Southern Hills Plantation is a Pete Dye course and opened in 2006. It has been named to two of “Golfweek’s Best” lists. This national publication ranked the course among the top 50 Best New Courses and the top 100 Best Residential Courses. Southern Hills plays a whopping 7553 yards from the championship tees and carries a course rating of 77.2 with a slope of 138. The facility offers a full driving range, short game area complete with a practice bunker and a large practice putting green. There is also a 6-hole short course to help tune up your game.
Located just over a half-hour north of Tampa on the new Suncoast Expressway, Southern Hills is more than a name. It is one of only a handful of Florida courses that offer elevation changes of over 200 feet. The course is carved out of native oak and magnolias trees and plays around scenic conservation areas, ravines and lakes while other natural buffers help maintain the feeling of solitude for both golfers and residents alike.
The Spa and Fitness Center, a 7,850 square-foot facility featuring state-of-the-art exercise equipment as well as private steam and massage rooms is well staffed, and the spectacular antebellum-style Golf Clubhouse with full locker rooms, golf shop and four separate dining areas is just being completed. Southern Hills offers a stay and play package whereby they will put you up for the night in one of the model homes, give you a special rate on golf or a spa treatment, access to all course amenities including the Spa and Fitness Center, tennis courts and resort pool. You also receive dining and shopping privileges to the Golf Club and pro shop.
If it weren’t for the palm trees, palmettos and other vegetation associated with Florida, you may think you are in Scotland or Ireland when you play Southern Hills Plantation although the warm, humid weather is a dead giveaway! I use this comparison because I have never seen a course in the US with so many deep, evil pot bunkers. Pete Dye must have been in a bad mood when he designed this beautiful golf course; these devilish bunkers couldn’t be better placed for tee shots. Just about every tee shot you hit is subject to finding a bunker that will not let you advance the ball forward; most likely you will have to hit it sideways, thus making par on that particular hole relatively more difficult. Hats off to Mr. Dye!
Number 7: Par 5, 567 yards. Your tee shot is pretty much straight uphill; the fairway rises some 40 feet from the tee box to the landing area. Second shots are blind with a large waste bunker and trees to keep you from hitting it right. A good second shot will leave an approach shot of about 110 – 130 yards usually from a downhill lie to a green that sits 40 feet below the top of the fairway. Deep bunkers in the front right and front left guard this elevated green.
Number 9: Par 4, 321 yards. Although not the longest hole on the course (far from it), a good drive will leave you a second shot straight uphill from about 90 – 110 yards. Be sure to note the pin placement and take enough club to get it up the hill. A front or back pin placement could be as much as a two club difference. Although you may think an approach shot that is hit short will roll back, the landing area flattens out up near the green.
Number 10: Par 4, 410 yards. Right off the bat you are faced with a blind tee shot up the hill. The long waste bunker on the right side is a lot longer than it looks so plan on playing your shot out to the left. From there you will have a downhill approach shot to a fairly large, well undulated green.
Number 14: Par 4, 419 yards. Interesting double dogleg; long ball hitters can take their tee shots over the group of bunkers on left side of fairway and still have a long second shot to the green.
Number 18: Par 4, 423 yards. This is just what you need after 17 holes of golf, a fantastic finishing hole. At 423 yards, this is the longest par 4 on the course. It’s a relatively straight hole with lots of swales and undulation in the fairway. Try and keep your tee shot left to simplify approach shot. The green is well elevated; any shot hit a little bit short will roll back down to collection area. Also with a front pin it is not hard to put a putt past the hole and have it roll down into collection area. Take a par here and head to the 19th hole!
Pete Dye has done it again. Southern Hills is a true test of golf regardless which set of tees you play from. Nasty little pot bunkers seem to come into play on every shot towards the green, many requiring you to take a step back as you try to move forward! Water is not as prevalent on Southern Hills as it is at many Florida courses; what water there is to hit over does not require unmanageable carries.
Southern Hills takes great advantage of the elevation changes that are found in the Brooksville area. Several holes offer blind shot up and down hills to greens that tend to be on the smaller side. A lot of rolling terrain comes into play both in the fairways and adjacent to it. Many greens sit yards above the fairway eliminating bump and run opportunities. The finishing hole here is especially challenging and can make (or break) your round.
The greens are well undulated but not to the point of taking away from the rest of the course. As I mentioned, they tend to be small compared to other Florida courses and roll true.
Southern Hills also has an incredible practice facility. The practice area has its own 6-hole short-course and a large practice putting green and chipping area adjacent to the first tee.