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Cragun's 2016

Fairways & Greens
June 25, 2017

On A Roll At Southern Hills
Southern Hills #16
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Southern Hills #16
Southern Hills Clubhouse
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Southern Hills Clubhouse
By Rhett Arens

The name Southern Hills conjures up a genteel, slow-paced way of life minding its own business somewhere off the radar, but nothing could be farther from the truth for this hard-working, ever-growing gem of a course. The secret ingredient in their recipe for success is the high-energy, multi-tasking GM, Nate Cardin. Sit down with Nate for a few minutes and you're likely to watch him field questions from staff, high-five a customer, step behind the grill counter, take a phone call, hand over a bucket balls and maybe offer words of wisdom to the next foursome going off. Busy guy.
Southern Hills sits in the beautiful rolling countryside halfway between Rosemount and Farmington. The course design takes full advantage of that rolling topography by offering the type of tee boxes and fairways that beckon the golfer to 'swing away'. However, don't be fooled, the bunkers are well placed in those wheelhouse locations, on fairways that tend to be on the narrow side. The good news, as with any well thought-out design, the first cut is generous and gives the average golfer enough wiggle room to score well. Those bluegrass-rye fairways are cut tight (not bent grass tight), but always maintained with an eye for detail and grooming. You won't find month-old divot marks, weeds or even critter damage on these fairways.
Likewise the greens are kept to roll fast but true. The green sizes are well balanced with length on the par 4's giving a fair but challenging layout. As with his approach to golf operations, Nate has a motto that he passes on to customers which says... consistency breeds confidence. You'll find his staff and this course deliver on his promise.
This type of commitment to excellence is the driver behind the steady growth in both membership and events activity at Southern Hills. Total rounds will exceed the high-water mark set in early 2000's during the 'Tiger effect' era. The rates are squarely established at a level that provides the value that is expected or even exceeds expectations. An example of this is Sunday Funday which is set-up to get golfers off the couch and out of the house with dollar beers on the first tee and bottomless Bloody Mary's for $10. This turns Southern Hills into a busy Sunday course by creating a weekly event that regulars enjoy and newcomers feel welcome to join in. The events calendar as nearly quadrupled since 2009 largely though the delivery of consistent service and meeting price/value expectations. Southern Hills clearly has the momentum rolling its way.
Playing with four sets of tees offers yardages for all golfers. At 6,342 the blues aren't overly long, but again, don't be lulled into a lazy game or the course's smart design will bite back. This is quite evident on #13, a par 4 where the yardage is not intimidating, but the hole calls for a hard draw to the left between bunkers and leaves an approach where a small bunker at the front of the steeply sloped green is waiting to swallow you up. Number 18 is the signature hole where you have a beautiful back drop view of the clubhouse. This par 5 is best played favoring the left side where a long second shot needs to be handled with care because there is a series of almost Oakmont-like church pew style bunkers stacked up the right side. It's no fun chunking your way through these. Trust me, I know.
Over the last decade Nate and his grounds keeping staff have tweaked and adjusted sightlines and tee boxes to improve the overall feel and play for all levels. They have established rigorous ground repair procedures to insure customer satisfaction throughout the playing season. Nate has also championed a cross-training effort that insures staff members understand the operational needs both inside and outside the clubhouse. This benefits customers by creating a seamless experience. In 2015 the course invested heavily by adding 50 new carts and again in 2016 by adding new rough mowing equipment to maintain the consistency and standards that are expected with a first class golf operation. These investments speak to the success in growth over the last 6-8 years, but more importantly it shows confidence in a healthy economic future. 2016 is projected to be Southern Hills best year yet.
From down the road in Farmington, U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion Sammy Schmitz qualified for the 2016 Masters. He has been known to take his swing to Southern Hills on occasion. It's that type of broad appeal that Southern Hills has worked hard to dial in. Whether it's a weekend 20+ handicapper or a Masters qualifier, as Nate is fond of saying, "Any golfer is a good golfer." 2016 is a good time to visit this rolling, southern gentleman of a course. I'm willing to bet that Nate will give you a playing tip or two as you head out the door for the first tee. That level of customer service is always worth a stroke or three. I encourage you to take advantage of the southern hospitality and get on a roll at Southern Hills.

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