Oak Hill Country Club Embraces Change
The game of golf is constantly evolving to challenge players with longer fairways, faster greens and more difficult hazards. To keep a competitive edge, superintendents need to focus on continual course improvements, even if that course is steeped in history.
A perfect example is Oak Hill Country Club's East Course, which was designed in 1925 by Donald Ross. This year marked its third year as host of the PGA Championship. The club has hosted 11 major tournaments in total, including all six of the men’s championships.
"I love golf courses like this, you know, big mature trees, tree-lined fairways...It was obviously a fantastic golf course 50-60 years ago and it's a fantastic course now," Rory McIlroy said during a 2013 PGA Championship media day interview. McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship.
Part of his sentiment no doubt lies in Oak Hill’s willingness to change. To bring its first PGA Championship to Oak Hill in 1980, the club embarked on a renovation led by famed golf course architects George and Tom Fazio. The fifth and 18th holes were redesigned, and new par-3 holes at Nos. 6 and 15 were built.
Three of those holes were significantly updated again to bring new challenges to this year’s PGA Championship.
“Preparation started in earnest three or four years ago, as far as boots on the ground type of work on the golf course goes,” says Jeff Corcoran, manager of golf course and grounds at Oak Hill Country Club. “We did some renovation work on the 5, 6, and 15 greens on the East Course. We changed the contours on 5 and 6, and completely rebuilt the 15th green.”
That 15th hole turned out to be a key to Jason Dufner’s hoisting the Wannamaker Trophy in his first major championship win with a 2 under par finish.
“That was a pretty tough hole location there,” Dufner said in his post-win interview with the PGA of America. “I thought I hit a good shot, ends up rolling off the green. Kind of a squirrely lie in the fringe. You know, one of those balls that you could easily not get up and down and turn the round around. I ended up getting that one up and down and stuffed it there on 16.”
To keep the course ready for the best players in the world, Oak Hill Country Club values the support of John Deere.
“Oak Hill Country Club prides itself on maintaining the highest standards,” says Dan Farrell, general manager of Oak Hill Country Club. “To do that we need to have the best equipment in the industry. John Deere provides us with the technology, new products and proven equipment that helps us reach our goal of excellence.”
That equipment includes a number of John Deere Gators, six PrecisionCut 8000 Fairway Mowers, 22 E-Cut 180 Walking Greens Mowers, and all of the club’s tractors, according to Corcoran.
“The equipment does what we ask it to do,” he says. “That’s first and foremost: the performance of the equipment. That along with the relationships you build with people in the company has been really important for Oak Hill Country Club. It’s been a great partnership.”
Watch this video from GCSAA.TV to see how that partnership and a small army of volunteers helped Oak Hill prepare for the 2013 PGA Championship.