Prairie Dunes the day before. Fred was also able to replace the sand wedge that disappeared somewhere at Prairie Dunes and never did turn up.
Southern Hills Country Club was founded in 1936 in the height of the Great Depression which is quite surprising considering the economic problems of the day. According to their website the club was a project created by two men who believed there was a call for a family oriented club in Tulsa. When they approached a local business man to help finance the project he considered the idea preposterous and declined to provide any financial support. However, he did agree to donate the land if $150,000 could be raised from new members in two weeks time. Amazingly, the money came in and the project began with the construction of the clubhouse in 1936. Perry Maxwell, who had designed Colonial Country Club and Prairie Dunes Country Club, was chosen as the architect to create the golf course for the Southern Hills Country Club.
Shortly after the golf course was completed its greatness was recognized with the 1946 USGA’s Women’s Amateur Championship being awarded to the club. Including that first major championship in 1946 the club has hosted a total of 15 majors. Among others, there were three mens U.S. Opens and four PGA Championships which have been won by the likes of Tommy Bolt, Ray Floyd, Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods.
We arrived to the club a little early and were able to enjoy a delicious lunch in the restaurant before hitting a few balls on the practice tee. Once we were sufficiently warmed up we met the pro that would be playing with us and headed to the infamous first tee with the impressively elevated tee box.
Playing from the 6588 yard white tees the 1st hole played 454 yards to a par of 4. As illustrated below the drive is made from a very elevated tee box. The hole is definitely long, but it doesn’t play quite as long as the scorecard indicates.
Below is a photo of the 1st hole green complex.
The 2nd hole is another long par 4 that we played from 413 yards. The bunkers in the foreground of the photo below are not in play and neither is the creek that runs in front of them.
Below is a photo of the green complex which is surrounded by four bunkers.
At the 3rd hole we get a break from the 400+ yard holes and have a 380 yard par 4. The best line here is to favor the left side or center of the fairway as the hole bends to the left for the approach shot. Drives that go right will result in a considerably longer approach shot. The photo below was taken from the tee.
Again, the green complex (pictured below) is primarily protected by bunkers.
The 4th hole, pictured below from the tee, is a short par 4 of 350 yards. Big hitters can bomb it up the middle and catch the hill to pick up a little extra yardage.
The approach shot, shown below, is slightly uphill and for many players will be just a short wedge.
The 5th hole is the only par 5 hole on the first nine holes and we played it from 589 yards – clearly not reachable in two for your average player. As illustrated in the photo below this is an excellent time to break out your draw if you’ve got it.
The photo below was taken from a good ways out. Because of the length of this hole and the potential for trouble in the trees on left and right the smart play is an iron for the second shot and then a short shot into the green.
Finally, we reached our first par 3 at the 6th hole. We played it from 168 yards so a nice mid-iron shot was called for. Although the creek runs in front of the green it doesn’t really come into play except for shots that are terribly mishit.
The 7th hole is a really nice par 4 that I liked quite a bit. From the tee the green cannot be seen and the best line is to drive the ball up the left side of the fairway as it falls off to the right. Balls hit too far to the right can end up in very bad position for approaching the green.
The 7th green, pictured below, is again protected by bunkers. You can see a bit of the tilt of the fairway to the right at the bottom of the photo.
The 8th hole is a great par 3 that is as difficult as it is great. The distance from the white tees is 198 yards and in the photo below it is clear that the hole location is in one of the more treacherous spots. What you cannot see is that the green is two tiered with the left hand side being lower than the right. The best shot for this hole location is a high draw that lands soft and rolls down towards the flagstick. Needless to say, I did not pull that off.
The first nine holes close out with a nice little shortish par 4 of 359 yards. The 9th hole, pictured below, is a dogleg right and requires a drive of about 250 yards to carry the bunker on the right side of the fairway.
The approach to the 9th green is an uphill shot and will require a little extra club to get it all the way up top to the green. There are bunkers on the left and right to penalize wayward shots.
The 10th hole is a shortish par 4 of 366 yards. This is the hole that John Daly tried to drive in the 2007 PGA Championship. The photo below was taken from the tee box and if you click to enlarge the picture you can see a green side bunker on the right. Big JD’s intended shot was most likely a high draw over the trees.
Below is a photo of the route that most of us regular players would take. It only required a shot of 220 yards or so to find “Position A”.
Below is the approach shot to the 10th green. You will notice that the second nine holes here at Southern Hills are decidedly more undulating than the first nine holes.
The 11th hole is a diabolical little par 3. Its only 155 yards from the white tees, but it is critical to avoid the bunkers with the tee shot. Today the hole was in the back and I managed to put my ball in the back left bunker. I wedged out, onto the green and rolled into the bunker on the right. Out of that bunker I did the same thing and found the back left bunker again. The green is narrow at the back and a smarter player would have hit their sand shot more towards the front of the green rather than at the flag as I did.
The 12th hole is a slight dogleg left that we played as a 426 yard par 4. The ideal line would be to skirt the right edge of the bunker on the left side of the fairway. A little draw certainly doesn’t hurt. The photo below is my only photo as we played through a group on this hole and I forgot to get a photo of the green.
The 13th hole, pictured from the tee box in the photo below is a great par 5 that we played from 527 yards. From the tee its tough to tell exactly what lies ahead.
A really long drive can make this one reachable in two, but the second shot will likely be hit from down in the swales pictured below and the green is guarded by two ponds and a some bunkers so its probably wiser to lay up to a comfortable wedge distance.
Below is a photo of the green complex.
I missed my opportunity to photograph the 14th hole from the tee, but it is a 190 yard par 3 from the white tees and is a fairly straight forward hole with a green flanked by bunkers. I’m including the photo below taken from behind the hole simply for the sake of having a photo of the hole.
The 15th hole played as a 380 yard par 4 dogleg left. The ideal line is just over the bunker on the left side of the fairway in the photo below. A good drive here will leave a short iron into the green.
The green on this hole is again protected by a number of deep bunkers. The green itself is a bit of a challenge and its crucial to hit your ball to the right spot on the green.
At the 16th hole we’ve got another par 5 and this one played a relatively short 507 yards from the white tees. Definitely reachable in two with a good drive. The hole is lined with trees so its best to hit the fairway in order to have the best chance at reaching the green or getting close in two.
More bunkers surround the 16th green.
The 17th hole may have been my favorite hole on the course. I love the short par 4s and this one played at 334 yards as a dogleg right. There is a creek along the right side of the hole that needs to be avoided. The best line is to hit a 200+ yard shot out to the left side of the fairway.
I also love the green complex on this hole. The green itself is elevated and surrounded by very deep bunkers. The two tiered putting surface can make for some really tricky putts.
As much as I loved the short par 4 17th hole, I also loved the long par 4 18th hole. This one we played from 420 yards and a good drive is essential to get the ball in position to have a clear shot into the green. The hole doglegs right and if the drive does not make it far enough out and to the left side of the fairway the second shot will have to be a layup.
As shown in the photo below a drive that favors the left side of the fairway will likely find its way down to the right due to the fairway sloping in that direction.
The approach is a significant uphill and with the putting surface and hole location not able to be ascertained from the fairway. Not an easy finish.
Southern Hills is clearly a championship golf course. It just had that type of feel. Good shots are essential in order to make a good score here. Even from the 6,588 yard white tees the course was a great challenge. I like both the first and second nine holes, but I was a little partial to the second nine. the land was a bit more undulating which made for more interesting rolls and lies. Overall, another top notch championship course!