Southern Hills Country Club, OK, USA

Sixth hole, 200/170 yards; Maxwell incorporated the creek between the tee and green five times: here, the second, third, twelfth, and eighteenth. This hole occupies the lowest part of the property and the swollen creek is acutely felt on the tee. Nonetheless, it only menaces pulled shots and there is lots of short grass short and right of the green. To the author, the short grass presents an appealing ‘miss’ area. When the area was maintained as rough, the tee ball had a one-dimensional ‘aim for the green or else’ mentality. The implementation of short grass admirably creates more options and therefore more indecision.

Today’s right hole location is accessible but chasing after left ones is a fool’s errand.

Seventh hole, 385/370 yards; A sub-400 yard hole that can’t routinely be beaten becomes misunderstood and infuriating. As such, an architect should as a matter of good practice build at least one such perplexer per course! Southern Hills has several, which nicely balance the prodigiously difficult second, twelfth and eighteenth. Finding the left side of the fairway here is important yet the left to right cant of the ground is of no help. Like the challenges found at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, the golfer ideally shapes a draw to hold the left side of the fairway. Tee balls missed straight through the fairway find a difficult Bermuda lie and a poor angle with potential tree trouble. Though it fits in with the rest of the course, this green complex is the only non-original Maxwell on the course (Maxwell’s green was shorter and well to the left). Loy Martin moved it here in the early 1960s after hail damage forced Southern Hills to rebuild all eighteen greens after the 1958 US Open. Interestingly enough, the USGA had just released a paper on USGA spec greens and it is believed that Southern Hills was the first club in the country to implement them. Foster has helped insure that Martin’s handiwork blends in well with what is emphatically a Maxwell course.

The left to right cant of the fairway coupled with a mature oak 90 yards from the green play off each other to create problems for the golfer.

The left to right cant of the fairway coupled with a mature sycamore 90 yards from the green play off each other to complicate matters for the golfer.

Eighth hole, 245/200 yards; This long one shotter produces more than its share of optical illusions. The green itself is draped over a ridge with the front 2/3 facing the golfer and the back 1/3 falling away. Shots hit into the upslope really brake while shots beyond the ridge race away. From the tee, the eighth doesn’t seem to rise that much but the view back from the green properly conveys its ascent. Hubert Green treated this hole like Billy Casper did the third at Winged Foot: he laid up short of the putting surface all four days of the 1977 US Open, relying on his short game/short grass prowess to save par.

Ninth hole, 375/360 yards; Knowing when to move a bunker built by a master architect from the Golden Age requires finesse. Few restorers are more artful than Foster. On this hole Maxwell’s lone fairway bunker had been rendered meaningless by advancements in technology. Since it wasn’t cut into a landform, Foster was free to push it back. He also edged it more into the fairway. Without doubt, Maxwell would have done the same if he was alive today. Thus, job well done by Foster.

Thanks to Foster's work, this fairway bunker is once again ideally placed (i.e. it is right where the golfer wishes it wasn't!).

Thanks to Foster’s work, this fairway bunker is once again ideally placed (i.e. it is right where the golfer wishes it wasn’t!). Fairways feed directly into the bunkers throughout Southern Hills at the wise suggestion of PGA Championship Chief Tournament Officer Kerry Haigh.

Tiger Woods played this hole 4 over par in 2001, his high spinning wedges continually found trouble on the steeply pitched green. He finished well back in the field. By 2007, he had learned to control his wedge shots and played the hole in even par en route to winning the PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods played the ninth 4 over par in 2001; his high spinning wedges continually found trouble on the steeply pitched green. He finished well back in the field. By 2007, he had learned to control his wedge shots and played the hole in even par en route to winning the PGA Championship.

Tenth hole, 365/365 yards; Maxwell built approximately 50 courses during his career. He might have done more if not for world events like the Great Depression and World War II but not too many more because he was a hands-on architect. The amount of time he spent on sites manifests itself in many beneficiary ways and one of the most important being routings of the highest standard. Slotting the tumbling tenth fairway around the bend of the hillside and over a distinctive knob is but one example of Maxwell’s aptitude for presenting a variety of challenges in an unforced manner.

Depth perception is difficult here where a big knoll twenty yards short of the green obscures much of the front bunker and effectively creates a twenty yard ‘dead’ area to the eye. Mystery is an important element that all great courses possess.

Depth perception is difficult here where a big knoll forty yards short of the green obscures much of the front bunker and effectively creates a forty yard ‘dead’ area to the eye. Mystery is an important element that all great courses possess.

 

As seen from on top of the knob, the golfer now has a more accurate impression of the challenge before him.

Gauging the challenge is much easier from on top of the knob.


Eleventh hole, 175/155 yards;
Tucked in the corner of the property, this little beauty requires an exacting approach below the day’s hole location. The 3,332 square foot green is the smallest target on the course and its back right to front left tilt is always a consideration.  It is amazing how quickly a golfer can go from thinking about birdie to praying for par with the tightly mown green banks adept at whisking balls into awkward recovery positions.

A golfer can quickly find himself woefully out of position on this pretty but perilous one shotter. The green’s back right to front left tilt is always a consideration.

A golfer can quickly find himself woefully out of position on this pretty but perilous one shotter.

Both the bunker depth and their vertical faces are best appreciated from a distance! The bunkers around the course are in general deeper today than in Maxwell’s day.

Both the bunker depth and their vertical faces are best appreciated from a distance! The bunkers around the course are in general deeper today than in Maxwell’s day.


Twelfth hole, 460/430 yards; A course of Southern Hill’s stature must possess holes that are world class and highly memorable. Such is the case with this one, which is probably the course’s most famous single hole. Arnold Palmer picked it as a favorite in his book featuring 54 great holes in America and as did Dan Jenkins. The golfer simply must find a way to squeeze his tee ball past the fairway bunker on the left and hold the right to left sloping fairway. From there, one of the most famous approach shots in golf awaits.

As seen in early  morning light, the fairway bunker guards the inside of the dogleg as well as the most level area from which to play an approach.Shots played from twenty yards right have awkward stances with the ball above a right hander’s feet.

As seen in early morning light, the fairway bunker guards the inside of the dogleg as well as the most level area from which to play an approach. Shots played from twenty yards right have awkward stances with the ball above a right hander’s feet.

 

Maxwell’s use of the stream as a diagonal hazard is evidenced throughout the course and is exemplified here.

Maxwell worked on Augusta National Golf Club two years after building this hole. Comparisons with Alister MacKenzie’s half par thirteenth hole are inevitable.

 

SouthernHills12g

Maxwell’s use of the creek as a diagonal hazard is evidenced throughout the course and is exemplified here. The portion of the stream that trails down the fairway stops in the left edge of the photograph above. It is interesting to note that Maxwell piped twenty yards of it underground just prior to the green.

 

 The sight of short grass feeding toward a hazard makes knowledgeable golfers flinch.

As seen from the back left, the sight of short grass feeding toward a hazard makes even the most hardened golfer flinch.

continued >>>