PGA Week: Three Things to Look for at Southern Hills CC

TULSA, Oklahoma — When Gil Hanse renovated and restored Southern Hills Country Club during 2018-2019, course builder Heritage Links was there to help the architect realize his vision for this 1936 Perry Maxwell original. Over the course of 9 months, Houston-based Heritage Links, a division of Lexicon, Inc., rebuilt each green, bunker and tee; it regrassed nearly every bit of playing surface and oversaw construction of a new, PGA Championship-worthy practice facility; the firm also rerouted several creeks that had been removed or lost over time.

As such, few people in golf are better equipped to preview this week’s PGA than Doug Wright, vice president of Strategic Planning at Heritage Links, who served as project manager at Southern Hills CC. [Wright and Heritage also know the Hanse style pretty well, having built his designs at Doral’s Blue Monster in Miami, Mossy Oak Golf Club in West Point, Mississippi, and the new PGA Frisco course to open north of Dallas this summer, among others.]
See below three things to know about Southern Hills, the course we’ll all be watching this week:

1) When you hear that Hanse & Co. refurbished the greens but preserved the green contours, believe it. “We worked with a company owned by Scott Pool called GreenScan3D, which has become the industry standard,” Wright says. “Essentially this system allows us to survey a green and accurately record the exact elevation of every spot on the putting surface to .001 of an inch. It allows us to demolish the greens, rebuild the subgrade, then recreate every existing contour on that putting surface, exactly as it was — with the exception of the collars and peripheral areas where Gil expanded the putting surfaces to get more pin locations. (He also lowered fringes that had previously propelled balls onto the green surfaces.) It’s a pretty amazing technology. It’s what they used to perform the same exercise on the greens at Baltusrol and Winged Foot.”

2) At Southern Hills, when Heritage Links rebuilt the green subgrades — the drainage infrastructure and soil profile beneath the bentgrass surface — it strategically varied greens mix depths, a process known as “variable depth.” This is a new greens construction discipline but “it’s starting to catch on,” Wright says. A green rebuilt to USGA specifications typically features a 4-inch layer of gravel installed beneath a 12-inch layer of greens mix — a specific blend of sand and soil amendments. Rebuilding these layers at “variable depth” means using 14 to 16 inches of greens mix in low areas on a putting surface, and perhaps just 10 inches of mix in higher areas. “The theory,” Wright explains, “is straightforward: The high areas are those that tend to dry out quickly and require more moisture retention. Decreasing the depth of greens mix reduces the gravitational force of the water, causing it to drain slower and retain moisture longer. Conversely, the low areas of greens tend to collect water and hold more moisture than desired. Increasing the depth of greens mix in these areas increases the gravitation force on the water, thereby allowing these areas to drain faster.”
3) As for how the restored 18 at Southern Hills will look and play, Wright suggests television viewers — especially those who remember the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills — pay attention to the bunkers. “The old bunkers were very saucer-like: round or oval shaped with sand flashed up on a smooth bunker face, like Augusta National,” he says. “The new bunkers have a much more natural, wavy edge to them. They will create more shadows late in the day and they’ll play a little deeper… The club also did a lot tree clearing at Southern Hills, allowing us to widen many fairways during construction. The most notable change came at hole no. 2, which used to be a straightaway par-4 with a carry over a creek. So much clearing was done at 2, we essentially created another fairway. Today, you can actually play right or left of that creek. Another significant change comes at no. 7, where we moved the green back 50 yards and reconstructed it hard against the edge of a creek.”
About Heritage Links
Heritage Links, a division of Lexicon, Inc., is the most trusted, active and decorated course builder in golf, equally skilled in the full range of contracting disciplines, including irrigation installation. Its notable original builds include Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington, site of the 2017 U.S. Open, and the 36-hole PGA of America development scheduled to open in Frisco, Texas later this year. Its recent renovation resume includes private clubs (The Blessings in Fayetteville, Arkansas), public courses (Troon North GC in Scottsdale, Arizona), major championship prep (The Champions GC in advance of the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open), and resorts like Prince and Makai courses at the Princeville Resort Kauai. Heritage Links’ work at Desert Mountain’s Renegade Course was a 2020 finalist for Golf Inc. magazine’s Renovation of the Year. The firm ( is now engaged in course construction projects in 10 U.S. states.