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Golf Course Review - Hazeltine National Golf Club
By Phil Sokol - Director of Operations (TSN)

Hole-by-Hole
1 - Par 4 462 Yds
2 - Par 4 435 Yds
3 - Par 5 633 Yds
4 - Par 3 194 Yds
5 - Par 4 412 Yds
6 - Par 4 405 Yds
7 - Par 5 543 Yds
8 - Par 3 176 Yds
9 - Par 4 432 Yds
10 - Par 4 410 Yds
11 - Par 5 606 Yds
12 - Par 4 466 Yds
13 - Par 3 247 Yds
14 - Par 4 352 Yds
15 - Par 5 642 Yds
16 - Par 4 402 Yds
17 - Par 3 182 Yds
18 - Par 4 474 Yds
Par 36 3,692 YdsPar 36 3,781 Yds
Architect(s):
 Robert Trent Jones (redesign work in 1970s), Rees Jones (1980s, 1990s, 2000s)
Year Opened: 1962
Location: Chaska, Minnesota
Slope: 154   Rating: 77.5
Par: 72
Yardage: 7,473
Key Events Held:
 U.S. Women's Open Championship (1966, 1977),
 U.S. Open Championship (1970, 1991),
 PGA Grand Slam of Golf (1980),
 U.S. Senior Open Championship (1983),
 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship (1994),
 NCAA Men's Division I Championship (1999),
 USGA Men's State Team Championship (2001),
 PGA Championship (2002, 2009),
 U.S. Men's Amateur Championship (2006),
 Ryder Cup Matches (2016).
Awards Won:
 Ranked #72 Golf Digest - America's 100 Greatest Courses (2005-06),
 Ranked #2 Golf Digest - Best-in-State rankings (2005),
 Ranked #67 Golf Magazine - Top 100 Courses in the U.S. (2005),
 #53 Golf Connoisseur - 100 Most Prestigious Private Clubs (2006).
Website: www.hngc.com
HISTORY:
Hazeltine National Golf Club grew out of fear. Yes, fear. It seems that several members of famed Minikahda Golf Club, an old Donald Ross gem in Minneapolis, were worried that a freeway would be constructed on their site. Former USGA president and Minikahda member Totton Heffelfinger and the select members found a tract of land suitable for 36 holes of golf. The Minikahda membership, however, turned them down, but Heffelfinger was enamored with the property and decided to hire none other than Robert Trent Jones, one of the greatest architects of all-time, to design the course.

Trent Jones designed some of the finest courses in the world, including Sotogrande in Spain, Hawaii's Mauna Kea, Spyglass Hill in Pebble Beach and the North Course at Firestone. Jones was also responsible for redesign work at Oak Hill, Southern Hills and Oakland Hills, where Ben Hogan called his rework of the South Course a "Monster."

The original name of the course was to be The Executive Golf Club of Minnesota, however the soon-to-be members rejected the name. Since the course was set on the shores of Lake Hazeltine, the name was changed to Hazeltine National Golf Club.

Just four years after opening, the USGA brought the U.S. Women's Open Championship to Hazeltine, where Sandra Spuzich won with a four-round total of nine-over-par 297 for her first career title. Tied for the lead with Carol Mann with three holes to play, Spuzich birdied the then-par three 16th and the 17th to take a two-shot advantage to 18. Despite a bogey on the last, Spuzich was able to survive the 6,325-yard layout. Mickey Wright opened with a round of 71, the only subpar round of the tournament.

The year 1970 brought the USGA back for the U.S. Open, as Tony Jacklin became the first Englishman in 50 years to claim the title. Players were very critical of the golf course, which featured 13 doglegs and many blind shots. No one was more vocal about the layout than Dave Hill, who lamented, "They ruined a good farm when they built this course. Plow it up and start over." Hill added that all it lacked was, "80 acres of corn and a few cows." Playing to a yardage of 7,151 yards, the competitors fought high winds and thick rough, as Jacklin finished at seven-under par 281. During the opening round, winds up to 40 m.p.h. had the average score at 79.1. Jacklin opened with 71 and then strung together three consecutive rounds of 70 to defeat Hill by a whopping seven shots.

After extensive renovations in the 1970s, the U.S. Women's Open came in 1977 to Hazeltine National. Hollis Stacy led from start to finish, as she posted a score of four-over 292 to defeat rookie professional Nancy Lopez by two shots. Stacy held a two-shot lead after an opening round of 70 and despite over-par rounds of 73-75-74, was able to hold off Lopez in her first event as a pro. Despite the changes, the problems remained the same: blind shots and too many doglegs.

Trent Jones returned in 1978 and redesigned five holes, and in 1980 the conversion of the 16th -- changed from a par three to the signature hole -- and the creation of the 17th to a par three came to pass. These changes left little doubt that Hazeltine would once again host a major championship.

In only its second year as an event, the PGA Grand Slam of Golf made its only visit to Hazeltine in 1980. Lanny Wadkins birdied the final hole to post a one-under 71 and defeat Hale Irwin by two and David Graham and Fuzzy Zoeller by three.

The U.S. Senior Open was the first major event to challenge the new routing of the course and the subsequent changes in 1983. Scoring was typical Hazeltine, as Billy Casper and Rod Funseth finished regulation at even-par 288. During the 18-hole playoff, both players carded rounds of 75, and on the first extra hole Casper sank a 10-foot birdie putt for the title, his third USGA crown. Casper, who captured the 1959 and 1966 U.S. Opens, was the only player in the field to break 70, shooting 69 during round two. Funseth, who held a one-shot lead with one hole to play, bogeyed the last, while Casper sank a two-foot par putt to force the playoff.

Following the success of the Senior Open, the USGA granted Hazeltine the 1991 U.S. Open in 1986. Trent Jones' son, Rees, the "Open Doctor," was brought in to make the necessary changes to the course. Rees cleaned up the course, defining hazards more clearly, making his bunkering directional and softening some of the contours.


Scott Simpson bogeyed the 16th hole during his 1991 U.S. Open playoff with Payne Stewart, eventually leading to a two shot loss.
The U.S. Open was a huge success. The players raved about the course. Even Dave Hill, upon a visit prior to the championship, commented, "It's totally different. It has grown into a lovely course. It has maturity and definition." Despite leading wire-to-wire, Payne Stewart needed an extra day to fend off Scott Simpson for the title. Stewart, who would later add the 1999 U.S. Open title to his resume prior to his death, shot a flawless, bogey-free 67 in round one. Simpson got within one after round two, thanks to a six-birdie round of 68 to Stewart's 70. The players were tied after round three, as Simpson shot par and Stewart one-over. After 10 holes on Sunday, Simpson held a two-shot lead -- an advantage he would hold through 15. Simpson, however, after a poor drive on 16, made bogey and was just one clear with two holes remaining.After both players parred 17, Simpson drove into the rough and could only get to within 30 feet after his third shot. Stewart, long in two, was able to get up-and-down for par while Simpson missed his putt. The playoff was similar to the final round, as Simpson held the lead by two on the 16th tee. However, Stewart rammed home a 20-footer for birdie and Simpson missed his par putt from three feet and the duo were even. After pulling his tee shot on 17 into the water, Simpson made a remarkable bogey, but trailed as Stewart made a routine par. On the last, Stewart two-putted for par while Simpson's chip for birdie slipped past the hole. Stewart's winning score of 75 was the highest score in a playoff since 1927. The difference for the week turned out to be on the 16th hole, as Stewart made one birdie and four pars, while Simpson made four bogeys. On a sad note: During the first round, severe thunderstorms ripped through the area with lightning making contact with a tree on the 11th. Six spectators were injured with one dying at a local hospital. After another tragedy at the PGA two months later, the governing bodies of golf took steps for early warning signs of lightning for both players and fans, meaning play would be suspended if lightning was in the area.

Several amateur events have been staged at Hazeltine National, including the 1994 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. Tim Jackson outdueled Tommy Brennan, 1-up. During the 1999 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship, PGA Tour player Luke Donald was the medalist with a score of 284. The University of Georgia, with Ryuji Imada leading the way, captured the title with a score of 28-over par.

More changes to the course came in preparation for the 2002 PGA Championship. Once again, Rees Jones continued his work, as he added new tees and bunkers, stretching the layout to 7,355 yards. Fred Funk and Jim Furyk opened with four-under 68s after round one, but the course was the real winner, as the players averaged 75.26. Rich Beem took center stage in round two, as he, along with Funk, Retief Goosen, Mark Calcavecchia and Justin Leonard, were tied at the halfway point at six-under par. Leonard continued his solid play with a third-round 69, one of just four players under par for the day. Leonard led Beem by three shots and Tiger Woods by five. The average score following the third round was 75.83, the highest for the week. Leonard struggled during the final day, completing his front nine with a double-bogey, bogey finish en route to a five-over 77 and a tie for fourth. The tournament came down to Beem and Woods, as they battled for the coveted title. Beem, who hit 13-of-14 fairways and 15-of-18 greens, fashioned a final-round 68, good enough for a one-shot win over Woods. Beem's defining moment came on the 11th hole, when he smashed a five-wood to within six feet for eagle and a three-stroke lead over Woods. The No. 1 player in the world would not go away, however, as Woods finished his round with four consecutive birdies for 67, including a miraculous birdie from the left fairway bunker at the last. Beem was able to two-putt to victory on the final hole, as he finished the 72 holes at 10-under par. For the week, Hazeltine played to an average of 74.735, despite having 98 of the top 100 players in the world competing.

The 2006 edition of the U.S. Amateur Championship made its first visit to Hazeltine, as Richie Ramsay of Scotland defeated American John Kelly, 4 and 2. With the win, Ramsay became the first Scotsman since 1898 to win the Amateur Championship. Ramsay opened up a 3-up advantage after 13 holes, however Kelly cut the lead to just 1-up on the 21st hole. Ramsay increased his lead to 2-up with a birdie on the 25th hole and back to 3-up with a par on the next. The match was conceded on the 34th hole, as Kelly missed his birdie try. In all, Ramsay played the 34 holes in six under par, on the longest Amateur course ever.

Rees Jones returned to Hazeltine for more adjustments to the course,stretching the layout to 7,674 yards. In addition, Jones re-bunkered theentire course and added several new tees. Following the 2009 PGA Championship,Jones will return to rebuild all greens in preparation for the 2016 Ryder Cup.

REVIEW:
The course opens with a solid, dogleg left par four, one of nine par fours over 400 yards in length. From an elevated tee, fairway bunkers guard both sides of the landing area. A medium iron will be needed to reach the putting surface, which slopes from back to front and right to left. Bunkers guard the green, with a back-right pin the most difficult. Birdies will be hard to come by, but par is probable.

Another dogleg, the second plays slightly blind off the tee and then swings hard left. Your approach with a medium to short iron plays uphill to a well- guarded green surrounded by sand. The key on two is the tee shot, which must find the fairway. Otherwise, deep rough will force a layup. The putting surface is very undulating, so play below the hole for your best shot at saving par.


The green at three slopes hard from back to front and any shot short will roll off the green down the fairway.
One of three par fives on the course over 600 yards in length, the third is truly a three-shot hole. Doglegging to the left, your tee shot must favor the left side, but beware deep bunkers. Your layup shot must be placed in the 130-150 yard area, thus avoiding a steep, sloping fairway that falls hard to the right. The putting surface is protected in the right-front quadrant, not to mention deep and left by sand. The green slopes hard from back to front and any shot short will roll off the green down the fairway. What makes this hole so difficult is not the length, but the tight landing area short of the green. Balls off the fairway in two could result in bogey. It comes as no surprise that this is ranked as the hardest hole on the course.


The first par three, the fourth, is a gem with numerous bunkers surrounding the two-tiered green.
The first par three, the fourth, is a gem with numerous bunkers surrounding the two-tiered green. Trees down both sides of the hole make for a narrow line to the putting surface. A back-left flag will add at least one club to your shot. Not an easy hole to par, even if you hit the fairway.

Although fairly short, the dogleg-right, par-four fifth can produce big numbers, especially when the fairway is missed. A pair of traps and trees down the right side will force players to err left. Just a short iron should remain to an elevated green that features several deep bunkers. Birdies should be made here, but par is a good score.


Just a fairway metal off the sixth tee will set up a short iron to the downhill target.
Yet another sweeping dogleg, this time to the left, the sixth is another birdie chance, however the tee shot must dissect the fairway. Tall trees stand large on both sides of the fairway, which slopes from right to left. Just a fairway metal off the tee will set up a short iron to the downhill target. The green is guarded, front-left by water and right and deep by three large traps. The surface is large and very undulating. A back-left pin with the wind in your face will test your fortitude.


The sensible play at the par five-seventh is to layup, leaving yourself a little wedge to a very receptive green.
The shortest of the par fives, the seventh is just 543 yards and, by today's standards, very reachable in two. The problem with that scenario is two-fold. First off, your tee shot on the dogleg right must connect with the fairway. Trees right and deep rough left will be your undoing. The decision to go for the green will depend upon your lie in the fairway and the wind, as the putting surface is protected on the left by water and the breezes are generally into your face and from the left. The sensible play is to layup, leaving yourself a little wedge to a very receptive green. The bunkers on the right of the green should only come into play if going for it in two. Birdies galore.


The putting surface at eight sits precariously over water and slopes from right to left and back to front.
The shortest par three on the course, the eighth can play very long, especially when the wind is up, as the green is unprotected by trees. The putting surface sits precariously over water and slopes from right to left and back to front. Three deep bunkers left and behind will gather any bailout shot. With the large pond fronting the entire green, hope for a generous pin, because a back-right flag is trouble.

No. 9 is a rugged par four, playing uphill and bending slightly to the left as you wind back to the clubhouse. The fairway is receptive, but beware of the three deep traps on both sides of the landing area. A medium to long iron must be struck correctly to have any shot at reaching the green. More sand around the surface, which slopes from back to front and is quite slick and undulating. Stay below the hole.


A medium to long iron must be struck correctly to have any shot at reaching the ninth green.
Club selection, both on the tee and from the fairway, is important at the 10th. Not a long par four, but a hard-swinging, dogleg left that plays downhill to the green. Fairway metal off the tee should leave an open shot to the green, which sits well below the fairway and very close to Lake Hazeltine. Three bunkers guard the enormous putting surface with two levels. Choose the right club for your second shot, because long and left is wet.

Another monster par five, the 11th is 606 yards from the back buttons and swings to the right. Uphill from the tee, the 11th is better played by laying up, left of the myriad of traps down the right side. The putting surface features more sand, but a simple wedge should be sufficient to get it close for birdie.


Fairway metal off the tee should leave an open shot to the green, which sits well below the fairway and very close to Lake Hazeltine.
The 12th is a dogleg right, par four, ranked second most difficult on the scorecard. During the 2002 PGA Championship, this tough par four had only 34- percent of the field hitting the green, with only 27 birdies being made throughout the week. The landing area is quite wide, but features a pair of traps down the corner of the dogleg. Trees down both sides of the fairway begin at the driving zone. A small pond, short and right of the green, could see some action, especially if the fairway is missed. The putting surface is slightly raised, guarded by sand and shallow. Not an easy target, especially when using a mid iron. Par is a great score.

One of the most difficult holes on the course comes at the longest par three at Hazeltine, the robust, 247-yard 13th. Sand short left and right and a pond left will gather many balls, especially with a back-left pin. The green is raised and any shot just left will kick down towards the water. The key here: Play out to the right and trust your putter.


Just 352 yards and straight, the object at 14 is to find the fairway, as tallmaples creep over the teeing area.
The shortest and tightest par four on the course, the 14th is as narrow as it gets. Just 352 yards and straight, the object is to find the fairway, as tall maples creep over the teeing area. After a successful tee shot, just a short iron remains to a slightly-elevated and undulating green. Bunkers left and right guard the front of the putting surface, which slopes from back to front. A great birdie chance.

Surprisingly, the 15th is another straight hole, however this time around it's the longest hole on the course at 642 yards. Lock and load to avoid the fairway bunkers to the left. More traps dot the fairway down both sides, but should be no problem to negotiate as you set up your approach. Just a short iron remains to a large, three-tiered green. The hole was changed for the 2002 PGA, as the tee was moved 100 feet to the right. Since then, 56 additional yards have been tacked on. Quite a bear, but a definite birdie chance.


Surprisingly, the 15th is another straight hole, however this time around it's the longest hole on the course.
The signature hole at Hazeltine, the 16th is both intimidating and beautiful. When originally designed, the hole was a par three. Land was secured after the 1970 U.S. Open and the rest is history. A dogleg right with Lake Hazeltine running down the entire right side and behind the green and a stream flowing to the left of the fairway. A 220-yard carry is required just to reach the fairway, and when the wind is howling off the water and into your face, you better step on it. The putting surface is on a peninsula and affected by the weather. During the last major championship, this hole played the most difficult. In 1991, trailing Scott Simpson by two shots in their Monday playoff, Payne Stewart sank a long birdie putt and Simpson missed a short par putt to fall into a tie. Stewart would go on to win the U.S. Open with a score of 75.


The putting surface at the 16th is on a peninsula and affected by the weather.
Depending upon the pin placement, the 17th can be a real birdie chance, especially after the rugged 16th. A medium iron to a slightly-elevated putting surface, the hole is surrounded by trouble. With a front flag, birdies can be made, however, with a back pin, sand and a water hazard come into play. Right of the green is no bargain either with more sand. Putting surface is long and narrow with a couple of levels. Certainly not as intimidating as Pebble Beach or Sawgrass, but it has plenty of bite.


A medium iron to a slightly-elevated putting surface, the 17th hole is surrounded by trouble.
Very similar to No. 9, the final hole at Hazeltine National is a solid, dogleg-left, uphill par four of 474 yards. Bunkers guard both sides of the ample fairway, but even with a good tee shot, a long iron will remain as you head for home. The putting surface is guarded by numerous traps and the green itself is slick with many twists and turns. A fitting end to a great championship layout.

OVERALL:
Truly a work in progress, Hazeltine National continues to redefine itself as one of the great courses in America. Rees Jones has tweaked his father's wonderful creation into an amazing layout, a far cry from the course lambasted in Dave Hill's comments in 1970.


Very similar to No. 9, the final hole at Hazeltine National is a solid, dogleg-left, uphill par four of 474 yards.
A rugged, challenging venue, Hazeltine National gets better with age. There must be something to it, as the USGA and PGA of America continue to pick the course as host site to some of the finest championships in the world, including the 2016 Ryder Cup Matches.

The practice facility is what you would expect from a high-profile club, enormous with plenty of options for your short and long game. Hazeltine is a golf club. No tennis or swimming, just golf. Course conditioning is immaculate from top to bottom with the greens as quick as glass and the bunkering typical Trent Jones.

The par threes are a great mix, the four pars are long and doglegging and the par fives, well, they are probably the longest set in the country. The bottom line: Hazeltine National is one terrific golf course that will test and stimulate your game. Every club in the bag must be used to play this course.

How tough is Hazeltine? The competitive course record is 66, set by Rich Beem, Justin Leonard and Robert Allenby in 2002. "Really a wonderful setup, testingall the elements of a players's game," commented Phil Mickelson. This is not a venue that you beat, it's one that you survive. I did, and I hope to make a return trip.

Aces, pars or bogeys, send your thoughts to Phil Sokol at psokol@sportsnetwork.com.