PGA Championship 2023: Oak Hill Country Club Course Guide

PGA Championship 2023: Oak Hill Country Club Course Guide
PGA Championship 2023: Oak Hill Country Club Course Guide

Our in-depth 18-hole guide to Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course, which plays host to the 2023 PGA Championship.

Today’s Golfer’s 2023 Major coverage is brought to you in association with TaylorMade

Oak Hill East Course: Par 70 | 7,394 yards | Out 3,765 yards | In 3,629 yardsJump to hole: 1st | 2nd | 3rd | 4th | 5th | 6th | 7th | 8th | 9th | 10th | 11th | 12th | 13th | 14th | 15th | 16th | 17th | 18th

The 105th playing of the US PGA returns to Oak Hill Country Club in New York for a fourth occasion with 156 players teeing it up in the hope of lifting the famous Wanamaker Trophy.

Justin Thomas is the reigning champion and will look to defend his crown on the East Course, which Tiger Woods declared “the hardest, fairest golf course we’ve ever played” after the 2003 championship.

Built around Allen Creek, water provides a hazard on nine of the East Course’s 18 holes, with just two par 5s and a pair of daunting long par 4s to close.

Jack Nicklaus, Shaun Micheel, and Jason Dufner have won the previous editions of the PGA Championship here in 1980, 2003 and 2013 respectively, with the most recent playing seeing the American reach double digits under par.

The world’s best players can expect a far more stingy East Course when they arrive in Rochester in May following a major restoration project. One of the biggest criticisms was that the East Course had become too overgrown and congested with pines, with players even being blocked out with approach shots from the fairway. That is no longer an issue.

Hundreds of trees have been taken out to open up recovery shots and many of the original Donald Ross bunkers which had been lost or changed have been brought back. Those bunkers now play like imposing hazards, especially from the fairway, which may even preclude the best players in the world from reaching the green because of the steep faces.

Other changes include two new holes, as well as completely new green complexes and run-offs which will allow the PGA of America to explore the limits of hole locations, keeping things exciting for fans, if not the players.

We sat down with Jason Ballard, Head Pro at Oak Hill, to find out more.

We’ve added some length to the course, about 250 yards compared to 2013, and taken some of the Fazio changes that occurred in the ’70s out and brought back more of the original Donald Ross design. All the bunkers and greens have been redone. No.5 is a completely new hole and No.6 will also look a little different. There are fewer trees and some new hole locations which will bring some bunkers and run-offs into play, so it’s going to be a challenge. Hopefully, it will be a tougher test than before.

The front nine is way more difficult than the back nine. Apart from No.2 and maybe No.8, there aren’t many birdie opportunities on the front nine. We’ve got Allen’s Creek, which runs through the property and comes into play a lot on the front nine. You could easily see a leader drop out of contention and then make a charge again on the second nine.

You need to drive the ball well to contend because the rough is thick. The greens are gettable but it’s really a shotmaker’s golf course. There’s a stretch, from 10 through to 15, where you can really go at it. That’s where we’ll see some activity with people moving up the leaderboard. No.14 is a driveable par 4, which plays about 320 yards, but we’ve just added a run-off area that leads to an out-of-bounds. That will give the long hitters something to think about.

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I don’t see a shorter hitter winning here. We’ve only got two par 5s, one on the front, one on the back, but No.4 is going to play 615 and No.13 has been extended by 20 yards to 623, so they are difficult to reach in two, even for the big hitters. The 13th is probably our signature hole. To carry Allen’s Creek, you’re looking at a 340 carry. We’ll see if anyone attempts it, my guess is maybe only if it plays downwind.

Even though we do have some slopes, it’s nothing like Augusta National. Our biggest elevation change is maybe 25ft. It’s quite an easy walk which should suit Tiger, though the weather will probably be the biggest factor for him. The removal of the trees could bring the wind into play a little bit more. We can also get some cold stretches, so I expect we’ll get a bit of everything that week: wind, rain and sunshine. It could come down to who is on the right side of the draw.

Based on the thickness of our rough and the length of the golf course, you need to be accurate and long to contend here. My predecessor said it’s one of the hardest driving courses around and he’s right. If you look at our past championships here, most of them have been won with a single-digit score under par. Jason Dufner got to 10-under but it was wet that week. If we get a repeat, I can see the same thing happening again for sure. But if the course dries out and the wind picks up, players could have a hard time.

A lot of our members will be pulling for Rory. He spends some time here during his off-season, so he’s got to be one of the favorites. I think his game fits the course perfectly.

PGA Championship 2023: Oak Hill East Course Hole-By-Hole Guide

1st hole: ‘The Challenge’ | Par 4 | 460 yards

Ben Hogan once called this hole the toughest opening test in championship golf. The opening tee shot is from an elevated tee to a slight dogleg left. A great drive can take advantage of a fairway downslope at 290 yards.

Allens Creek, which comes into play on half the East’s holes, runs across the fairway hole at the 360 mark. The danger off the tee is out of bounds to the right and three bunkers on the left. The green is well guarded by grass hummocks and a greenside bunker short right.

2nd hole: ‘Breather’ | Par 4 | 405 yards

A precise tee shot is needed on this short par 4 due to the severely narrow fairway and deep fairway bunkers on both sides. The elevated green slopes severely from back to front. An approach shot below the hole gives the player the best chance for a birdie.

3rd hole: ‘Vista’ | Par 3 | 230 yards

The first par 3 requires a shot with a mid or long iron to a green that slopes predominately from back to front. Three deep bunkers guard the green in front. A ball that lands on the front third of the green has a minimal chance of staying on due to an aggressive false front.

4th hole: ‘The High And Mighty’ | Par 5 | 615 yards

The only par 5 on the front requires a very precise tee shot to have a chance of reaching the green in two. Bunkers and out of bounds guard the right side while trees run along the left. The green slopes from back to front with deep bunkers short-left and short-right guarding the green.

5th hole: ‘Little Poison’ | Par 3 | 180 yards

A two-tiered green surrounded by four deep bunkers requires a precise mid-iron to have a chance at birdie. A shot that misses long will make it very challenging to save par.

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6th hole: ‘Double Trouble’ | Par 4 | 503 yards

This slight dogleg right used to be the old 5th but has now been bumped up the order by a new par 3. The entire right side of the fairway falls away into Allens Creek. The multi-tiered green, which slopes hard from right to left, has been pushed back to recapture Donald Ross’ design. Players may be tempted to bail out right to avoid a sharp drop-off long and left towards the water.

7th hole: ‘Creek’s Elbow’ | Par 4 | 461 yards

Long, tight and well defended. The ‘Creek’s Elbow’ borders the 6th and presents arguably the hardest tee shot on the course with a thick strand of trees left. Once again, the creek runs down the right side of the fairway before condensing the landing area further up.

Many players may use a fairway wood or long iron to ensure safety off the tee. The approach shot plays uphill to one of the smallest and most challenging greens, with a false front and a tricky bunker front-left.

8th hole: ‘Waywise’ | Par 4 | 429 yards

Compared to the previous two holes, the driving area is rather generous. The fairway zigzags between a bunker on each side that will penalize errant tee shots. Three deep greenside bunkers guard this rather large green.

9th hole: ‘Needle’s Eye’ | Par 4 | 482 yards

A tough uphill dogleg right with a fairway that narrows the farther up a tee shot goes. Any drive on the right side runs the risk of out of bounds or being blocked out by overhanging trees. The approach shot is likely a mid-iron to a green that slopes from back to front. Trouble lurks long and left.

10th hole: ‘Council Grove’ | Par 4 | 430 yards

Another tricky par 4 which slopes severely downhill at the 275-yard mark towards Allens Creek that crosses the fairway at 350 yards. Two greenside bunkers short and a run-off area on the back left corner forces players to aim for the middle of the green. Shots finding the putting surface will leave players with a good look at birdie as this is one of the flattest greens on the course.

11th hole: ‘Creekside’ | Par 3 | 245 yards

This long par 3 is surrounded by three greenside bunkers, one short-left and two long right, along with Allens Creek protecting the front right hole location. A large green offers a variety of hole locations which forces the player to be precise in their plan of attack; this can be a tall order from 245 yards.

12th hole: ‘Leaning Oak’ | Par 4 | 399 yards

A short uphill par 4 with trees on both sides. A small right fairway bunker demands a carry of at least 285 yards. A short approach shot is then hit to a green that slopes from back left to front right with three greenside bunkers guarding the front.

13th hole: ‘Hill Of Fame’ | Par 5 | 623 yards

The second of two par 5s is not only the signature at Oak Hill, but also the longest hole on the course. Typically played into a prevailing wind, few players have ever been able to reach the green in two because of Allens Creek that crosses the landing area at 325 mark.

The S-shaped fairway cambers down and then up to a green that sits in a hollow, protected by three bunkers in front and two behind. The club’s famous Hill of Fame sits to the right, marked by a flagpole and where greats of the game are honored with oak trees.

14th hole: ‘Bunker Hill’ | Par 4 | 320 yards

The shortest par 4 on the course will provide the player with a risk-reward decision to lay up or go for the green off the tee. Pros who lay-up short of the green must avoid the two fairway bunkers on the left, and one on the right.

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Those who decide to go for the green may be pleased to have their ball land in one of the three greenside bunkers. Any shot that misses long will provide the toughest of all finesse wedge shots, as this green slopes severely from back to front.

15th hole: ‘The Plateau’ | Par 3 | 155 yards

The shortest of the par 3s at Oak Hill with perhaps the biggest bite. Anything short and left will find deep bunkers which make for a difficult up-and-down. A tightly mown run-off area right of the green drops off dramatically in elevation, leaving the player with a tough shot from a very tight lie to a multi-tiered green.

16th hole: ‘Straight Away’ | Par 4 | 458 yards

A well-struck tee shot will take advantage of a slope in the fairway at the 275-yard mark leaving the player with a short shot into a receptive green. Two bunkers line the right side of the fairway: the first at 280, the second at 330. A miss left or long of the green will roll away significantly due to the tightly mown run-off area.

17th hole: Twin Tees | Par 4 | 502 yards

A par 5 for members becomes a long par 4 for the Championship. Historically it ranks as one of the toughest holes on the course. A left-to-right tee shot that hugs the corner of the dogleg is required to prevent the ball running out into heavy rough on the left. The green has also been reduced in size and a new runoff area has been added that falls 10ft below the putting surface.

18th hole: Goin’ Home | Par 4 | 497 yards

As beautiful as it is demanding, ‘Goin’ Home’ boasts a fairway only 20 yards wide at the 300-yard mark, with three deep bunkers on the right and trees on both sides. The shallow green sits on another plateau with thick rough in front and three bunkers right and one left, making for a very challenging finish. It is perhaps best remembered for Shaun Micheel’s 7-iron to two inches which won him the 2003 PGA Championship.

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About the author

Michael CatlingFeatures Editor

Michael Catling is Today’s Golfer‘s Features Editor and an award-winning journalist who specializes in golf’s Majors and Tours, including DP World, PGA, LPGA, and LIV.

Michael joined Today’s Golfer in 2016 and has traveled the world to attend the game’s biggest events and secure exclusive interviews with dozens of Major champions, including Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Gary Player, and Justin Thomas.

A former member of Ufford Park and Burghley Park, Michael has been playing golf since he was 11 and currently plays off a handicap of 10.

Away from golf he’s a keen amateur chef and has his own healthy recipes website. He also loves playing squash, going to the gym, and following Chelsea FC.

Michael uses a Ping G driver, Ping G 3-wood, Ping G Crossover 3-iron, Ping G Series irons (4-PW), Ping Glide wedges (52º, 56º, 60º), TaylorMade MySpider Tour Putter, and Srixon AD333 golf ball.

Get in touch with Michael via email and follow him on Twitter.

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