Golf Course Review - Oak Hill Country Club (East Course)
By Philip Sokol, Director of Operations
Pittsford, NY (Sports Network) - FACTS AND STATS: Course Architect(s): Donald Ross (1926), Robert Trent Jones (1950s), George & Tom Fazio (1975-76), Tom Fazio/McDonald & Sons (2003, 2008, 2011). Year Opened: 1926. Location: Pittsford, New York. Slope: 147. Rating: 76.7. Par: 70. Yardage: 7,180.
1 - Par 4 460 Yds 10 - Par 4 432 Yds
2 - Par 4 401 Yds 11 - Par 3 226 Yds
3 - Par 3 214 Yds 12 - Par 4 372 Yds
4 - Par 5 570 Yds 13 - Par 5 598 Yds
5 - Par 4 436 Yds 14 - Par 4 323 Yds
6 - Par 3 177 Yds 15 - Par 3 181 Yds
7 - Par 4 461 Yds 16 - Par 4 439 Yds
8 - Par 4 430 Yds 17 - Par 4 509 Yds
9 - Par 4 454 Yds 18 - Par 4 497 Yds
Par 35 3,603 Yds Par 35 3,577 Yds
Key Events Held: Walter Hagen Centennial Open (1934), Time-Union Open (1941-42), U.S. Amateur Championship (1949, 1998), U.S. Open Championship (1956, 1968, 1989), PGA Grand Slam of Golf (1979), PGA Championship (1980, 2003, 2013), U.S. Senior Open (1984), Ryder Cup (1995), Senior PGA Championship (2008).
Awards Won: Ranked #17 by Golf Digest - America's Greatest Courses (2013-14), Ranked #5 by Golf Digest - Best in State (N.Y.) (2013-14), One of America's most prestigious private clubs - Golf Connoisseur, Ranked #33 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 U.S. Courses (2011-12), Ranked #45 by Golfweek - Best Classic Courses (2012), Rated #1 by GolfWorld - Top Private Club (2010), Ranked #57 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 World Courses (2009).
Course Record: 64 (Ben Hogan, 1942; Curtis Strange 1989).
HISTORY: Although the East Course at Oak Hill dates back only to 1926, the club's history is as storied as any of the venerable courses around the United States.
You see, Oak Hill was originally formed in 1901 on 85 acres near the Genessee River in Rochester, N.Y..
The first course was just nine holes, which was laid out on mainly barren land with a converted farmhouse as its clubhouse. A membership numbering in the low 100s grew the sport in the region, and over the next 20 years, with annual dues of $20 along with an initiation fee of $25, the club purchased additional property and another nine holes and a new clubhouse were built.
As the membership continued to grow, it was time for a change and in 1921, the University of Rochester and Oak Hill Country Club decided to relocate on each others property.
With four times as much land, Oak Hill erected two 18-hole courses, with none other than Donald Ross at the helm.
Ross, one of the most lauded golf course architects of all time, has designed some of the greatest courses in America, such as: Plainfield (N.J.), Pinehurst No. 2 (N.C.), Inverness Club (Ohio), Aronimink (Pa.), Interlachen (Minn.), Oakland Hills (Mich.), East Lake (Ga.) and Seminole (Fla.), just to name a few, and all sites of past and future Tour and Championship events.
As was with most courses back in the day, the land was barren and mainly devoid of trees. That certainly was about to change at Oak Hill, as member Dr. John R. Williams, a leading research physician, decided to take up botany and horticulture in an effort to transform the Oak Hill landscape.
The metamorphoses took time, but over the years, Dr. Williams planted tens of thousands of seedlings on the property, converting this once barren landscape into a dense forest of trees. With the emphasis in recent years on the quality of turfgrasses and irrigation, along with air movement and exposure to sunlight on the course, many of Williams' oaks, maples and evergreens have been removed, but the property still features thousands of magnificent trees.
Just eight years after opening, the East Course hosted its first key event, honoring its native son, the Walter Hagen Centennial, celebrating his first U.S. Open triumph. Leo Deigel, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan were some of the champions of this event. When Hogan captured the title in 1942, he carded a course-record 64, a score that has only been equaled once since by Curtis Strange in 1989.
With Oak Hill's East Course now regarded as one of the nation's most prestigious courses, the United States Golf Association brought its oldest championship, the U.S. Amateur, to Rochester in 1949. With the course playing as a par of 71 at 6,800 yards, Charlie Coe was a runaway winner, as he dismantled his opponent, Rufus King in the final, 11 & 10. The field included standout players Julius Boros, E. Harvie Ward, Willie Turnesa, P.J. Boatwright, Dow Finsterwald, William Campbell and Arnold Palmer, who lost in the third round.
Prior to hosting another major event, Oak Hill brought in legendary architect Robert Trent Jones in the 1950s to make several adjustments to the course. Jones, who was from the area, met with Ross in his late teens and after giving up competitive golf, turned to course architecture after spending time with Ross.
Jones, revamped almost every hole and lengthened the course close to 400 yards and reduced the par to 70. With these changes, the East Course was ready for center stage.
The USGA returned to Oak Hill for the 1956 U.S. Open, as Dr. Cary Middlecoff defeated Hogan and Boros by one shot. Middlecoff held a two-shot lead heading into the final round, but bogeys on 16 and 17 saw his lead shrink. He was able to re-group and sink a short, but slippery four-foot par putt on the last to finish at 281 (1-over par).
"I would say that was the greatest accomplishment I ever had on one particular, very important shot," Middlecoff said.
Hogan and Boros had their chances on the closing holes, but Hogan missed a 30- inch par putt on 17 and Boros lipped out for birdie on the last.
The changes made by Trent Jones were stiff, as the weekly scoring average was a whopping 76.28 with only eight rounds under par. The low round for the week was a 2-under 68, shot by Bob Rosburg, Hogan and Ken Venturi. Middlecoff was certainly the most consistent player for the week, carding three rounds of 70 and one 71.
The course was just over 6,900 yards with a par of 70. The final three holes on the East Course were extremely difficult and despite playing them in 8 over, Middlecoff won the championship.
Twelve years later, the USGA returned to Oak Hill for the U.S. Open. Relatively unknown Lee Trevino captured the championship by posting a four- shot win over Jack Nicklaus. With his win, Trevino became the first man in Open history to shoot four rounds in the 60s, as he posted scores of 69-68-69-69, equaling Nicklaus' then-tournament record of 275 set the previous year.
Trevino trailed Bert Yancey by one shot heading into the final round, but Yancey struggled to a final-round 76 and a third-place finish. Despite the increase in length of the course, Oak Hill played slightly easier than in '56, as the scoring average dropped to 74.51 with 30 rounds under par. Still, only two players finished 72 holes under par.
During the mid to late 1970s, George and Tom Fazio were brought in to renovate the East Course at Oak Hill in preparation for the inaugural PGA Grand Slam of Golf in 1979 and the PGA Championship the following season. George and his nephew created two new holes at Nos. 6 and 15, both par 3s, and redesigned the fifth and closing hole, upgrading the course to championship status once again.
The first Grand Slam of golf featured the four major championship winners of that year, as Gary Player, Andy North, Nicklaus and John Mahaffey battled it out on the 6,974-yard course. North and Player tied for low round with 73s, while Mahaffey and Nicklaus shot 77s.
The PGA Championship made its first visit to Oak Hill in 1980. Nicklaus captured his fifth and final PGA Championship, tying local hero Hagen's total by cruising to a whopping seven-stroke win over Andy Bean. Nicklaus, who captured his 17th major and 71st of 73 career wins, played brilliant golf for four days. After an opening round of 70 that saw him trail Craig Stadler by three, Nicklaus moved into a tie for second with a 69 on day two. His third- round 66 moved him atop the leaderboard, three clear of Lon Hinkle.
Nicklaus closed with 69 and was the only player in the field to shoot four rounds of par or better and finish under par. The East Course was once again the true winner, as it played to a scoring average of 74.82. Following his victory, Nicklaus was very complementary of the course. "Oak Hill is a marvelous golf course, one of the top 10 or 12 true championship courses. I love Oak Hill. It's a wonderful golf course."
With the changes made to the course, the USGA decided to test the East Course with the fifth U.S. Senior Open Championship in 1984. Palmer and Miller Barber, who trailed Palmer by one heading into the final round, were the key combatants. After Palmer made bogey and Barber made birdie on the fifth, the duo were tied.
Palmer made three bogeys on seven, 11 and 12 to trail by three, but he rebounded with a birdie on 14 to gain with two. After missing from eight feet for par, Palmer half-heartedly attempted to tap in his bogey putt, but missed the ball and although nobody saw it, he called a penalty on himself and Barber was up by three.
Although Palmer birdied the 17th, Barber made a great par save and then parred the last for a two-shot victory over the "King." With the win, Barber became the first player to win two U.S. Senior Open titles, and he added another one the following year. The winning score was 6-over-par 286. Palmer's second-round 68 was the low round for the week and one of just two scores in the 60s (Jack Fleck 69).
History would be made in 1989, as Oak Hill's East Course would host the U.S. Open for the final time. Following his win the previous year, Curtis Strange became the first player since Hogan in 1950-51 to win the championship in back- to-back years. With rain soaking the course for several days, low scores were the norm, as three players opened with 66s to take the first round lead.
Strange followed with a course-record-tying 64 on day two, and he led Tom Kite by one shot. Strange's round included five birdies, an eagle and just one bogey on the 17th. Kite, the 1992 U.S. Open winner, captured the third round advantage by one over Scott Simpson and by three over Strange.
After pars on the first two holes and a birdie on three, Kite uncharacteristically fell apart, making triple-bogey on five, by missing an 18-inch putt, and double-bogeys on 13 and 15, as he closed with a 78 and tied for ninth.
Strange, on the other hand, was a man on a mission, as he opened with 15 straight pars and then birdied the 16th from 10 feet. Despite a three-putt bogey on the last, Strange held off Chip Beck, Mark McCumber and Ian Woosnam by a shot to win for the last time in his career.
Following his win, Strange uttered, "Move over, Ben. It's not so much what Hogan did. It's what others have not done. The great Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson have not won back-to-back Opens."
It should be noted that during a two- hour span in the second round, four players aced the par-3 sixth hole from 167 yards. Doug Weaver, Mark Wiebe, Jerry Pate and Nick Price made hole-in-ones; however, only Weaver and Wiebe made the cut.
Although the course gave up 54 subpar rounds, the overall scoring average was 73.40.
In 1995, The East Course at Oak Hill welcomed the Ryder Cup to its premises. After dominating the four-ball portion of the competition the first two days, the United States opened a two-point lead heading into the Sunday singles matches.
Following the first five matches, the U.S. squad still held a two-point lead. However, David Gilford, Colin Montgomerie, Nick Faldo and Sam Torrance won four straight matches to move the European contingent in front.
With three matches remaining, the Americans hopes rested on Corey Pavin, Jay Haas and Phil Mickelson. Pavin defeated Bernhard Langer, 3 & 2, and now the red, white and blue trailed by one point.
But Haas, after closing his gap to one down with one to play by winning the 16th and 17th against Philip Walton, could do no better than match his bogey on the last, as the Europeans recaptured the Cup.
Mickelson, playing in his first-ever Ryder Cup, posted a perfect 3-0 mark, including a singles win over Per-Ulrik Johansson. A plaque affixed to a tree on the Oak Hill's "Hill of Fame" states, "Their magnificent comeback victory is in the first rank of the most stirring triumphs in the history of golf and reminds us, once again, why golf is the best of games."
Almost 50 years after hosting its first USGA championship, the U.S. Amateur returned to Oak Hill in 1998. With a field that included Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Charles Howell III, Aaron Baddeley, Trevor Immelman, Lucas Glover, Carl Pettersson and Ben Curtis, it was Hank Kuehne who proved to be victorious, as he outlasted Tom McKnight in the 36-hole final.
In his six matches, Kuehne never played the final hole, as he finished the championship with a 2 & 1 win.
Needless to say, Kuehne was ecstatic about his win: "This has been an unbelievable week for me. I can't explain how I feel right now. It hasn't sunk in yet, but I'm so happy that my family could be here to share this with me."
Kuehne held a 3-up lead after the morning 18, but McKnight responded with four birdies in six holes to take a 1-up lead through 24 holes. Kuehne, however, bounced back, winning four of the next five holes to take control. Garcia, who had defeated Kuchar in the quarterfinals, lost to McKnight in the semis.
The PGA Championship returned to the East Course at Oak Hill in 2003, as Tiger Woods, Mickelson and Ernie Els highlighted the field, but it was little-known Shaun Micheel who took home the hardware.
Mickelson, who was in search of his first major title, opened with a 66, good enough to tie for the lead. Micheel carded 68 in round two and took the lead by two shots.
Chad Campbell joined Micheel atop the leaderboard after round three, thanks to a sparkling 65. The duo battled back and forth during the final round and with Micheel one clear heading into the final, he struck the shot heard from Oak Hill to Niagara Falls, a 7-iron from 175 yards to within two inches to seal the victory.
Micheel, who defeated Campbell by two shots, was the only player in the field to post four rounds of par or better, as he won for the first and only time on the PGA Tour. Of the top three players, Els played the most consistent for the week, shooting two 70s and two 71s to tie for fifth.
"It is the best, fairest and toughest championship golf course I've ever played in all my years as a tour professional," Els said.
Mickelson failed to break par the final three rounds and finished at plus-8 and tied for 23rd, while world No. 1 Woods failed to break 72 and tied for 39th.
With 96 of the top-100 players in the world competing, only three players finished under par, as the course yielded a scoring mark of 74.31.
In 2005, the PGA of America announced that Oak Hill would once again play host to two marquee PGA events, the 2008 Senior PGA Championship and the 2013 PGA Championship. Then-PGA president Roger Warren was very complementary of the East Course, saying, "Many of the most memorable moments and golf's finest champions have been showcased at Oak Hill. We are excited about Oak Hill being host to the greatest names in senior golf, as the Senior PGA Championship makes its first appearance in the state of New York."
When the PGA of America returned to Oak Hill in '08 for the Senior PGA Championship, Jay Haas outlasted Bernhard Langer by one shot.
"I'm very glad it's over," Haas said after the victory ... and rightfully so. Playing just over 7,000 yards long, Haas finished at plus-7, the highest winning score in relation to par in tournament history.
Haas, who led after round one, was never more than one shot off the lead after the next two rounds, as he trailed Tom Purtzer after round two and Langer following the third round. Langer stumbled out of the gate on the final day, double-bogeying the first hole and was 4-over for the day after four holes and never recovered, shooting 76 to Haas' 74.
It was a redemption of sorts for Haas, who lost the clinching point to the Europeans in the 1995 Ryder Cup. This time around, Haas drove down the center of the fairway and his 6-iron approach found the green, 15 feet from the cup. Two putts later, Haas was the champion.
"I'm glad. I said on the green I exercised some demons from 1995 there on that 18th hole," Haas said. "I probably made one of my most solid pars I've ever made with two of my best shots under pressure in that, and that's what I'm leaving here with. With the trophy and the thought of doing that under the gun. I feel pretty happy about that."
His final-round 74 was his highest score for the week, which included just one birdie. For the week, every hole played over par, including the final two holes, which ranked as the two most difficult.
We would be remiss in discussing the history of Oak Hill Country Club without mentioning Craig Harmon, its head golf professional. Harmon, who's been gracing the club since 1972, is a former recipient of the PGA Golf Professional of the Year award and a member of the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame. One of the most respected PGA professionals, Harmon comes from an amazing pedigree of golf instructors, brothers Dick, Butch and Billy and, of course, his father, Masters champion Claude Harmon.
Over the years, Harmon has seen many changes to the East Course, but has little doubt the course can hold up to today's great players. "You wonder how Oak Hill can defend itself, and it has over the years," said Harmon. "Six-under-par was a winning score for Jack Nicklaus and only 10 human beings have broken par in all tournaments combined."
In preparation for the 2013 PGA Championship, the powers that be at Oak Hill, brought in Fazio and his team once again to renovate and restore the grand old layout. Several putting surface adjustments were made and new tees added by his staff, along with the reshaping of several bunkers.
"They made a couple of changes to the greens," Harmon said. "On 5, 6 and 15 have been altered both for better pin placements that they did not have in 2003 and the 15th hole in particular is now an incredibly hard hole."
It will be interesting to see how the best players in the world adjust to the changes of Oak Hill.
"The real challenge here is taking advantage of your opportunities when they come along, and limiting the damage when you hit it in the rough," Rory McIlroy said after a recent visit. "You've got some chances out there, the par 5s and the two short par 4s on the back nine. But, then again, you have a very tough finish."
HOLE-BY-HOLE REVIEW: The mighty East Course at Oak Hill starts out with a robust par-4 of 460 yards, one of 10 over 400 yards in length. Bending slightly to the left, the first requires an accurate tee ball, avoiding the trees down the left and out-of-bounds down the right. Missing this fairway will force the player to lay up short of the creek that looms 80 yards from the green. The putting surface is 27 paces in length and guarded short-left and right by sand, with an additional trap in the rear. The slope is from back to front, so stay below the hole.
Although just 401 yards in length, the second necessitates pin-point precision off the tee, as the fairway is quite tight with pinching bunkers and a right- to-left sloping landing area. The sensible play is to lay back short of the five fairway bunkers, thus leaving an uphill approach to the well-protected green. Make sure to choose the correct approach club, as any shot short will come back down the fairway. Another slick green from the rear, so distance control is a must.
The first of four outstanding par 3s, the third is fairly long with plenty of sand to capture any errant play from the tee. The green is one of the smallest on the course at just 20 paces in length. Any play missed right will result in at best, bogey. Hit above the hole and you'll be hard-pressed to keep you ball on the putting surface.
Never say never, but the fourth hole is most likely not reachable in two on this rugged par-5. Reaching as much as 570 yards in length, the fourth sweeps hard to the right with a pair of fairway bunkers guarding the corner of the dogleg. The layup zone, some 70 yards short of the green, is pinched mightily by a pair of bunkers down the right, so playing back to 100 yards seems prudent. Another minuscule greens awaits, featuring plenty of movement, thanks to a ridge in the rear portion. If your wedge game is hot, then you'll have a real chance at birdie.
Another signature hole on the East Course is the dogleg right, par-4 fifth. From a chute of trees, driving again is of utmost importance, as trees line the early portion of the fairway, with a creek running down the entire right side and crossing in front of the green. A successful tee shot will leave a mid-iron to a slightly elevated putting surface. Any play coming up short will likely end up bounding back into the greenside creek. The green is fairly large with plenty of slope, so pay attention, otherwise your stroke will get away from you.
The shortest par-3 on the course features plenty of drama of its own. At just 177 yards from the black markers, No. 6 will give players fits, as a swirling wind from an elevated tee can create plenty of havoc. In addition, the creek from the previous hole cuts in front and runs down the left side of the green, all too close for comfort. This green is one of the most undulating on the course, especially the front-left portion. Shortsiding yourself on the right will find the only greenside trap or worse ... thick rough.
One of the exciting, yet diabolical holes comes by way of the seventh. This par-4 stretches 460 yards and requires a slight draw off the tee, avoiding the creek down the right and trees on the left. Now the fun begins, as you're left with a mid to long iron through a narrow chute of trees toward the green. Not only that, the putting surface is just 22 paces, the smallest on the course. Two bunkers, one on each side protect the entrance to the green. The best play is a hide fade to the center of the green. Two putt and move on ... trust me!
The rugged test of the front side continues with the eighth, a straightforward par-4 of 430 yards. Fairway bunkers, strategically placed on either side of the landing area, pinch your play from the tee, not to mention the tall trees. Now it's a mid to long iron for your second, which again must dissect the sand and trees to the green. The putting surface is quite large with plenty of movement. This is a hard green to read, so ask for assistance from your caddie.
The final hole on the outward nine is one of the most difficult on the course. Although it says 454 yards on the scorecard, the dogleg-right ninth plays much longer, thanks to a roller coaster fairway and an uphill approach to the green. Again, trees guard both sides, so another accurate tee ball will be of utmost importance. Your second will require an extra club or two to reach the green, the longest on the course. Miss left and a steep incline will force your ball well below the green. A back flag on this arrowhead-shaped green will make two-putting a near impossibility. I talk from experience!
Number 10 is a wonderful, downhill par-4 of just 432 yards in length. Again, another narrow fairway, pinched by sand, will test the player off the tee. In addition, the trees encroach the fairway, so three-metal might be the play here, as the slope of the landing area also comes into play. Your approach with a mid to short iron must carry to the top portion of the green, as a ridge in the middle section will force balls back off the surface.
The longest par-3 on the course, the 11th plays slightly downhill off the tee. A creek fronts the green, but is well short of the putting surface. It comes into play, however, to the right of the green, so flight your approach properly or the wind can knock it down to the right. The green is wide, but quite shallow, so distance control is key. In addition, four greenside traps will keep you honest.
Another difficult driving hole awaits on the 12th, one of the shortest par-4s on the course. The key is taking the right club off the tee, as trees and thick rough line both sides of the fairway, so fairway metal should be the call. Your approach to the green will be uphill, so take enough club to reach the long and angled left putting surface. The fronting bunker sits well below the green and gives you an illusion that the green is closer than it is. Don't be fooled.
Voted the signature hole at Oak Hill East, No. 13 is also the longest hole on the course at a whopping 594 yards. Despite playing downhill from the tee, this is a true three-shotter, as a creek dissects the fairway at the 300-yard mark. Now it's lay up time as you climb toward the green. Two large fairway bunkers cover the right side, so play down the left side for your best angle to the green. The putting surface sits in an amphitheater and guarded by numerous bunkers with the clubhouse in the background. The green is quite small as it runs from back to front, but a quality approach can result in birdie.
The shortest hole on the course, excluding the par-3s, is not necessarily the easiest. In fact, No. 14 is rated as the 10th-most difficult. The hole plays downhill from the tee box to a relatively wide landing area. Beware, as the fairway tilts to the right, where thick rough and trees await. Your approach shot is straight uphill to the green, at least a club and a half, so choose the right stick. Three bunkers guard the front of the putting surface, as they sit well below the green, making for an almost impossible up and down. The two-tiered green can play tricks on your putting stroke, especially with a back-left pin.
Rated the easiest hole on the East Course, the 15th presents plenty of obstacles, especially when the wind is up. The first obstacle is choosing the right club, as the hole plays downhill from the tee. Next, judging the wind and direction, as a pond sits dangerously close to the green. Finally, negotiating one of the longest greens on the course and its 34 paces. When all is said and done, bail out to the left and rely on your short game. Ending up in either of the two bunkers left sure beats the water on the right.
The 16th is another hole with a narrow landing strip for a fairway, lined with trees on either side. There's no sand until you reach the putting surface, but the premium on an accurate tee shot continues, as the fairway tilts left. A mid to long iron is required to reach the circular putting surface with bunkers on either side. The fairly large putting surface slopes subtly from back to front.
For a par-5, the 17th is a pretty simple test. However when played as a par-4 during championship play, this hole will get the best of everyone. Playing 509 yards from the tips during all major championships, this hole necessitates a big drive down the left hand side, as the hole swings hard to the right. Trees adorn the entire right side, so avoid at all costs. Bunkers that sit on both sides of the fairway, some 80 yards from the pin, see plenty of action, as they pinch the landing area quite tight. Bunkers short of the green will see their fair share of approach shots, especially when the pins are tucked. This is one of those holes where laying up short and chipping close might be the best option.
One of the greatest finishing holes in golf, the 18th at Oak Hill East is outstanding. From the tips, the last stretches 488 yards and requires a tee ball of 220 yards just to reach the fairway. As with most of the course, trees guard both flanks of the landing area, not to mention thick, juicy rough. Two bunkers down the right side of the rolling fairway must be avoided to have any chance of getting home in regulation. As the hole bends to the right, make sure you take enough club to reach the putting surface, as a deep ravine fronts the promised land. Although very shallow, the green is quite wide with several bunkers right and left. Who can forget the 7-iron struck by Shaun Micheel to win the 2003 PGA Championship that landed just two inches from the cup, as he secured the victory over Chad Campbell. A classic finishing hole by the master architect, Donald Ross.
FINAL WORD: The East Course at Oak Hill Country Club is a like a fine wine that gets better with age.
Over the years, the course has been lengthened, altered, adjusted, renovated and what I'd like to say ... refined.
People discuss that the course has been redesigned so much, that it does not reflect the original design by Ross. Hogwash.
The East Course has been renovated to keep up with the modern player and the ever changing landscape of golf equipment.
So what if they lengthen a hole 30 yards or lessen the slope of a green, it's for the betterment of the course and the game.
End of story.
This course is so steeped in history, from its design to its pedigree of championships held. It's tradition at its best.
What makes the East Course such a challenge is its premium on accuracy and length off the tee. If you're playing the back markers, then you need to be long, but placing it in the short grass is a must.
"It's one of the all-time great driving courses," Harmon said. "The fairways are anywhere from 16 to 24 yards wide and they don't narrow it down for a major championship. We play it that way all the time."
"In parts it reminds me a bit of Medinah where we played the Ryder Cup," added Rory McIlroy. "Because of the trees. When I think of the PGA Championship, I think of golf courses like this, big trees, tree lined, classic golf courses."
Although the course is over 7,100 yards long, it does feature four sets of tees going as low as 5,866 yards from the front markers, so pick the right tees to play from. Having said that, the East Course is still a very difficult test of golf. This is not a walk in the park, nor should it be.
"Course record is 6-under par, which is not a lot under par having all these great players," Harmon said. "So you would have to say the course has stood the test of time, even though the length has changed. They have not been able to make the course that much longer, probably 20 yards longer now than in 1968."
So what makes Oak Hill East such a tough layout? You have to be able to work your ball, like the old days.
"So golf is different here at Oak Hill and the defense is the rough and the defense of Oak Hill is the angles of the fairways," Harmon said. "You literally have to shape the ball both ways. You just can't play a one-way shot."
McIlroy agreed wholeheartedly. "There are a lot of doglegs here and if you don't work the ball one way or another, you're going to run out of fairway. That's going to be a real challenge. You have to keep your ball in the fairway here so you have chances to score. But if you don't and you hit it into the rough, you're going to struggle to get it to the greens. You really have to think about what you're doing."
This is a course that you need to play several times to get the intricate nuances of the landing areas and especially the greens.
"So they are not overly undulating, but there is something about them where you think they are going to break and it just doesn't," Harmon said. "That has to be part of the defense of the course, the mystery of the greens."
Is there a chance Oak Hill will succumb to the greatest players in the world? Possibly, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
Claude Harmon said it best: "The defense of the course is really accuracy, but you can't defend greatness and talent."
Aces, pars or bogeys, send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
08/02 13:48:21 ET