Oklahoma's Top 10 Private Golf Courses
Directory of Private Clubs
OAK TREE GOLF CLUB
There was no pretense as to why Ernie Vossler and Joe Walser Jr. commissioned Pete Dye to
the Edmond golf course. The former PGA Tour professionals believed that while the Oklahoma
area had some excellent golf courses, not one could compete with Southern Hills.
When it came time for a major championship to come to the area, Southern Hills won out.
Vossler and Walser, former senior vice presidents of Landmark Land Company, wanted to
and instructed Dye to "build us a championship golf course -- one with no
The par-71, 7,015-yard course opened in 1976. Eight years later, it hosted the U.S.
Amateur and four
years later the PGA Championship.
The disappointment to Dye was that the '88 PGA was played with virtually no wind, so the
professionals did not get to play the course as it was intended.
Still, Golf Digest architectural editor Ron Whitten described Oak Tree as "unlike
ones in that there is not as much room for error. Pinpoint accuracy is the call of the day
and a great
example of target golf at its best."
The '88 PGA was Oklahoma City's first major championship since the 1935 PGA Championship
Hills, and the event broke attendance records. Consequently, it was awarded the quickest
in PGA history with the opportunity to host another in 1994.
However, Landmark got into a legal tangle with the government and lost, and had to file
lost the '94 PGA, which eventually went to Southern Hills.
There were some dark days for the club. The course that at one point was listed 15th on
"100 Greatest Courses in America" is no longer on the magazine's list. Last
year, it hosted the PGA of
America's Club Professionals Championship.
The club is still interested in hosting another major and has been encouraged by what it
"There's been a lot of discussion and we're still trying," head professional
Chad Barney said. "A lot of
people love our golf course, so we're still optimistic."
GOLF CLUB OF OKLAHOMA
Originally, all John Williams wanted was an exclusive, first-class course for himself and
a few of his
buddies. They would ante up enough money to pay for the construction and maintenance of
Club of Oklahoma.
The oil boom went bust and the vision had to be modified. But the course, which opened in
remained true to its goal of being a first-class facility.
The course hosted two Ben Hogan Tour events (now called the Buy.com Tour) in 1991 and
the time, players raved that the combination of the layout and facility were among the
best on tour.
Tom Lehman, who finished runner-up to Frank Conner in the 1991 Ben Hogan Tulsa Open, would
later recommend the course as a possible site for the PGA's Tour Championship. Although
pursuit of the event lost steam when it was sold, there is still an interest in attracting
an event of
"We've had ongoing discussions with the PGA of America and the USGA, so we'll
see," said director of
golf Bob Philbrick. "There are a lot of events going on right now, so we'll have to
The Tom Fazio-design is cut through thickly wooded land with elevation changes. The final
holes are played around a lake, a similar look to what Fazio did at Karsten Creek.
Fazio returned to the course to make changes in 1995. Technological advances in course
deemed the changes necessary. The greens were re-surfaced with a new strain of bent grass
Crenshaw Bent and Cato Creeping Bentgrass. The strain did not exist when the course opened
1982. Resistant to heat, drought and disease, it is expected to help some areas that have
stressed during the heat of Oklahoma's summers.
But the premise of the course also changed from Fazio's original intent. The idea was to
course that generated just 5,000 rounds per year. Today, that number is more than 20,000.
more players with varying skill levels. The slopes of the greens were softened slightly
areas will be enlarged where traffic patterns require it.
"This course," said Fazio, "was originally designed for a very specific
level of player, players who
were serious golfers with handicaps substantially lower. With more players, more pinable
Cedar Ridge is a traditional course with 2,900 trees, 89 traps, narrow landing areas,
comes into play on 11 holes and small greens.
From the back tees, Cedar Ridge's 138 slope rating is higher than Southern Hills' 136.
No wonder the Broken Arrow course was among Golf Digest's "100 Greatest Courses in
1975 through 1985. It's not as though the course dropped off. Newer courses have bypassed
it in the
opinion of Golf Digest rankings.
The course proved to be quite a challenge for those competing in the 1983 U.S. Women's
"Golf Digest's rankings are so political," said Buddy Phillips, who is starting
his 30th year at the club.
"The new courses get a lot of attention and those who design them. Sure, they're
good, but so are
we. We're a sleeper course. We know our golf course. We've held USGA qualifiers and the
Trans-Mississippi and the scores have been compared. We're a tough golf course in our own
without tricking it up."
Course designer Joe Finger said being the site of big-time tournaments is fine, but the
true quality of
a golf course is how it holds up to its members.
"It's even better than I imagined it," said the Houston-based architect.
The par-4 third hole is the most talked-about hole on the course. The sharp dogleg left
character. The distance, which ranges from 330 to 360 yards, is deceiving. The key to the
making two well-placed shots that give a golfer a chance to two-putt for par.
It proved to be the most difficult hole in the Trans-Miss and the Women's Open. It scored
a 4.8 in the
Trans-Miss and a 4.85 in the Women's Open.
"It goes to show you that distance isn't the only factor in determining a good
player," Finger said. "I
use it as an example that length alone is not the only criteria for a hole. Shot-making
thinking are essential."
Making a difficult course was not the objective of Finger. As he says, "The trick is
to make one that a
high handicapper can play and enjoy, as well as being challenging to the good
Cedar Ridge fits the niche.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the relatively short Hillcrest Country Club layout
is that the
course record is 65.
The Perry Maxwell design, celebrating its 75th anniversary, is only 6,516 yards, and yet
7-under is the
"That's very unusual for a course that's not very long," said head professional
Jerry Cozby, who is in
his 32nd year at the club.
And the course has been tested by one of golf's legends, Ben Hogan. His best score in nine
competitive rounds was a 66. Justin Leonard's best shot was a 66.
That was before the course was lengthened and the greens were re-done by Ed Seay, who used
work for Arnold Palmer. There have been three 65s since the refurbishing, including Texas'
Herbert, member David Keady and Cozby's son, Chance.
The course has been the site for the Oklahoma Open, state amateur, U.S. Open local
mid-amateur and state junior championship.
"I got to meet Hogan in 1973 and we got to talking," Cozby said. "He told
me he made a seven on the
18th hole at Hillcrest during the Oklahoma Open, allowing our former pro, Jimmy Gullane,
to beat him.
Hogan looked at me with that steely look in his eyes and said, `That's a helluva hole.'
The course's signature hole, however, is the par-4 11th. During the early 1970s, a
Oklahoma golf magazine named it the best No. 11 in the state. It is only 357 yards, but
area is narrow. Trees on the left and right sides of the fairway frame the hole. The Osage
as a backdrop for the slightly elevated and well-bunkered greens. The small and undulating
slopes toward the Caney River, which snakes around the hole.
"It's so beautiful, sometimes I like to go out there, hit a few balls and just look
around," Cozby said.
OKLAHOMA CITY GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB
Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club is one of five Perry Maxwell designs included on the
10 best private golf courses in the state.
Like Hillcrest, it isn't exceptionally long at 6,736 yards. Unlike Hillcrest, the course
record is the magic
The low score shouldn't be viewed as a reflection of the golf course. The greatest amateur
ever produced -- three-time U.S. Amateur champion Charlie Coe -- set the record. And he
playing on his home course.
"There's a lot of tradition at this course," head professional Len Casteel said,
referring to the course
that opened in 1927. "That goes all the way back to the beginning of the club."
The signature hole is the par-4, 445-yard ninth. There is water in front of the tee that
into play, but it adds a dimension on the tough dogleg. It has a 75-degree left turn,
making it essential
to land on the right side of the fairway.
"The course is subtle," Casteel said. "It doesn't look that tough, but it
can lull you to sleep. It doesn't
look real long, but there are two holes that are short par-4s. It makes it seem short. It
is kind of
deceiving. But it's the greens that make it tough."
If not for the Great Depression and the financial trouble at Tulsa Country Club, Southern
never have been built.
Tulsa Country Club, the city's first private golf course, is the state's second oldest.
Its roots go back to
1904, when it was a nine-hole course at 13th and Utica. Legendary architect A.W.
crafted U.S. Open courses like Winged Foot, Baltusrol and Bethpage, designed the layout at
As Tulsa grew into the oil capital of the world, TCC served as the unofficial meeting
place of most of
the city's civic clubs. But the 1931 oil crash crippled the club. Prices that had reached
$1.57 a barrel
fell to 10 cents. Money was so tight that Dr. S.G. Kennedy, who owned the property,
opening the course to the public to increase revenue. That's when a group of businessmen
approached oil baron Waite Phillips about starting Southern Hills.
Southern Hills emerged as one of the nation's elite courses while Tulsa Country Club has
of golf's best-kept secrets.
TCC has been the site of exhibitions by the likes of Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Ben
hosted a 1984 Senior PGA Tour event and has been the site for numerous regional U.S. Open
U.S. Amateur qualifying tournaments. It has staged two NAIA Men's Championships and the
NCAA Women's Championships. The 1960 U.S. Women's Amateur won by Joanne Carner was also
held at TCC.
This fall, it will host the LPGA Williams Championship.
The course was refurbished in 1988 by then Tulsa-based Jay Morrish. Morrish, former chief
for Jack Nicklaus, made several major changes, but essentially stayed with the spirit of
"I just love the course and its classic design," former Tulsa women's golf coach
Dale McNamara said.
"Tillinghast is on the same level as all the great, great architects. It has those
little greens and
tremendous trapping. It's just a wonderful golf course."
OAK TREE EAST
Oak Tree Country Club's East Course has a bit of an identity crisis.
People hear Oak Tree and think of the adjacent Golf Club. However, the country club has
Dye courses with the East layout -- from the back tees -- ever bit as challenging as the
The course has been the site of numerous collegiate tournaments, including the 1989 NCAA
Championship. The University of Oklahoma won the team trophy that year, while Arizona
Mickelson won the individual title.
The course also plays host to the annual Oklahoma Open, which brings back PGA Tour players
Scott Verplank, Bob Tway and David Edwards, along with Senior PGA Tour players Doug
Morgan and Mark Hayes.
"You play that course from the back tees and it's all you want," said former PGA
Tour player Jim
Woodward, now head professional at Quail Creek.
The par-3 17th hole is the course's most dramatic, particularly because of where it comes
course of the round. The green is protected on the left side by water. It is a popular
hangout to watch
the final stretch because the 16th green is also visible.
The fate of many Oklahoma Opens has hung in the balance at this stretch.
Dornick Hills separates itself from other courses for two reasons -- first, it was Perry
course; and second, the cliff hole.
Besides the five courses on this list -- Southern Hills, Hillcrest, Oklahoma City Golf
& Country Club,
Twin Hills and Dornick -- Maxwell helped design Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and did the
Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kan., and Austin Country Club. He also did redesign work at
However, the former banker and Ardmore native drew up his first course in his hometown.
gravesite is 100 yards from the 16th green -- one of Maxwell's most talked-about
The 16th is a seductive par-5 and one of the ultimate risk/reward holes.
Golfers who go for the green and are successful can putt for eagle. Those who miss could
anywhere from the fairway to the native grass, or the water adjacent to the 17th green.
"You want to have the opportunity to make birdie, but you also want the golfer to
earn it," former
Oklahoma golf coach Gregg Grost said. "That's what this hole gives you."
The course also means a lot to Oklahoma State golf coach Mike Holder, who was raised in
He lists Maxwell as his favorite architect and Dornick, Southern Hills and Prairie Dunes
"Most of the time when you play a Perry Maxwell course, the course usually
wins," Holder said.
When it comes to bringing national events to Oklahoma, no course ranks with Oklahoma
Hills Country Club.
Before a ball was ever struck at Southern Hills, Twin Hills hosted the state's first major
-- the 1935
PGA Championship. That was the centerpiece of a marvelous three-year run for the course,
hosted the Western Amateur in '34 and Western Junior in '36. The Women's Trans-Miss also
there in '55.
It also served twice as a PGA Tour stop for the Oklahoma City Open. Fred Hawkins won in
'55 and a
fellow by the name of Arnold Palmer won in '59.
Gene Littler won the 1960 Trans-Miss at Twin Hills. Seven years later, the last USGA event
on the course when John Crooks won the 1967 U.S. Junior.
The course hosted the NAIA national championship in 1991.
Twin Hills recently rebuilt its greens while installing a new irrigation system to help
restore the luster
of the Perry Maxwell layout.