Golf

COURSE GUIDE: Oak Hill Country Club

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Oak Hill's history dates back to 1901, when 137 members were playing the new American import of "golf" on a nine-hole track. The mostly barren land was situated close to the Genesee River near Rochester, New York. In 1921, the University of Rochester proposed a land swap with the golf club. The growing college's new "River" campus would move to the banks of the Genesee and a new golf course would be moved to some farmland in the town of Pittsford. The members of Oak Hill made the most of their opportunity to start anew. Moving to Pittsford had one big advantage: the club now had enough room to build two courses. With the university chipping in $360,000, Oak Hill hired world-famous architect Donald Ross to work his magic. A magnificent Tudor-style clubhouse and over 75,000 trees, mostly oaks of course, were added to the Ross layout. The new facility officially opened in 1926, but the real test would come in 1934 when as a joint celebration of Rochester's Centennial and the 20th anniversary of native son Walter Hagen's first U.S. Open triumph, the Hagen Centennial Open was contested on the East Course, deemed the more demanding of the two courses. Leo Deigel posted a four-round total of 276 and took home the first prize of $600.
TOUR THE COURSE
It's usually the U.S. Open that's known for thick, menacing rough. But Oak Hill is different. The rain-soaked grass will severely punish any golfer that does not find the fairway off the tee this weekend.
The Times-Union newspaper put up a $5,000 purse seven years later, drawing a star-studded field that included Hagen, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen. Snead, whose 277 won the event, said of Oak Hill, "This course is certainly one of the finest I have ever seen, fit for either an Open or a PGA." Ben Hogan also loved the course and vowed to return the following year. Hogan did return and won the event, shooting a 64 in the first round, a course record that still stands. In 1956, Oak Hill hosted its first U.S. Open. Dr. Cary Middlecoff outlasted Hogan, who missed a 30-inch putt on the 71st hole and ultimately lost by one stroke. Twelve years later, the Open returned to the East Course and saw Lee Trevino win his first professional tournament, becoming the first golfer in history to shoot four rounds of sub-70 golf in an Open. One of Jack Nicklaus' most famous victories came at Oak Hill in 1980. Considered a comeback win, Jack rolled to a record seven-stroke victory in the PGA Championship. Curtis Strange may be more familiar with the agony and the ecstasy of Oak Hill than anyone. The last major hosted in Rochester came in 1989, when Strange made history by becoming the first man to win back-to-back U.S. Opens since Hogan did it in 1950 and 1951. But one of Strange's worst moments came at Oak Hill as well, when he missed a short putt on No. 18 to hand his 1995 Ryder Cup match to Nick Faldo, spurring the Europeans to a comeback victory. No. 1, 460 yards, par 4
The tee box has been moved back 20 yards, but a big drive can catch a slope at 260 yards and roll another 40 yards. Still a tough tee shot, with out-of-bounds down the right side and trees on the left. No. 2, 401 yards, par 4
A long iron off the tee will keep the ball short of deep bunkers on both sides of the fairway. Approach shots will need to stay below the hole, although a bunker guards the right front section of the green. The putting surface is quick from behind the hole. No. 3, 214 yards, par 3
Deep bunkers guard both sides of this small green. Very difficult to get up-and-down from long and right. This usually ranks as one of the toughest holes at Oak Hill. No. 4, 570 yards, par 5
The best birdie chance at Oak Hill, reachable in two by the majority of players. The key is a long tee shot with a fade over a pair of deep fairway bunkers, with out-of-bounds on the right. Anything in the bunker will leave 160 yards for a third shot. Tough hole location is on a narrow knob in the back center. No. 5, 428 yards, par 4
Tee shot must travel through a chute of trees for 215 yards, then avoid a creek that winds into the landing area at the 250-yard mark. Heavy rough on the left side. A good drive will leave a short iron into a green fronted by the same creek. Should be more bogeys than birdies on this hole. No. 6, 175 yards, par 3
Four players made a hole-in-one during the first 90 minutes of the '89 U.S. Open, and two players made an ace during the Ryder Cup. The green has a deep bunker on the right side and a creek that winds around the green on the left and front. Back right is the toughest hole location. No. 7, 461 yards, par 4
About 30 yards added, making it a tight drive hole with the fairway about 22 yards wide. A creek on the right side comes close to the fairway. A safe drive will leave a mid-iron into one of the smallest greens on the course. No. 8, 428 yards, par 4
Straight hole, with fairway bunkers on the left side that are so deep, players might not be able to reach the green. Trees loom on the right side of the fairway. The green is relatively large, offering some interesting hole locations, especially back right. No. 9, 452 yards, par 4
An uphill, dogleg right that has been beefed up with an extra 35 yards. Any drive that misses right will go into deep rough. The left side slopes away, kicking drives into rough. The fairway is 25 yards wide and looks much narrower. Approach is uphill to a green that is smaller in the back. No. 10, 429 yards, par 4
Downhill hole that plays shorter than its yardage, although some players will hit iron off the tee because a small green requires approach shots to be struck from the fairway. Slopes in the fairway make the landing area tighter than it looks, especially with a bunker on the left and a creek on the right. The green has a small slope in the middle that makes it tough to get close to the hole.
Take a look at Hole No. 10 No. 11, 226 yards, par 3
An extra 30 yards has turned one of the easier par 3s at Oak Hill into one of the most difficult. A creek winds to the right of the green, which is surrounded by bunkers. A traditional left-to-right wind will make it tough to get it close on some days.
Take a look at Hole No. 11 No. 12, 372 yards, par 4
A subtle downhill slope will allow some to get within 50 yards of the green, although trees guard both sides of the fairway. The smart play is a long iron off the tee, followed by a wedge or short iron. No. 13, 598 yards, par 5
Tough to reach in two, but one of the big hitters will be able to run his second shot onto the green. Drive should be kept short of the creek that bisects the fairway at 300 yards. The creek meanders down the right side, and fairway bunkers right and trees to the left make the layup no picnic. Approach should be kept below the hole, because green is quick from back to front.
Take a look at Hole No. 13 No. 14, 323 yards, par 4
A short par 4 will tempt some to go for the green. Most players will opt for a long iron to get in the fairway for a second shot that is uphill to a two-tiered green. No. 15, 181 yards, par 3
Downhill tee shot to a narrow green. The biggest fear is water on the right side, especially when the wind blows in that direction. Two bunkers guard the left side.
Take a look at Hole No. 15 No. 16, 439 yards, par 4
Most players can carry their tee shots far enough to catch a slope and pick up an additional 30 yards. The fairway is narrow in the landing area, with a slope on the left that kicks most balls into the deep rough. Green is guarded by a bunker to the right. No. 17, 495 yards, par 4
The start of a brutal finish. Trees protect both sides of the fairway, and the ideal drive moves from left to right. Undulating green makes it difficult to get the approach close to the hole with a long iron, and the green is well-protected by bunkers on both sides. This hole usually gives up the fewest number of birdies.
Take a look at Hole No. 17 No. 18, 482 yards, par 4
Best tee shot is left-to-right on the dogleg right. Deep bunkers are on the right, and tall trees catch anything to the left. The green is set right at the base of a steep hill, so anything short will not make it to the green. This is where Nick Faldo saved par from 95 yards to help Europe win the Ryder Cup. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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