With half a dozen par threes on the scorecard, it’s no real surprise to learn the Southern Hills Golf Course at Hot Springs measures just over 5,900 yards from the back tees. Owned and operated as a municipal golf facility by the City of Hot Springs, it started out as a 9-hole layout in the late 1970s before subsequent expansion created the 18-hole layout that’s now in play.
Feature holes on the front nine include the 450-yard 4th, playing uphill to a two-tiered green; the downhill, right doglegging 557-yard 6th, which has only one bunker protecting the front left of the green; and the 409-yard 9th, where the fairway falls away from the tee then rises to the green.
On the back nine, the signature hole at the 11th measures only 338 yards from the back tees but this testing par four is rated stroke index 1. Tee shots play from an elevated position to a narrow, left-to-right sloping fairway before the approach shot then requires a carry over an intimidating canyon in front of the green.
Southern Hills may offer a short yardage, 5905 off the back tees, but don't let this fool you. With 6 par 3's, spread equally across both 9's, if you were to remove 2 of them to play a more traditional make up of pars, replacing them with say 2 mid length par 4's then the course would play more around 6400 yards, still not championship length, but I guess the point I'm making is that the remaining par 4s and par 5s play a lot longer than a cursary glance at the overall yardage may otherwise have you thinking.
And it's important because this is a good course thay should not be overlooked. Whilst not quite as good as Red Rock which I played the day before, this is a very good golf course with plenty of variety, some standout holes, varying terrain and 2 different 9's, both enjoyable with the back 9.shading it for me.
Despite what I have said above, the round does start with 2 short par 4s, 355 yards and 335 yards respectively. The opening tee shot is played from an elevated tee on a dog leg right hole, so the hole can be shortened significantly with a drive over the right corner onto a wide fairway. An easy 'in' to the round. The 2nd, whilst only 335 yards offers a little bit more challenge as tee shot placement is more important than length. Aim to the right of the sweeping right to left fairway and you will leave yoirself a short wedge to an uphill green, played across a small dip, and protected with a large bunker to the front.
The 1st of the 6 par 3s follows and this is a little beauty, playing across a ravine and at 139 yards a good birdie chance, if you haven't managed one on the opening holes.
The course then steps up its yardages with 2 par 5s in the next 3 holes. The 1st at 450 yards is played around a dogleg left and then uphill to a green that is c50 feet above you, so whilst reachable in 2, again placement off the tee and choosing the correct club for your approach is vital. Sandwiched between this oar 5 and the next one on the 6th, is another medium length par 3. Played slughtly uphill, my main criticism of the par 3s is that they are similar in length, with exception of the very long 12th.
The 6th plays back downhill the hill and dogleg right. Measuring 557 yards, its only short, and ideally drive to the dogleg which will leave you an approach with your 2nd. Trees situated on the insode of the dogleg corner pose the biggest threat.
The 7th is a lovely dog leg right downhill par 4 measuring 407 yards. The approach will be on a downhill lie, playing across a ravine to a small green. Re the greens, they played fast and true and whilst they had kess movement in them than Red Rock, there was subtle slopes and movement throughout. They were in excellent condition.
The 8th is the 3rd par 3 and plays downhill at 164 yards. A nice looking par 3 but not the best. I would reserve that for the 224 yard par 12th, playing across rough and slightly downhill to a green perched on the valley side.
The front 9 is finsihed off with a 409 yard par, played from an elevared tee and again a dogleg, this time to the left, and again an uphill approach to the green.
The back 9 starts with a 147 yard par 3. Off the Blue tees you are playing a shot to a green c60 foot below, over water. It plays significantly shorter than its yardage.
And then for me one of the best holes on the course. The 11th is visually pretty off the tee. The tee shot is downhill, there is banking and a stome wall to the left and trees to the right. The approach is then played over a ravine to a tightly packed green, with stone walling behind the slightly back to front sloping green.
The other 2 standout holes for me are the par 5 13th and par 5 17th, hemce why i feel the back.9mis stronger than the front.
The 13th is a gentle sweeping left to right par 5, playing gently uphill once you've reached the fairway to a narrow green.
After the par 3 14th, you then play 2 par 4s. Both good, the 2st is short at 291 yards - you play a blind shot to the right hand side of this dog leg right hole. Walking down to the ball, i found that i had driven it to the edge of a pond leaving a 30 foot uphill chip to a receptive green. I hadnt seen that the group in front were in the dip and had driven my ball under their buggie. A bell on the hole or a warning would have been helpful.
The 16th is a strong 448 yard downhill par 4, requiring 2 good strikes of the ball to a green that slopes away from you.
The 17th as mentioned above is another standout hole. Played from.a very high tee, the par 5 stretches out in front of you and sweeps left to right and to an uphill green. A pond to the right shouldnt come into play and bumkers on the left will potentially catch a 250 yard drive that edges out a little left.
The back 9 is played out into the coubtrysdie away from too many houses although the odd ones are being built.
The last hole, you tee off close to one of these homes however and with a well placed tee shot, an uphill approach on this 346 yard hole should result in a par or better. The green slopes back to front so leaving an uphill putt is the best option.
This is a fun undulating course and whilst there are a good number of doglegs, uphill approaches and elevated tees, it doesnt feel repetitive as ypu play your round. There are sufficient challenges to keep your focus and whilst a good score can be had, it would be easy to drop shots with sloppy play off the tee or on approaches to the green.
Tie in this round with a dip in the Cascade Falls just south of Hot Springs. A great way to cool down after your round. Well worth the trip on both counts.
This course is definitely worth the trip down from Rapid City to play. The course is in great shape and has several unique and interesting holes. I don't know if they just mowed/rolled the greens before I got there but the greens are smooth and lightning fast- if you miss the green on the wrong side you could easily be looking a chip + 3 putts to close out the hole.
The course is not really walkable as several holes are far apart and there are a lot of hills you would have to hike if you walked.