Three Notes from an Early Walk at the PGA Championship

A few scouting tips from a first stroll at Southern Hills


My first look at Southern Hills exceeded all expectations. The tight green-to-tee transitions and tee boxes that gently blend into their surroundings give the course an intimate feel even though there are some monstrous holes out there. It’s as if every inch of the property has been used and not a single feature of the land has been wasted. From the meandering gullies and creeks in the valleys to the dramatic climbs up the hills on 4, 9, and 18, an early evening walk around Southern Hills was the perfect table setter for what looks to be a thrilling four days at the PGA Championship. As the action gets going, here are a few quick thoughts from the ground.

Spectator Tip

The stands behind 8 green would be an excellent spot to spend a few hours. Not only will you see the action on the 8th, but you can also see approaches into the wild green complex at 17. If the tee is up one day this week, players pulling driver will have to navigate trouble everywhere and weigh the risk/reward of going for it. You can sneak a peek at 18 tee and look behind the stands at 18 fairway as well. Plenty of action here and a chance to see players from different waves.

Creek Surrounds Get a Haircut

During our evening stroll around a quiet Southern Hills, there was a group of about 10 maintenance folks working on the creek surrounds between holes 4 and 5. They spent about 15 to 20 minutes going up and down the creek with weed whackers. It was an interesting area of focus for that many workers for that amount of time, while other areas of the course just had a couple people here and there tending to bunkers, watering greens, etc. A wayward drive right on 4 or left on 5 might bounce a bit closer to the trouble than it did in practice rounds earlier this week.

No. 5 Not So Scoreable?

I watched Brooks Koepka, Jason Kokrak and Sam Burns play the par-5 5th during their practice round. Koepka and Burns both did not hit driver, trying to avoid the fairway bunkers and tight landing area. Burns ended up on the right side and had to deal with the line of trees on his second shot. Koepka was in the fairway, and laid up very close to the bunker on the right side of the fairway about 80 yards from the green. Kokrak, however, cleared the bunkers with his drive and went for the green in two. Combine a tight landing area, a strategically placed bunker short of the green that leads to an awkward wedge yardage on your third, and oh yeah, a 656-yard spread from tee to green, and there’s going to be variety.

Players will want to take advantage of one of only two par 5s on the course, but there’s plenty of trouble and lots to think about, and that’s before you even get to a severely sloped green with a creek on the right.