Golf News

Oak Hill put Donald Ross flair back into East Course ahead of 2023 PGA

Oak Hill Country Club

Nothing remains static on a golf course for long.

Grass grows, often in new places and in unexpected ways. Bunkers shift as sand is blasted out by players. Trees grow, blocking light, air and playing lines. Undulations shift on greens, which themselves often shrink over years and decades. Whether through intentional architectural efforts or natural evolution, every golf course changes in time.

Even those that host major championships. Consider Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course in Rochester, New York, site of the 2023 PGA Championship. The East ranks No. 12 among New York’s elite roster of clubs on Golfweek’s Best list of top private courses in each state, and it’s No. 42 on Golfweek’s Best list of classic courses in the U.S.

Opened in 1926 with a design by architectural legend Donald Ross, the East had undergone many changes over the decades, many of them in pursuit of additional challenge to the best players in the world. Among its many championships, the East has hosted three PGA Championships (1980, ’03 and ’13) and three U.S. Opens (1956, ’68 and ’89), with winners including the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Curtis Strange. Add to those events a rich history of amateur and senior events, plus the 1995 Ryder Cup, and Oak Hill’s rich championship history clearly ranks among the best clubs in the world.

The greens for Nos. 4 and 5 at Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course in Rochester, New York (Photo: Gabe Gudgel/Golfweek)

But the course had changed dramatically over the years, losing much of its Ross flavor. Robert Trent Jones tweaked the East in the 1950s and ’60s, including – in the name of spectator flow – the replacement of a par 4 considered by many to be among the best in the country.

In the 1970s, George and Tom Fazio further modernized the layout, redesigning three holes – the fifth, sixth and 15th – and moving the 18th green. While these changes were all implemented in the interest of increased difficulty for touring professionals, the club received criticism about eliminating too much of Ross’s original design.

Add in naturally occurring changes to the course over the years, and club officials knew it was time to make some changes.

“It’s just like owning a home in some regard. You always have to do some housekeeping, always have to do some updating,” said Jeff Corcoran, Oak Hill’s manager of golf courses and grounds. “And I think the progression of the game dictates a lot of the work…


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