The second 18-hole Vanderbilt Legends Club course was also designed and built by Tom Kite and Bob Cupp. A par 71 measuring 7,100 yards, the South Course takes players through verdant fields winding in the shadow of historic Roper’s Knob hillside, transforming every inch of available land into a distinctive masterpiece.
With a mix of wooded and open spaces and even more elevation changes, the South Course offers a unique and challenging golf experience. The Par 4 10th hole consistently ranks as one of the most challenging in Middle Tennessee. Together, these courses are widely recognized as among the finest in Tennessee, having served as the hosts of many local, regional and national competitions.
The opening hole on the South course acts as an indicator of the strategic demands to come. Bunker placement will almost always indicate the best angle to the green (i.e. the closer one plays to the hazard the greater the advantage on the next shot). Mounds line the left side of the first fairway and effectively widen the landing area by rebounding slightly off-line hits back into the short grass. However, from the left, the stance is awkward and the green slopes away to the right. The favorable position from which to play is alongside the fairway bunker, where the lines are level and the angel to the green receptive. The putting surface falls off to the right into a hollow that is maintained at fairway height. This maintenance feature is found throughout the course and allows for more creativity with the short game.
Obvious with its requirements, the brutish second demands both strength and precision even with the advantage of playing downwind. A drive in the fairway is critical as errant tee shots may find this long two shotter unreachable. Two well placed bunkers indicate the proper approach for success. By playing close to the fairway bunker the green opens up, exposing the most difficult back left pin. Since long irons and fairway woods are needed to reach this green, the putting surface will accommodate a running shot played from the right.
From its grassy hollow tucked in behind the right bunker to its deceptively deep putting surface, a certain elusive quality is present on this lengthy par three. Furthermore, the green is guarded on the front left by a bunker that seems to be well short, and flanked on the rear by hollow and long grasses that appear just off the back edge. Club selection may vary by as much as three clubs due to the depth of the putting surface and wind conditions (this hole also plays downwind). The back right pin placement calls for either a high soft long iron or a left to right shot that uses the green’s slope to feed the rolling ball back to the pin area.
Turning back into the wind and commencing a stretch of three possible birdie holes, the fourth hole’s strategy is heavily influenced by pin placement. The smart player will check the pin from the second fairway. A left pin placement calls for a drive down the right, flirting with tree limbs and possibly even attempting to carry the bunker. If the pin is on the right, the opposite holds true, the appropriate drive would then be close to the left hand traps. The green is wide, relatively flat and is receptive to short irons.
With lots of open space enticing drives to the right and away from the fairway bunker on the left, the shortest par four on the course is a teaser. Once on the right side, the player finds an obscured view of the hourglass shaped putting surface, and must play over the lurking pot bunker yet stop short of the cut-out (a small section of putting surface and collar that falls away from the shot). Alternatively, approach shots from near the fairway bunker are provided a more forgiving position and an excellent view.
A potential birdie hole? The long sixth is, but only after two solidly struck wood shots. This true three shot hole parallels the railroad and is littered with bunkers (sounds like a scenario right out of Scotland). However, there is ample room and a definite need to let the shaft out. Generally, the bunkers on the right side are unreachable and make good targets for both the tee ball and the second shot. The shallow green, nearly 70 yards in width, has the capacity for a wide assortment of pin placement. The left pin areas are reminiscent of the twelfth at the Old Course at St. Andrews, asking the player to be precise in club selection and touch.
Although hazardless off the tee, the long seventh still rewards the well placed tee shot. A small drop-off protects the left and most desirable side of the landing area. Performing a significant role are the towering mounds right, affecting both vision and stance. The cape (supporting mounds) of a small bunker short right of the green extends all the way into the putting surface, dividing the front of this green into two distinct pin areas and making bump and run shots somewhat risky. Playing downhill and into the wind, this approach shot is one of the most difficult on the course.
The line on the only uphill tee shot on the course is indicated by a pair of bunkers cut into the slope on the left. Conditions permitting, the optimal drive carries over the edge of the traps, where a downslope adds distance and effectively shortens the approach for those brave enough to cut the corner. If in doubt, play safely to the right but count on a long second shot to this heavily contoured green. A ridge guards the back right pin which may be the most difficult to hit on the entire course.
Wind direction and length are significant factors on the downhill par three. Teeing from the highest point on the South course, a solidly struck wood or long iron must be played to a point below the hole as this large green breaks sharply to the front right. Chips from the grassy hollow left of the green will be hard pressed to stop close to the flag. There is no trouble in front, and that may be the prudent place from which to save par.
The tenth hole opens the door to a unique back nice that present three par 3’s, three par 4’s, and three par 5’s. Considered by most players to be the most demanding hole on the golf course, the tenth requires that you have your best game in gear following the turn. The tee shot must be rifled between a long meandering bunker left of the landing area and a pond lurking to the right. A successful tee ball is “rewarded” with a long iron approach to a large green that is nearly circled with trouble. The green is guarded on the left by water, on the right by a bunker, and in the rear by a series of small grassy hollows. Par will be quite an achievement on this hole.
Being the shortest hole on the South course, one might expect the par three eleventh to be a breather to follow the difficult tenth. But this is not necessarily the case. While the tenth require strength the eleventh requires touch. The short to middle iron tee shot must be threaded through a narrow stand of trees, carry a small creek, and avoid a cavernous, caped bunker that guards the entry to the middle of a slick, sloping green that is bisected from front to back by a nose. Only the perfect tee ball will afford a chance at birdie.
While the eleventh hole emphasizes precision. the requisite for scoring well on the twelfth hole again is length. The landing area is wide and guarded on the left by two bunkers. The long second shot calls for either a long iron or fairway wood to a medium sized green that is flanked on the left by a 45 yard long bunker. The golfer must also be aware of Spencer Creek as it snakes its way along the right side of the hole, closing to within 10 yards right of the green. It is not intended to be narrow but it’s presence has an obvious effect.
The dramatic thirteenth is a classic example of an all or nothing par three. From the back tees, the golfer is forced to carry a middle or long iron across a sliver of Spencer Creek, and expansive field of long grasses, and then back across Spencer Creek to a two-tiered green that is perched on a peninsula into a bend in Spencer Creek. The front tees offer an entirely different angle into the green that is no less difficult. The tee shot must be worked between tall sycamores and oaks, across two stretches of Spencer Creek and stopped on a green that breaks sharply towards the creek. This hole will most like produce the widest range of scores on the course.
The first of three par fixes in the final five holes, the fourteenth presents the best opportunity for a birdie or an eagle. A drive that hugs close to the bunkers on the left side of the fairway affords the golfers an opportunity to go for the green with their second shot. For the conservative players who decide to lay back with their second shot, accuracy is at a premium, and the ideal play is down the right side of the fairway along the trees to allow an open angel into the green. Conversely, shots hit left of center will be forced to contend with a large mound that hides the green from view. The aggressive player going for the green in two must avoid a bunker and several deep grassy hollow to the back and left side of the been and the winding Spencer Creek just off the right side of this slightly elevated green. There is also a section of fairway cut left of the green where longer hitters can bail out, but the chip shot is treacherous because the putting surface slopes away towards the creek.
The last par four on the golf course is a classic example of a strategic golf hole. As is common with strategic holes, both safe and daring routes are available off the tee. The daring tee shot that skirts on the edge of trouble is rewarded with an easier approach than the safe tee shot that is hit away from the trouble. In this strategic style, the fifteenth hole favors a ball this is truck down the left side of the fairway close to the bunkers. This opens up the best angle into the green and clear view of the green side bunker for the second shot. On the contrary, a drive that is played to the right ands way from the bunkers leaves a blind approach shot in which both the green and bunker are obscured by large mounds that jut into the right edge of the fairway.
Pinpoint accuracy is a must in attacking the long par three sixteenth. Unlike the previous par threes on the back nine, the green side hazards on the sixteenth hold flank the sides of the green rather than guard the front entry to the green. Therefore the sixteenth makes available the option of running a shot to the green. The right side of the deep, narrow green is full of movement, highlights by a deep, caped bunker and two cut-outs to deflect errant shots. The left side of the green is guarded by a long bunker that slices out into the fairway 15 yards short of the green, giving the illusion that the ball must be flown all the way to the green.
Kicking off a back to back par five finish is the seventeenth, a three sit hole that emphasizes positioning over sheer length. The tee shot is straight forward. A ball hit close to the bunker on the right side gives a slightly better angle for the second shot. The second shot, hit over a small stretch of wetlands, is the most critical part of the hole. The key is to work a long iron or fairway wood down the left side of the fairway to leave an unobstructed angle into the green. Shots hit down the right side will be partially blocked from the green by a tall stand of trees and will require either a big slice of an extremely lofted shot to find the putting surface. The medium sized green is fronted by a small creek and is divided into front and back sections by subtile ridge.
A reachable par five closing hole seems to lead the most dramatic and exciting finishes in all of golf. The eighteenth hole of the South course is one such hole. The tee shot, framed by mounds on both sides of the fairway, invites a big drive down the left side. From this position the decision must be made whether or not to go for the green. Those who choose to lay up short of the green must hit an unerring shot to the landing area that is pinched by mounds on the left and a stream on the right. Shots close to the water give the player the opportunity to pitch the ball into the slope of the green. Those who are bold enough to go for the green in two will see the green as an enticing target. The left side is open for a run up shot while the right one-third is tucked behind a small stream that is accented by several waterfalls. Balls rolling to the back edge of the green will be corralled and send back towards the pin by a raised collar. The green is moderately sized and the slopes toward the creek. It will be the site of high golf drama- jubilant moments or disappointments.