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Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is one of the most exclusive courses in the US – it’s also one of the most private.
The course has hosted some of the sport’s most prestigious tournaments, including three US Opens, and four PGA Championships. It was the scene of the 2007 PGA Championship, where Tiger Woods was at his imperious best as he secured his fourth title in a display that included a tie for the record single-round score in a Major with his second round of 63. Southern Hills is also the host venue for the 2022 PGA Championship after Trump National was stripped of the honour.
Designer Perry Maxwell initially laid out the par-71 course. However, it was renovated by Keith Foster in 1999. Most recently, Gil Hanse redesigned the course in 2018, which is known for its many bending holes, with bunkers guarding most of the greens. Hanse set about restoring Maxwell's vision of a course that used the topography to create undulated greens and contoured fairways to showcase the course. He and his team trimmed the trees, which had become too prominent and, restored slopes to the fairways, which won the approval of legendary Oklahoma head pro Jerry Cozby.
Holes to look out for include the par-4 2nd, which is particularly demanding with a 225-yard carry over the bunkers. However, that’s not all – there’s also a creek that runs parallel to the fairway. Further on, the fourth has a severe back-to-front sloping green, making putting tricky. The 7th has also features the winding creek to the right of the fairway. Meanwhile, though the par-3 11th is the shortest on the course at just 173 yards, the small green is guarded by four bunkers. Elsewhere, the 456-yard 12th slopes right-to-left, leaving the chance of balls heading to the the stream.
As a player’s round draws to a close, the par-4 17th can leave tee shots either in the trees or a creek, while the two-level elevated green can make for uneasy putting. Finally, the par-4 18th is a dogleg right with a severely sloping green from back to front, almost guaranteeing a challenging finish for even the best players. Indeed, only two winners of Majors hosted at Southern Hills have made par at the closing hole, including Woods in that 2007 tournament.
For anyone with a soft spot for quirky moments in history, the 15th is notable as the hole where, in the final round of the 1977 US Open, leader Hubert Green played on despite earlier receiving a death threat where he was informed gunmen would shoot him at the hole. He made par at the 15th and went on to win the tournament.
Southern Hills is both picturesque and challenging, but experiencing a round on it for yourself is easier said than done. Initiation fees aren’t disclosed, but, reportedly, they fall anywhere between $30,000 and $130,000 plus annual dues. Even if you can afford it, the waiting list is said to be lengthy, making this one course where patience as well as deep pockets are required to play regularly. Another option is to play as a guest of a member.
Perhaps the most realistic way of playing Southern Hills is to participate in the annual First Tee of Tulsa Charitable Golf Tournament, which is played as part of an initiative to provide free programming to thousands of children. There are contact details on how to play Southern Hills Country Club’s official website for prospective players and sponsors.
How Many Majors Has Southern Hills Hosted?
Before 2022, Southern Hills had hosted seven Majors – three US Opens and four PGA Championships. It was announced in 2021 that Southern Hills would replace Trump National as the host of the 2022 PGA Championship.
Who Designed Southern Hills?
Perry Maxwell was the original designer of Southern Hills. It has since been renovated by Keith Foster and, most recently, Gil Hanse in 2018. The course is known for its large number of bunkers and many dogleg left and right holes.
Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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