Oak Hill Country Club (East) – Played 2015
- Rankings: Golf Digest #17, Golf Magazine #32
- Location: 346 Kilbourn Road, Rochester, New York
- Year: 1925
- Architect: Donald Ross & Robert Trent Jones
- Course Access: Private
- Walking Rules: Carts & Caddies Available
Score Card Information:
- Championship: 7,159 yards, Par 70, 76.4 Rating/148 Slope
- Black: 6,842 yards, Par 71, 75.3 Rating/143 Slope
- Blue: 6,573 yards, Par 71 (Men’s), 75 (Women’s), 72.7 Rating/138 Slope (Men’s), 79.1 Rating/150 Slope (Women’s)
- White: 6,194 yards, Par 71 (Men’s), 75 (Women’s), 71.1 Rating/139 Slope (Men’s), 77.9 Rating/142 Slope (Women’s)
- Gold: 5,920 yards, Par 71 (Men’s), 75 (Women’s), 69.7 Rating/136 Slope (Men’s), 76.6 Rating/142 Slope (Women’s)
Oak Hill Country Club is one of the elder statesmen of American golf courses. The club was incorporated in 1901 on leased land with nine holes. The game was still relatively new in America. Over the next years it grew to be one of the jewels of Rochester.
In 1921, the University of Rochester proposed a land swap for a piece of land in Pittsford. This move was mutually beneficial to the club and the university. The new spot for the club had quadruple the acreage and allowed for two 18-hole golf courses. It also allowed for the wonderful clubhouse you will see in the following photos.
Once the new site was being prepared Dr. John R. Williams decided it would be improved by trees. He planted thousands of oaks, maples, evergreens, and elms. Dr. Williams was famous for pioneering the use of insulin to treat diabetes. The story goes that he lost count at 75,000 trees.
The course was built to host major competitions and that is just what it did. Starting with the 1949 US Amateur which lead to the 1956 US Open won by Cary Middlecoff. The tradition continued with the 1968 US Open, 1980 PGA Championship, 1984 US Senior Open, 1989 US Open. 1995 Ryder Cup, 1998 US Amateur, 2003 PGA Championship, 2008 Senior PGA Championship, and 2013 PGA Championship. You can see from this list that it is quite a facility steeped in tradition.
One of the coolest features at Oak Hill is the Hill of Fame, also developed by Dr. John R. Williams. It came about in 1956 and is located near the green of the 13th hole on the East Course. The club takes pride in its history and the hill is an extension of that. Consistent with his love of trees, a bronze plaque would be affixed to the trees to commemorate people’s accomplishments. Forty-two people have been honored. They include Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Trent Jones, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Charles Coe, Dr. Cary Middlecoff, Babe Zaharias, Gene Sarazen, Billy Casper, Dr. John R. Williams, Chick Evans, Jr., Francis Ouimet, Bob Hope, Horton Smith, Joseph C. Dey, Jr., Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Byron Nelson, Nancy Lopez, and Donald Ross. That is quite a list of names.
I was lucky enough to get an email from one of my readers with an opportunity to play this famous course. I jumped at the opportunity and drove right up to upstate New York. The round was the result of a charity auction and I couldn’t have been more appreciative.
One of the most iconic parts of Oak Hill is its clubhouse. It is a Tudor-style building that is massive. It even has a bowling alley. Our member host gave us a wonderful tour and filled us in on some of the history of the club.
Hole 1 – 435 yards – Par 4 – Challenge
Ben Hogan called this the hardest opening hole in major championship golf. From our tees the trees on the right are in play. You want to hit a long draw here to get the most out of your tee shot.
The second hole offers just what its name implies. It is a breather after the tough opening hole. You need to keep your drive up the center or left side of the fairway. It is uphill all the way.
I loved these tee collection boxes. I wish more courses would use these to keep tee boxes clean. You can also see that the tee markers are acorns.
This is a tough driving hole with bunkers and out of bounds guarding the right side. A power fade is the best shot shape from this tee.
The name of the hole relates to the creek coming into play off the tee and on the approach. You have to split the trees with your tee shot.
This short hole is guarded by a creek that wraps around everything but the right side. In the 1989 US Open four hole in ones were recorded here in the second round.
This tee shot needs to be precise. You want to favor the left side, but the rough comes into play there as well.
This fairway is bordered by deep bunkers on both sides. A road also runs along the right side of the hole. A long drive is essential.
This is another difficult tee shot. The hole doglegs to the right and plays uphill. Play a fade off of the bunker for the best approach shot.
This downhill tee shot can be very difficult. The fairway is difficult to hit due to its slope. There is a bunker on the left side of the fairway, but it can be carried with a good drive.
The pesky creek is in play again. Due to the wind this hole usually plays longer than the yardage. When the flag is middle or left the tee shot will play over the bunker.
The tee shot here calls for a fade. There is an actual leaning oak on the right side of the fairway that you can see in this photo. You don’t always need driver here since there are trees guarding both sides of the fairway.
This is the signature hole of The East Course. The Hill of Fame is located here. It is a great hole from start to finish. It demands a good drive. The creek crossed the fairway and is up the right side as well.
This hole is best played with a shorted club from the tee. The trees really hem down your aiming lines. You can see the green up the hill in the distance.
There is plenty to fill your mind here. There is the pond on the right and bunkers on the left. The water is definitely in play. If you can manage a fade here it is the safest play since it will mostly be over land.
This is a long, brutish hole. The fairway slopes severely to the left and will kick balls into the rough. In light of that, you will want to keep the drive up the right.
This shorter par five turns sharply to the right. It plays as a par four in the major championships. The trees frame your line and anything straight will do here.
The approach is also lined by trees. I mentioned earlier how Dr. Williams had put so many trees on the course. Our member host said they had taken out more than 5,000. Think about that after all the pictures you have seen.
The last hole is no picnic. You need another long and straight drive here. That has been a hallmark of Oak Hill. You really need to position your tee ball. The bunkers on the right are in play so keep the tee shot to the left of them.
This was one of my best experiences at a Top 100 so far. Our member host had a great personality and was very open with us. He told us a lot of history and gave us a great tour of the grounds. We had great caddies. Mine was a school teacher and played in a band in his spare time. He had been at Oak Hill for a long time and knew the course very well. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a day unless the wife had been able to come along.