Golf

PGA Championship: Southern Hills' first tee is so close to pro shop, it's like teeing off from the clubhouse patio


When the PGA Championship blasts off the first tee Thursday at Southern Hills Country Club, the television and streaming cameras will be sure to focus on the great view downhill to the opening fairway and the long views of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Coverage may also show a rarity that makes that first shot at Southern Hills special: The opening hole features a back tee box that is certainly among the closest tees to a clubhouse found anywhere. The design almost makes golfers feel as if they are teeing off from the clubhouse patio.

How close is it? During normal member play, you can almost hear the cash register in the pro shop and feel the air conditioning when the doors to the shop are opened. It’s not more than 10 steps from the pro shop door, across a small wall adorned with shrubs and flowers.

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There are other examples in championship golf of tees close to the clubhouse. Merion, Pebble Beach, Oakmont and Riviera spring to mind. But with the stands and the edge of the building wrapped around the players, there might not be such an intimate gathering spot for a first tee as at Southern Hills. If players were much closer to the building, they’d need to open a window to play through.

Of course, most members don’t play that back tee box, which stretches the hole to 468 yards for the PGA. The regular tee is down the hill a bit and across a cart path, sparing members the possible indignity of rocketing one off in a weird direction from so close to the clubhouse.

For the PGA Championship, the back tee also will feature an adjacent set of stands built atop what is normally a practice green. It will be a tight area, with the stands and the clubhouse pinching around the teeing area, perhaps adding a few extra nerves to anybody not used to teeing off in the national championship.

Also nearby is the tee for No. 10, which sits atop the hill just to the side of the clubhouse with that par 4 playing off to the right in relation to No. 1. Players on Nos. 1 and 10 likely will have to coordinate who swings when to make sure they don’t distract each other. All in all, a very busy spot.



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