Eye on Design

PGA Championship 2023: The 7 most challenging aspects of Oak Hill, explained

An up-close look at the East Course's unique architecture

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The second shot at the par-4 14th requires no small measure of nerve.

Derek Duncan

Much attention has been given to the "new" look of Oak Hill's East Course, site of this week's 2023 PGA Championship. A 2019 remodel by architect Andrew Green has given the design a refreshed, retro look and playability, drawing on the original design of Donald Ross, who built the course in 1924.

Gone is the traditional parkland setup of tight, treelined fairways, curvaceous bunkers and circular greens. This year's major championshp contestants will instead find a course of stark contrasts, sharp angles and ominous hazards.

Here is an upclose tour of the East Course and the unique Ross/Green architectural features that players will have to contend with.

TIGHT DRIVING CORRIDORS

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Despite tree removal, holes like the par-4 seventh still require players to fit drives into tight landing areas. Here, a stand of oaks blocks out lines on the left, and Allen Creek sqeezes the fairway on the right.

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Derek Duncan

Four fairway bunkers slashing into the fairway at the par-4 second pinch the drive the way overhanging tree limbs used to.

STEEP, DEEP BUNKERS

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Derek Duncan

The bunkers flanking the second green are set well below the putting surface.

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Derek Duncan

Stepped into the ridge left of the third green, these hazards with near vertical faces are more like pot bunkers on a links rather than typical American bunkers.

HALF-STROKE FAIRWAY BUNKERS

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Derek Duncan

Bunker clusters like these to the left of the first fairway, positioned at different elevations, are not meant to be easily escaped, a change of pace for tour players accustomed to advancing the ball to the green.

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Derek Duncan

How far players can advance the ball will be a matter of luck depending on whether it settles in the middle of the bunker or up against the steep faces, which will force them to play out with sand wedges.

EXACTING TARGETS

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Derek Duncan

Numerous greens offer a safe miss, but others like the par-4 12th offer no quarter. Approaches must find the putting surface or face a tough recovery from deep rough or deep bunkers.

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Derek Duncan

One of the most difficult approach shots is to the par-4 9th green set on a ridge near the clubhouse. All that is visible is the flagstick and a false front that defends shots short.

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Derek Duncan

This view of the 18th reveals how elevated the putting surface is above the valley below it. Short is not a good miss, but neither is left, right or long.

CHOCOLATE DROPS, DOLOMITES, MOUNDS

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Derek Duncan

One of the goals of the remodel was to reintroduce grassy hummocks like these right of the 17th green that were commonly used as hazards in the 1910s and 20s.

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Derek Duncan

This side view of the fifth green, a par 3, demonstrates the difficult situations players will face if they just miss the putting surface. The abrupt mounding can create all types of awkward stances.

Watch our hole-by-hole analysis with drone footage of Oak Hill's renovated East Course:

CHIPPING SWALES

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Derek Duncan

Mown chipping areas were not part of Oak Hill's previous design but they've been added to a number of holes like the par-4 16th, adding to the recovery options. They'll give players something additional to think about when holes are cut near them as balls will now run away from the green rather than be held up by rough.

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Derek Duncan

This area short and right of the par-3 15th used to be a pond. Now it's a tightly mown chipping area that will require you to pick the ball clean to get it back up to the plateau putting surface.

SQUARED-OFF GREENS

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Derek Duncan

Green expansions have recaptured the corners of the putting surfaces, creating enticing new hole locations set dangerously close to the bunkers. Holes along the left edge and front left corner of the eighth green shown here will dare players to challenge them.

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Derek Duncan

Formerly a circle with only the front section pinnable for tournaments, the par-5 13th green now possesses an extraordinary range of pin positions—from birdie pins set in the front thumbprint to more difficult pins set over ridges and swales along the edges and rear corners.