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PGA Championship 2023: How a local rule will keep players from using this Oak Hill shortcut


The green on the newly designed sixth hole at Oak Hill Country Club.

Dom Furore

Major championships are meant not just to test every aspect of players’ physical games, but their mental games as well. And this year’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill promises to do just that, the East Course incorporating remodeled green complexes, fairways and landing zones on every hole to resurrect the character of the original Donald Ross design. It also includes three new holes that will challenge players in different ways from when the Rochester, N.Y., course has hosted previous major championships.

One of those new holes is the par-4 sixth, which brings back a Ross hole that had been removed by George and Tom Fazio in the 1970s. The 2023 sixth hole plays a shade longer than 500 yards with a creek running on the right side of the hole, then splitting the fairway 75 yards short of the green and continuing up the left. It’s sure to be one of the trickier holes that the pros will face this week.

But this new edition has a twist in the form of something that makes golf purists shutter: internal out of bounds.

Hit the fairway—albeit not the fairway of the actual hole—and your ball is out of bounds? Seems crazy but, well, there is logic to the rule. Given the shape and location of the new hole, and the lack of trees that separate it from adjacent holes, the parallel seventh fairway provides a shorter route to the green. 

Yet the idea of players trying to play down the seventh while playing the sixth while players are playing the seventh to play the seventh is nightmare fuel for the PGA of America. Needless to say, the association decided to nip this in the bud quickly. Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's chief championships officer, said there had been internal talk about this for some time, noting the rule was needed for safety purposes and for pace of play. "With the redesign, the trees that were no longer there, sort of if you go down that way, take the water out of play, which is the architectural design of the sixth hole."

Here's a visual to help the players understand the local rule in place:

Internal out of bounds isn’t anything new. A few courses in the Open Championship rota employee it: the first hole at Royal Portrush, the ninth hole at Royal Birkdale, the third and 18th holes at Royal Liverpool. And the possibilty of something like this happen is becoming more prevalent at major championship venues, particularly those that are removing trees that once made such imaginative cross-hole strategy impossible.

At Oakland Hills during the 2016 U.S. Amateur, players trying to play the long par-4 18th hole could look at playing down the 10th fairway. Similarly at Oakmont Country Club during the 2021 U.S. Amateur, players on the ninth hole were hitting into the first fairway, the 10th hole down the ninth fairway, and the 11th hole down the 10th fairway.

At the Players Championship in 2021, Bryson DeChambeau also contemplated hitting his tee shot on the 18th hole over to the ninth and then taking that approach angle into the 18th green with his second shot, only for the PGA Tour to make a ruling like the PGA of America prohibiting that play.

Again … the idea of internal out of bounds is upsetting to some, particularly those who believe the players are within their right to be creative with their approach to course strategy. But with pace of play being the issue that it is at pro golf, it’s hard not to give the PGA of America a pass on creating it here.