It has been described as “Stars and Stripes all the way” and the name of this place might just give the game away. The Patriot Golf Club, opened on Memorial Day in 2010, is a proud tribute to the many thousands of ordinary American people who serve their country in the military services.
Next to the clubhouse stands the Folds of Honor Foundation, a national charitable organisation conceived by Major Daniel Rooney, an F-16 pilot who served in Iraq and is also a member of the PGA of America, and this organisation provides support for families of military members killed or disabled in service.
Two years in construction, the course itself winds through a number of distinct landscapes: marshland, woodland, limestone canyon and prairie. And due to the general rocky nature of the terrain, a substantial acreage was capped with a 10-inch layer of sandy-loam topsoil during the build.
The routing starts and ends on a cliff with the opening tee shot dropping more than 130 feet to the fairway on the 566-yard 1st hole, named “George Washington”. Holes wind past streams and rocky outcrops until the 6th rises up to the elevated terrain again.
The journey from the higher ground to the basin is revisited at the 14th with another 120-foot drop before hole 17 climbs back up to the bluff, where golfers are greeted by one of tallest flagpoles in the country, bearing one of the biggest American flags in all of the United States.Suitably fired up on the 18th tee, thoughts of achieving a par four at the 432-yard closing hole (“Dwight David Eisenhower”) will be on the mind of many but the home hole’s a really tough one, played along then over a steep canyon, so walking off with a “4” on the card is certainly cause for some patriotic celebration in the clubhouse.
The Patriot Club is a tale of three different courses due to the three distinct differences in terrain. It is a course that one will unlikely ever walk due to the steep declines and steeper inclines. The highest point sits on a bluff at 716 feet above sea level offering a view of much of the golf course and downtown Tulsa some 20 miles away.
One quirk to the course is that the sixth hole offers two options for teeing areas, cleverly named “6A” and “6B.”
A beautiful aspect to the club is that everyday at 1PM all activity is to cease for a minute to honor those who have sacrificed for their country in the military. That message is exemplified at the 17th tee box, where there is a towering flag pole and a statue of an eagle. The architect, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. calls it an angel eagle.
From the Blue tees the course is 7158 yards with a rating of 74.3/130. From the white tees it is 6659 yards and rated 70.4/128. It is a par 72 course and I consider those ratings to be accurate. Two shorter sets of tees are also available.
I played the course on May 3, 2017 after a previous day of heavy rain. The head pro advised us to play the Gold tees at 6109 yards rated 69.5/126 as he said it would feel the same as the white tees at 6659 yards on drier conditions. We did play some of the white tees instead of the gold on the back adding back about 200 yards. Most tee shots did plug and many of the approach shots also plugged so in terms of distance the head pro was right as there was little roll even on downhill tee shots. But there was a huge advantage at the greens as one could go right at the flag which was unfortunate as we did not get to experience the greens in their usual condition. My final score of 78 (43-35) was indicative of the receptiveness of the greens as this was accomplished despite a double bogey on a short par 5 and two more on the front nine.
The greens are the appropriate size for the hole. One thing I thought was overdone is that there are many banks on one side or another at the greens which will bring a ball back onto the green. I would have liked to have seen more variety in mounding and fall-offs near the greens.
There is good bunkering although I might have added two-three more but not a big deal either way.
The two best holes are #3 and #18 but there are several other ones that players will appreciate.
This is an odd location to build a golf course due to the steepness of the hills despite the wonderful, long views they create. The one positive aspect is that the Folds of Honor home next to the clubhouse is in a wonderful setting but I think the founders could have accomplished the same elsewhere and built a better golf course. However, much of the land more appropriate to golf was left to build housing. Robert Trent Jones, Jr. did a nice job with the routing given the difficulty of the land. Finding land for eighteen holes was always going to be difficult at this location. The result is that there is no continuity to the golf course. One feels as though they are playing three different six holes golf courses.
The first is a sharply downhill par 5 – 566/539/531 falling some 170 feet. Swing away from a “precipice” tee and watch the ball fly! Heavy trees line both sides of the fairway. There is a single large bunker about 20 yards short of the green in the center of the fairway with the land sloping towards it. There are two smaller bunkers, one front left and the other in the back to catch the longer shot. The land levels off significantly before the green. I cannot comment on whether balls normally go through this green given our shots basically stopped where the landed.
The second is a par 4 of 426/399/378 where a stream cuts diagonally across the fairway at an angle right to left. The brave player goes towards the green and carries the stream down the right side. The more conservative play is to play it as a dogleg right and hit out to the left of the stream. There is a single bunker at the front of the green. The heavy trees continue down the left side of the hole. It is a nice hole and the green is slightly elevated with some nice depressions in it.
The third is stroke index one as a par 4 of 494/464/449 playing as a dogleg left with heavy trees on the right but fewer trees on the left. You hit uphill on this hole with the tee shot needing to carry about 120 yards of wetlands and a slight right to left tilt. There are three bunkers left of the green.
Four is a short par 5 of 500/484/422 with a stream snaking back and forth down essentially the middle of the fairway before it finally ends to the right side of the green. I played the hole poorly but could not quite figure out the point of the hole since both sides of the fairway are also heavily treed. This hole favors defense too much at the expense of fun.
The fifth continues the theme of a stream dissecting the middle of the fairway although this time it finishes to the left side of the green. The short line of this par 4 of 315/298/274 goes right at the green to the right of the stream. I found the stream for my second double bogey. I thought the hole needed a more interesting green with more of the trees removed next to the green to create some interesting contours as well as add another bunker. The hole is uphill.
Six is the first par 3 with two choices. We played both but I preferred the first one of 132/118/110 as opposed to 119/110/105. The first one, with the tee behind the fifth green has the more interesting green shaped sort of like a cow’s head with fall-offs to either side creating an island effect. If you miss the green you are in wetlands/waste area. 6B plays downhill to another island-like green but I felt the green was not as interesting even if the surrounds were similar to 6A.
Seven is a short par 4 of 387/353/342 where the fairway runs out down the left side. The hole has no bunkers and the fairway is relatively wide. It is uphill.
Eight is a par 4 of 476/414/381 so it offers a sizeable break if one does not play the back tees. This is a dogleg right with a ravine crossing two-thirds up the fairway. There are four bunkers at the green. I liked the hole despite my third double bogey.
Nine is the second par 3 of 240/208/173 playing below the clubhouse with a receptive green. Two bunkers are right of the green. I three putted the green totally misjudging the slower pace of the uphill putt.
You go past the clubhouse and parking lot to get to the tenth tee. You are back in the “open” again on a flat hole. This hole might have the most bunkers on it as I counted twelve, but I might have missed some. There are bunkers right and left off the tee and a collection of bunkers front left of the green. This is a par 5 of 603/570/538. It is a nice hole.
Eleven is a mid-length par 3 of 172/155/141 to another island-like green over wetlands with bunkers fronting the green. There is substantial short grass surrounding the green to offer a chance at recovery but it should have been contoured a bit better. I did like the hole.
Twelve is a par 4 of 433/413/353. We played the white tees on this hole as we thought there was too much of an unfair advantage from the intent of the architect. After being out in the open for two holes, you are back inside heavy trees lines. There are no bunkers on the fairway but two at the green. It is an uninteresting hole for me.
Thirteen is a par 3 of 190/141/126 where we again played the white tees. The green is angled away from you over rougher ground but with sizeable mounding right of the green to push one’s ball toward the green. I did like the manner in which the green was situated.
Fourteen is a par 4 of 474/451/427 that plays much shorter due to a similar decline to the first hole. It is dogleg right playing to a triangular green with a bank pushing a ball back onto the green.
Two back-to-back par 5’s are next, the first being 567/541/504 and the second 559/529/443. We played the 529 white tees on the second one. These two holes share a fairway at their corners with both of the greens having banks propelling balls back onto the greens. I felt I hit two poor approach shots but did not pay a penalty for them having them release onto the green. The first par 5 is a sharp dogleg left and the second one bends slightly to the left after carrying waste/wetlands. These holes are out in the open again and relatively flat.
Seventeen is a nice par 3 of 171/162/135 with a thin bunker on the left side of the green which narrows at the back where a single bunker awaits. I felt this uphill hole to be the best par 3 on the golf course.
After continuing up the hill to arrive at the tee, eighteen is a splendid hole playing over a huge (deep and wide) chasm to the green. The farther right one goes the longer the approach shot to a green that sits close to the chasm with two bunkers behind and one in front. I thought this also to be one of the better shaped greens.
If one wants to essentially play three different golf courses in one round, with a bonus extra hole, then one should play The Patriot Club. If one wants a stunning view from the first tee, clubhouse, and a wondrous approach shot to finish a round, then they should play the Patriot Club. If one wants to support a very noble charity, then one should play The Patriot Club. If you go to play Southern Hills, you should also make a stop here. The staff is very friendly and the clubhouse is very hospitable. I still do not understand why they chose this site to build a golf course given the construction required, but it is worth the trip if in the area.
The Patriot is a wonderful golf club with a very modern, enjoyable layout. RTJ II and company did a great job on a beautiful site.
- Great variety. Three of the par-5's (1,4, & 15) are unique, exciting golf holes. The course even features a pick-em par-3 at the 6th.
- Perfect turf. For someone who grew up on Zoysia, to actually see firm and running is a treat. The club used a new-aged strand (Meyer) to increase short-game options.
- Fun. This course is a blast to play, and birdies are to be had for those playing well.
- No course is perfect. There are certainly a handful of holes that just fill in the gaps (3,11, & 16 come to mind).
- The course is for all intents and purposes carts only.
Overall, I was very impressed. The course is both memorable and beautiful. I could certainly see The Patriot contending for a spot in the Top 200 lists.