Located close to downtown Oklahoma City, the course at Twin Hills Golf & Country Club is an early Perry Maxwell design from the mid-1920s, brought into play shortly after the club was founded by five local oilmen and just before the architect embarked on a productive partnership with Dr Alister MacKenzie.
Twin Hills hosted the PGA Championships in 1935, when Johnny Revolta beat Tommy Armour (the winner in 1930) by a margin of 5&4 in the final match. The course was also used for the US Junior Amateur Championships in 1967, which saw John T. Crooks defeat Andy North in the final with a 2&1 scoreline.
Unfortunately, it’s reckoned that few, if any, of Maxwell’s original greens remain intact here, though the routing is largely the same. The 143-yard 4th (known as “The Cliff”) is a fabulous short par three that drops substantially in elevation from tee to green and the tough 450-yard 18th is one of the most demanding closing holes in the Sooner State.
This is an edited extract from the Christopher Clouser book The Midwest Associate: The Life and Times of Perry Duke Maxwell :
“There has been only one major alteration to the course, the levelling of the 8th fairway took place during the late 1960s renovation. Since then, only minor modifications had been done to the layout. It is believed that shortly after the PGA Championship in 1935 at the course, Maxwell came back and made some slight adjustments.
The course still has the feel of an open course with a lack of trees that directly impact the line of play. Ironically, the course was laid out by Maxwell on a densely forested piece of land. Over the years, care has been taken to keep the trees in line with the design intent. The layout of the course is within a small rectangle, exemplifying the mastery of routing that Maxwell demonstrated early in his career.
The property was blessed with an abundant amount of rolling land, which was one of the components that Maxwell saw as a necessary ingredient to a good course. The holes constantly switch direction so that wind will impact shots differently throughout the round. The course also makes use of the natural water and large elevation changes (and it) features a core routing much like most of Maxwell’s work: with many tees and greens close to the clubhouse.
The routing could almost be divided between the back and front nines by a diagonal line being drawn from the northeast corner to the southwest corner of the plot. Maxwell brought the player back to the ‘axis’ of the course three times in the first nine holes and provides that again in the round two more times. The course radiates out from the clubhouse much like the spokes of a bicycle wheel radiating out from the centre.”
I played Twin Hills Country Club in Oklahoma City on May 17, 2017 in the morning before heading to Karsten Creek for an afternoon round. The member has told me that Twin Hills is essentially unchanged from when I played it which is a pity.
In an age when most good golf courses are either doing a tree-removal program or trimming back trees, Twin Hills is on a tree-planting campaign. It already has plenty of trees, yet they are planting more. It made me wonder whether there was a member of the greens committee who also owns a landscaping business. There are huge trees on the property whose limbs hang so low that you can hit your head, knees or toes trying to get to your ball. These are not pine trees or evergreens where one might tolerate it, these are trees that have no business having limbs that low to the ground on a golf course. Some tree limbs have grown across the fairway blocking the original intent of Perry Maxwell on dogleg holes. These limbs require one to hit a different type of shot to a different part of the fairway. On some holes the tree line is already fairly tight to the fairway, yet the club is allowing a line of trees to be built inside of the existing trees, therefore narrowing the fairways even more.
While I have a bias towards links courses as well as parkland courses that still are able to provide some view across a fairway, I am not anti-tree. But the trees are so thick and intrusive here that one thinks Twin Hills is an arboretum that happens to have a golf course going through it. They should consider changing the name to include “forest” if they continue to plant trees.
The greens are okay but I was told much of them have been changed through the years from the original greens designed by Perry Maxwell, with many enlarged and slightly re-shaped to make the course more player-friendly. However, there are still some good green complexes on the course, even on holes where the trees are trying to diminish the quality of the golf hole.
There are a few bunkers on the course that add nothing to the golf course or are in the wrong location.
It has a decent practice range and putting green.
The course sits right off I-35, a busy interstate so you do hear the road noise on the front nine. The outward nine is hiller than the back nine. The Blue tees are 6857 yards rated 73.4/130 white the White tees are 6475 yards and rated 72.0/128. Strangely there is a tournament tee that is only 48 yards longer but the rating jumps a full stroke to 74.5/132. There are also three shorter tees for seniors/juniors/women.
The course has held various significant events including a Western Amateur in 1934, the PGA in 1935, the Western Jr. Open in 1936, The Women’s Trans-Mississippi in 1955, and Oklahoma City Open in 1956/1959/1960, the Trans-Mississippi in 1961, and four other lesser events from 1967-1991. Arnold Palmer and Gene Littler won the last two Oklahoma City Opens with Johnny Revolta winning the PGA.
There are some good holes such as #2, #3, #7, #8, #11, #12 and #18.
It opens with a downhill dogleg right that finishes uphill. This hole begins the “inner-fairway” tree planting nonsense on the right side of this par 4 403/386 that plays longer. There are two large bunkers fronting the green. I was so put off by the trees I double bogeyed the hole despite a tee shot landing in the center of the fairway.
The second is a par 5 playing downhill with a left to right tilt of 583/570. The inner fairway tree planting continues on both sides of the fairway. The bunkers on the hole are to either side of the green. Despite the trees encroaching on the fairway, I liked the green complex and green itself.
The third tee box brings one close to the interstate. It is a steeply uphill par 4 of 356/345 with a large bunker on the right side almost hidden by the fairways. My member host told me Arnold Palmer once took a seven on this hole. This hole has a bunker front and to the rear at the green which is slanted back to front consistent with the land. I did not like the hole.
Four is a nice short par 3 of 143/138 playing over a valley to a pear-shaped green fronted by a bunker. The green is sloped back to front consistent with the land. It is a pretty hole.
Five is a par 5 of 496/480 and sort of a double dogleg playing alongside I-35. The green sits well off to the left. The hole plays uphill all the way so it feels 50 yards longer. There is a long carry to the fairway with two bunkers farther up the left side. There are several smaller hills to navigate on the right as you go towards the green. Two bunkers await at the green. Perhaps I judge the hole too harshly but the sound of the interstate really takes away from the hole.
Six is a short par 4 playing downhill of 367/350 with the approach shot playing over a ravine and stream to an green that is elevated above the land before it. A single bunker is on the right. I felt the hole needed more bunkers around the green.
Seven is a long par 3 of 233/193 with a false front and a bunker left and right. I thought the hole could have had more character in the contouring near the green but it has an excellent green which is why I note it as one of the better holes.
Eight is the number one index as a par 4 of 427/397 playing uphill as a dogleg right. This is a nice hole with that ravine/stream passing again in front of the green which has a fair amount of slope. A bunker guards the left and trees guard the right side of the green. The green sits in a bit of a bowl. It is perhaps the third best hole on the golf course.
The outward nice finishes with a par 4 of 393/373 as a dogleg right playing downhill. There is a weird small shed between the fairway and the clubhouse that detracts from the hole. The loading dock to the clubhouse is also in view which also detracts from the hole. One wonders what the small shed is. Is it a doghouse? Does it store liquor if Prohibition were to return? Is it an outhouse? The member did not know the purpose of the small building. If there was ever a place to put in some bushes to hide an unsightly view of a small shed and a loading dock, this is it. There is a bunker to either side of the green. I cannot remember the green that well as I was laughing about the view near the green.
I was so disappointed by the encroaching trees that I scored a 45 on the front nine.
You go around the clubhouse to the tenth hole, a par 4 of 280/273 playing as the easiest hole. This sharp dogleg right has two bunkers about twenty yards short of the green and then a bunker on either side. There is a sort of rock formation here which makes no sense. I could not figure out what they were trying to do with the mound of rocks.
Eleven is a par 3 of 183/160 playing slightly uphill. It has a small bunker front middle and is the best par 3 on the golf course.
Twelve is a par 4 of 407/373 that turns sharply to the right. Tree branches overhang the fairway and are also low. Without those tree branches this would be a very good hole as the green complex is excellent with fronting bunkers and a well contoured green.
Thirteen is a par 5 of 550/530 playing essentially straight although the green is angled off a bit to the right and has some nice mounding near it. But it is a fairly boring hole. Tree branches hang low to the ground on this hole as well. There are some newly planted trees that will only diminish the hole as they grow.
Fourteen is a par 3 of 206/187 playing level. It is a decent golf hole with a single bunker front left. I would have added a bunker right and one at the rear to “frame” the hole.
Fifteen is a par 4 of 410/377 playing straight and flat. This hole feels out in the open but I would guess it is likely targeted as one that will soon need more trees.
Much like fifteen, sixteen feels like it is out in the open and flat. It is the final par 5 of 567/547 with a dogleg left at the end. The green has a fronting bunker but is not very interesting.
Seventeen is a par 4 of 403/373 playing as a dogleg right with two fronting bunkers. Much like thirteen there are newly planted trees on this hole placed at randomly bizarre locations which will detract from the hole as they grow.
Eighteen is the best and most memorable hole on the golf course. It is a par 4 of 450/423 playing downhill and then sharply up over a ravine to a green that is very tilted back to front with two bunkers on the left. It is a very nice finish and a hard hole to par which I did to shoot 38 on the back nine.
Twin Hills could be so much more if they removed the newly planted trees and cut back even some of the existing ones. They should also trim higher the low hanging branches as well as remove branches hanging out over the fairway. Quite honestly, I do not know any rationale for what they are trying to accomplish with the golf course. While they cannot fix being close to an interstate, they could fix the unsightly view off of the ninth hole.
It has a good routing, a nice variety of par 3’s in both yardage and elevation change. The greens could use some better contouring as well as near the greens there should be more shaping to make it more interesting. As presented, there is no real strategy or decision-making required on the course as the lines are obvious (and possibly closing in). This is a course that is well below its potential. Perhaps that is what the members desire.
It is a course one should only play if they are trying to check the box of playing the courses that have hosted a PGA.