The Takeaway: A multiple major championship host for a reason, Oak Hill’s East course is as fair and stern of a test for the best players in the world as it gets. While architecturally and from a terrain perspective there isn’t a lot of creativity, it is a pillar for championship golf. Grade A-
Designer: Donald Ross in 1925
Phone Number: (585) 381-1900
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Oak Hill Country Club (East)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 346 Kilbourn Rd, Rochester, New York 14618 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: The list of historic clubs with a rich tournament history is more prevalent in New York than any other state in the union and one club that adds to that resume is Oak Hill. The Donald Ross designed 36 hole complex has hosted the U.S. Open three times (1956, 1968, and 1989), the PGA Championship four times (1980, 2003, 2013, and 2023), the U.S. Amateur twice, as well as a Senior U.S. Open, Senior PGA Championship, and the 1995 Ryder Cup. The rolling terrain at Oak Hill offers some great uphill and downhill holes as well as some lightly sloping fairways. A creek meanders through the East course and bisects some fairways half way through the hole, some 50 yards from the green, and some right next to the green. The course has plenty of trees lining the fairways but not near as thick or intrusive as is found at Winged Foot. It is a very classic feeling course with gentle doglegs and great strategy. Tiger Woods was quoted as saying Oak Hill was the hardest, fairest course that the big boys have been asked to play for a major championship. The West course is a solid offering and was lengthened during the 2009 season, but the East course is king at Oak Hill and features an exceptional front nine paired with some of the toughest finishing holes in golf.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 13th Hole – 625 Yard Par 5 – The 13th hole is not only the signature at Oak Hill, it is one of the best par fives in the state of New York. Lengthened to 625 yards during the 2022 restoration in preparation of hosting the 2023 PGA Championship, this lengthy beast winds its way uphill past the course’s Hill of Fame before reaching the bowled green. The Hill of Fame, found on the right side of the fairway, boasts a flag pole and several trees that are dedicated to different people that the club holds in high esteem; Oak Hill’s greatest honor. It is a unique and worthy feature at this storied course. Throughout Oak Hill’s long history, few players have ever been able to reach this green in two. Why? For starters, the length eliminates most players. Beyond that, there is a creek that crosses the fairway about halfway home. Therefore, the player must layup short of the creek and rip a 300+ yard shot uphill to the green, or the player must risk carrying the creek off the tee and then still be left with a very lengthy uphill shot to a green that is protected by six bunkers and is tucked into a hill. With the shape of the fairway creating a soft ‘S’ shape, eight bunkers, and a creek to contend with on this uphill monster; it makes for one fine golf hole.
Best Par 3: 15th Hole – 160 Yards – The final par three at Oak Hill’s East course plays downhill to a green that used to feature a pond on the right but now just features bunkers in front and on the left. This was done in a restoration effort that brought the Plateau green back and is reminiscent of the 3rd hole at Wannamoisett. The relatively narrow putting surface provides for a difficult up and down when missing left or right, but the short distance will yield good looks at birdie for those finding the green in regulations.
It is a great par three to play before heading into the three stout par 4s that conclude the round.
Best Par 4: 9th Hole – 480 Yards – Known as Needle's Eye, the 9th is just a fantastic hole with more creativity than many parkland courses employ. The bunker and flagpole beyond it create a perfect aiming point before the hole doglegs right and climbs 25 feet uphill to the greensite. The fairway slopes to the left so a cut shot that fights the terrain will keep your ball near the center of the fairway which is imperative to have a clean look on the second shot. The front of the green is wider after the renovation and will allow balls to be chased up on the ground, but missing to the left side makes for a very difficult par save.
Best Par 5: 4th Hole – 615 Yards – A hole that coughed up 50% more birdies than any other during the 2003 PGA Championship, the restoration of this hole extends the length 45 yards and makes cutting the corner, and the three bunkers protecting it, a much more difficult proposition. Success with a tee shot over the bunkers will provide an ideal setup for the second shot, but finding the deep pits or o.b. to the right of the sand is instant death. An accurate approach can bound on the turf between the four bunkers and chase up onto the putting surface while shots brought in aerially have the most green to work with in the back third. The back to front slope in the putting surface will require a deft touch.
Birdie Time: 14th Hole – 320 Yard Par 4 – Named Bunker Hill, the 14th is one of my favorite post-renovation holes at Oak Hill. The trees have been thinned out on each side which unveils the dramatic terrain and makes hitting driver a bigger temptation compared to the tight landing area that existed previously. The deep faced bunkers draw the eye in and highlight the raised putting surface of this knoll green. Risk/reward abounds off the tee with the primary goal being to give yourself a club you most comfortably feel like attacking the green with. Balls that are driven over the back, or bladed on the approach shot, will find a chipping area behind the green that sits at coffin depth below the putting surface. This is the kind of hole you can play over and over again with different strategies and never get tired of playing it.
Bogey Beware: 6th Hole – 500 Yard Par 4 – While the 18th is notoriously difficult, the restoration of the 6th hole gave it claim at Oak Hill's most difficult par. Tipping out at 500 yards, our caddie confirmed that he sees more bogies, and others, on the 6th than any other hole on Oak Hill's East course. A pair of bunkers sit on the outside of the bend in the fairway while the right side has a creek meandering up before crossing in front of the green and flanking the left side of the putting surface. The creek doesn't cut the face of the green as tight as pre-renovation, but instead the raised putting surface features steep edges that toss balls to the water on the left and a deep bunker on the right. So the water feature is more forgiving but the greensite is more penal. With the prevailing wind in your face on the approach shot, it is easy for some big numbers to happen here.