Oakwood Country Club is headed for the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
At least, its father, famed golf designer Perry Max-well, is.
Oakwood was one of the last courses Maxwell designed joining such famous golf layouts as Tulsa’s Southern Hills, Fort Worth’s Colonial, Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, OU’s Jimmie Austin, Ardmore’s Dornick Hills, the Muskogee Country Club and Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kan., among others.
Maxwell’s $10,000 fee to design Oakwood in 1946 may have been considered extravagant at the time, but it turned out to be a pretty good bargain.
“Courses like that (Southern Hills) would cost millions now,’’ said Oakwood pro Tim Menden-hall.
Maxwell was brought to Oakwood by Ernie and Patty Blanton. Patty was one of Oklahoma’s all-time women amateur players and had played at Southern Hills and Prairie Dunes and wanted a course like that in Enid.
According to Oakwood history, 80 to 90 people showed up at a meeting about a proposed country club with Maxwell. When he presented his bill, people reportedly were aghast, Mendenhall said.
“Mr. (Jack) Hodgen told me he (Maxwell) told them a great artist starts with a blank canvas and when he finishes a picture, he has a masterpiece,’’ Mendenhall said. “When he finished developing Oakwood, it was a masterpiece.’’
So much so that club bylaws said no one — not even the club pro — can change anything on the course.
Why change a masterpiece? The name of Perry Maxwell, years after his death, carries a lot of weight in golf.
“Over the years, I’ve talked to a number of people who have visited here and as soon as I say it’s a Perry Maxwell course, their eyes light up,’’ Mendenhall said. “People know who Perry Maxwell was.’’
An United States Golf Association official who visited Oakwood a few years ago told Mendenhall “we had a hidden gem here. He didn’t expect it to look like anything like this. Over the years the membership has done a great job of preserving it.’’
When a tree is lost because of weather, the members have tried to put it as close to where Maxwell had it.
Maxwell did things the old- fashioned way in days where there wasn’t the earth moving equipment they have today. He worked with a natural piece of land.
Maxwell, Mendenhall said, had a knack for knowing where to put the holes, the tee boxes, the trees, etc.
“He didn’t fancy up the course,’’ Mendenhall said. “The greens were all built on back to front slopes, so anybody who plays a Perry Maxwell course knows to leave the ball below the hole. Just like on our course, if you get the ball above the hole, it’s very difficult putting.’’
Mendenhall played a round last year at Colonial and could see the similarities how it and Oakwood were designed.
Colonial, in a poll of PGA tour players, was ranked as the third best course to play. No. 8 at Prairie Dunes has been voted the best No. 8 hole in the country.
Maxwell reportedly once said holes No. 9, 10 and No. 11 at Oakwood were the best three holes he designed on any of his courses. A book has been written about Maxwell’s courses, which included Oakwood.
“On all of his courses, coming in to No. 9 and 18, you’re always coming into the wind,’’ Mendenhall said. “You have to work the ball and be a shotmaker to be successful on a Perry Maxwell course. You have to leave the ball below the hole. You can’t slam it on the green or you’re in trouble.’’
Oakwood wasn’t designed for the professional, but at the time a 6,700-yard course was considered long. Today, anything under 7,000 is considered short by professional standards.
“They wanted something for a country club in Enid,’’ Mendenhall said. “They realize a town this size would never get a major.’’
But being a Maxwell-designed course has made Oakwood a popular site for major amateur events. Mendenhall said he gets a call every year from either the Oklahoma Men’s or Women’s Golf Association wanting Oakwood to host a major state event.
It has hosted U.S. Open sectional qualifiers, men’s and women’s state amateurs, the state junior championships, the South Central Sectional Club Pro for both regular members and seniors and the Oklahoma Senior Fourball among others.
Oakwood, being the home of the legendary Carol Collins, was the site for the first-ever Oklahoma Women’s Golf Association team championships last year. It hosted the boys state tournament when Enid’s Lance Combrink was the individual state medalist in 1992.
“We’re fortunate to have somebody of his esteem and popularity to design our course,’’ Mendenhall said.
Maxwell was originally a banker who designed his first course (Dornick Hills) in Ardmore in 1922. The rest is history.
Maxwell is buried at the family plot on the 17th hole at Dornick Hills which overlooks a big lake.
“I had a tear in my eye,’’ Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall has kept in touch over the years with Maxwell’s son, Press, who followed his dad in the business. Mendenhall’s favorite picture at Oakwood is the elder Maxwell pressing a cane into Press’s chest “like he was giving him directions or chewing him out.’’
Mendenhall’s one regret is Maxwell’s original plans are missing. Maxwell never kept them, giving them to the club hierarchy.
“That’s sad,’’ Mendenhall said. “I would have liked to have seen any other ideas that we had that weren’t implemented when he built the course, like bunkering.’’
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.