The East Course at Oak Hill Country Club
Are you ready for a guide to one of America’s most classic courses? Do you want to learn about a venue that has hosted six major championships and is on its way to hosting a seventh?
Considering you landed on this page, something tells us you were hoping to find out more about the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club.
Well, fortunately for you, that is exactly what we intend on delivering. Get prepared to be treated to an in-depth page that covers the private golf club in Rochester, New York, from head to toe. We’ll start by talking about the early days and how the course was originated.
We’ll segue into a segment that reveals the layout of the track, including some descriptions of the flagship holes. Clearly, there is plenty of history rooted into the golf course thanks to a trio of U.S. Opens and three PGA Championships that have been hosted on the premises.
We’ll make sure to highlight those events, as well as give you a sneak peek into the next time the world’s best players will gather at Oak Hill CC.
If you are interested in learning more about the exact location of Oak Hill and its surrounding area, you’ll enjoy our portion of the article that covers that topic. There’s a lot to get to, and we don’t want to leave anything out.
If you begin by glancing at the table of general facts, it will help set the foundation for what this track means in the context of historical golf courses.
Other than that, just get comfortable and enjoy your journey through Oak Hill’s East Course!
Oak Hill Country Club: East Course – Key Facts
- Pittsford, New York
- Year Opened
- Owner/Operated by
- Course Designer
- Donald Ross
- 7,145 yards
- Host to
- The U.S. Open (1956, 1968, 1989,) The PGA Championship (1980, 2003, 2013, 2023), The U.S. Amateur (1949, 1998), The 1995 Ryder Cup
- Official Website
An Introduction to Oak Hill Country Club
Before we even think about talking about the particulars of the course or what prestigious events have been contested here, we need to give you a proper introduction. We need to tell you that when Oak Hill was first established, there were only 9 holes on a total of 85 acres.
This land was predominantly unfertile, and the average person would think nothing of it. The clubhouse was nothing more than a rehabilitated farmhouse with no bells and whistles. This was essentially a blank canvas of land nestled in between Rochester and Pittsford in the northern part of New York.
Despite being new and golf being a relatively unknown sport in America, there were 137 members that would use the grounds to associate with one another. Over time, the club grew, and so did the fees.
While the current initiation fees aren’t exactly public knowledge, we can assure you they are a far cry from the $25 the initial 137 members paid.
The big change came in 1921 when a predicament arose. The University of Rochester wanted to build a new campus on the river banks where the current golf course was positioned.
In turn, the club was offered a 355-acre parcel of nearby land in exchange for their current site, as well as $36,000 in consolation. After some back and forth, this proposal was ultimately accepted.
This new land signaled new opportunity and a chance to build something special. Thanks to all the extra space, the plan was to construct two golf courses.
Enter Donald Ross. The Scottish-born golf course architect is the man responsible for creating masterpieces such as Pinehurst #2 and Aronimink Golf Club, so laying out the land at the property in Pittsford, NY, wouldn’t be a problem. He was assigned the task of delivering a pair of championship-quality venues, and that’s exactly what Ross decided to do.
The large trees and vegetation you see today at Oak Hill’s East Course weren’t always there, and in fact, it’s a fairly interesting story.
A retired physician and member of the country club by the name of John Williams collected a countless amount of acorns during his travels throughout Europe and started planting them at Oak Hill.
The story goes that Williams lost count somewhere beyond 75,000, so the number of seedlings he planted is still unknown.
What is apparent is that if you walk around Oak Hill Country Club, you can’t help but notice the monstrosity of some of these trees. We have John Williams to thank for helping cultivate this incredible landscape. As for the rest of the layout and unique features of the golf course and the signature holes?
Let’s transition into that very topic now!
A Championship-Quality Layout
After a short history lesson about the property, it’s time to start talking about the actual golf course. It’s not enough to just tell you that the majority of holes are lined on both sides by mammoth-sized trees.
It’s not enough to tell you that scenic and panoramic views are available from nearly every tee box.
In order for you to be able to grasp what the 20th-ranked golf course in America is like, we’re going to attempt to paint the picture. Let’s look at some of the key holes to help that portrait come to light.
There isn’t just one flagship hole at the East Course at Oak Hill, but there are a few that stick out.
The Opening Hole
Many players prefer a “soft” opening hole, as they want to ease into the round as they’re fighting off their nerves. Unfortunately, those players aren’t going to like the challenges presented at the first hole at the East Course.
During tournaments, it plays about 470 yards and doglegs ever so gently from right-to-left. Players better be ready to go from the onset because there’s no bailing out here.
A seemingly “never-ending” row of massive trees lines the left side, which is still better than missing it right because of the out-of-bounds stakes that are lurking.
Forget about running up an approach shot from the rough. It’s not permissible here. Well, you can try, but surely the creek that intersects the fairway some 50 or 60 yards short of the green will have something to say about it.
The 13th Hole
The 13th hole at the East Course happens to be one of the best-designed par 5s we have studied, and we’ll tell you why. For starters, we love holes that give players options. Call it risk-reward, call it “multiple ways to play the hole.” The point is, the 13th hole at Oak Hill can be as hard as you make it if you don’t play it properly.
There is a creek that juts across the fairway, looming around 300 yards from the back tees. Players that opt to try and carry the water will have a chance to make an eagle if they succeed.
Keep in mind that prior to the 2013 PGA Championship, no player had ever reached this putting surface in two shots during a competition.
Known as the “Hill of Fame,” the 13th hole has a smallish green that is protected by a large bunker short right and four smaller sand traps in the rear. There’s another bunker left of the green, and the surrounding rough is gnarly.
If you’d rather just watch a 30-second flyover of the hole depicted by Head Professional Craig Harmon, we’ve set that up for you below!
The 17th Hole
At most golf courses, there is usually some sort of discussion as to which hole is the toughest. At the Donald Ross layout in Pittsford they call the East Course, there is no debate. The answer is undoubtedly the 17th hole.
At 500 yards from the back tees, this hole bends gently to the right and penalizes players who don’t hug the right side of the fairway. Much of the time on a 500-yard par 4, bombing the ball as far down the fairway as possible is a good rule of thumb to abide by.
The problem at 17 at Oak Hill CC is that if a right-handed player bombs one up the left side, their reward will be finding their ball in deep rough up against a tree. In other words – dead.
Even if you do stripe one down the right center and set up the proper angle, the battle has just begun. The green is perched. It’s surrounded by 4 bunkers, plus two more cross bunkers some 60 yards from the front of the green.
Add in the fact that players will be coming in with at least a mid-iron if not a long-iron, and you are talking about one of the toughest par 4s you’ll ever encounter. In benign conditions, this hole is a brute. If the wind is up and back in your face, the hole plays essentially as a par 5.
Players who make “4” at 17 will be smiling all the way to the 18th tee.
The Finishing Hole
The last hole at Oak Hill CC is anything but a gimme. If you take away Shaun Micheel’s miraculous shot on the 72nd hole of the 2003 PGA Championship (will be shown later), then this is a really difficult golf hole.
Playing a shade under 500 yards from the back tees, this dogleg-right par 4 is a tremendous way to close out the round. Two bunkers pinch the right side of the fairways, obscuring the line for those players hoping to cut the corner and knock off some distance.
The second shot shoots towards a raised putting surface that may appear to be wide but is very shallow from front to back. There’s a large false front at the entrance to the green, surrounded by long rough. Less-than-stellar approach shots wind up in the collection area short and represent a grueling up and down.
Let’s Talk Majors
Now for the fun part where we dive head-first into the most memorable moments that have taken place at Oak Hill’s East Course. No matter how brilliantly a track is designed, if it never gets exposed to the world of professional golf and a live broadcast, how the heck does the average person know how good the place is?
The good news here is that Oak Hill has been made visible. The public has gotten to find out just how pure Oak Hill CC is thanks to a triplet of U.S. Opens that have been played at the East Course. Let’s quickly point out each of these instances.
For those that are avid historians of the game, this will just be reminiscing about old times. For those of you who have no idea when these Opens took place and who was victorious, simply follow along!
If you haven’t heard of Cary Middlecoff, that’s okay. You were probably not born or just too young to remember. Cary wasn’t just a journeyman tour player, not by a long shot.
Already with a pair of majors under his belt, Middlecoff won his third and final major championship at the 1956 U.S. Open at Oak Hill. He was 35 years old at the time.
After opening with rounds of 71-70-70 and holding a one-shot lead, Cary knew he needed to play steady during the final round to ink his name on the hardware.
An even-par 70 would be just enough to fend off Julius Boros and Ben Hogan by a single stroke. The latter was attempting to win his 5th U.S. Open title but was denied by Middlecoff.
“The Hawk” missed a 4-footer for par on 17, and Boros narrowly missed his shortish-birdie putt on the last. Sure, maybe Cary dodged some bullets, but guess what?
His name was engraved on the U.S. Open Trophy that year, and it’s never coming off.
Lee Trevino is one of the most premier ball strikers who has ever lived. He’s also famous for being struck by lightning on the golf course. With that being said, the reason we are bringing up Lee Trevino in this context is because he was the last man standing at the 1968 U.S. Open.
This would be the second instance the United States Golf Association (USGA) utilized the East Course at Oak Hill to host their national championship.
The course was playing difficult during this week in June of 1968, at least for the majority of the field. By the time the “fat lady was singing” on Sunday evening, just two men had posted red figures for the week. Jack Nicklaus finished 2nd at 279 (-1), signifying one of his unbelievable 19 runner-up finishes in a major championship.
Then there was the victor, Lee Trevino, who dissected the golf course to the tune of four straight sub-70 rounds. This was the first time a golfer had shot four rounds in the 60s during a U.S. Open.
It’s actually only happened twice since (Lee Janzen in 1993 and Rory McIlroy in 2011).
This would be the first of 6 majors for the man who was born and resides in Dallas, Texas. This also was the first time Lee and Jack battled it out down the stretch of a major, but one thing was for certain: it wouldn’t be the last.
The 1989 U.S. Open was the site of some history. We hadn’t seen someone win back-to-back U.S. Opens in nearly 40 years since Ben Hogan won consecutively in 1950 and 1951.
Until now. After winning the 1988 National Championship at Brookline, Curtis Strange captured the 1989 tournament at Oak Hill Country Club.
Curtis didn’t play perfectly from start to finish. In fact, he was two-under-par through the first three rounds, despite shooting only one sub-par round. It was his electrifying Friday-64 that vaulted him all the way up the leaderboard, earning a one-stroke lead at the halfway point.
Starting Sunday’s final round in solo-third but three shots back of 54-hole leader Tom Kite, Curtis displayed the definition of consistent, “U.S. Open-style” golf. The type of stuff that you need to win when you are in contention is exactly what the defending champion delivered.
Strange would par the first 15 holes of the day, moving into the top spot on the leaderboard and gaining a one-stroke advantage over Chip Beck.
A birdie-par-bogey finish for Curtis and a par-par-par finish for Chip meant that history had been repeated. For the second straight year, the Wake Forest alum’s name was going on the U.S. Open Trophy.
After the first two U.S. Opens at Oak Hill CC were a giant success, it was clear that the PGA of America was entertaining the idea of hosting their annual championship on the Donald Ross layout as well. After some back and forth, they landed the golf course for the first time in 1980.
The PGA Championship had finally arrived on the soil between Rochester and Pittsford, NY. And who better to have as your champion than the Golden Bear himself, Jack Nicklaus?
We’d love to tell you it was a classic duel that came down to the last putt, but that isn’t the way this golf tournament panned out. If you take Jack out of the equation, then yes, we witnessed a fairly competitive golf tournament with eight guys bunched up in the top nine.
After quietly positioning himself in second place after rounds of 70-69, Jack came out blazing on Saturday, August 9th. He actually was six under through 14 holes during his third round before making two bogies coming in. His 66 (-4) was enough to build a 3-shot cushion heading into the final day.
How would you like to try and take down Mr. Nicklaus on the final day of a major? Better yet, how would you like to spot him a three-shot lead before you even stepped on the tee? Clearly, this was not a positive-looking outcome for the rest of the field.
As you would presume, Jack coasted on Sunday, shooting 69 and cruising to a colossal, seven-shot win. Considering this was the 17th time Jack won a major, it was hard for anyone to be that surprised.
This was the site of one of the greatest clutch shots in major championship history. We are talking about the 174-yard 7 iron struck by Shaun Micheel on the 72nd hole of the tournament. Playing in the final group and standing in the 18th fairway with a one-shot lead, Micheel knew he needed to pull off something special.
The shot he hit still riles us up every time we watch the replay. Hearing the raw exhilaration in Jim Nantz’s voice as Micheel’s ball cozies up within 2 inches of the cup still gives us the chills.
No, we won’t tease you. Here’s the clip right here.
What makes this shot even more remarkable is how unpredictable of an outcome this was. Forget about calling Shaun Micheel a longshot at the start of the week. He wasn’t even on the radar screen!
What makes the story even more incredible is that it wasn’t like Micheel “fluked” his way into winning the Wanamaker Trophy. He had to deal with the nerves and emotions virtually the entire weekend, considering he had a two-shot lead when Friday’s second round came to a close.
Micheel, the former Indiana Hoosier golfer, may have only won a single PGA Tour event over his entire career. But hey, it was worth over a million bucks, and he gets to call himself a major champion for the rest of his life.
Things could be a lot worse.
The 2013 PGA Championship was an awesome golf tournament, and I hope you caught at least some of its telecast. Right from the opening tee shots on Thursday, birdies were out there for the taking. Jim Furyk and Adam Scott opened with matching 65s, and two others fired 66. A host of players were at -3 (67) after Thursday, leaving only one thing for certain.
After a 68 on Thursday, American Jason Dufner fired off a sizzling 63, tying the mark for the lowest round in a major championship at the time. His two-shot lead after 36 holes disappeared after Saturday’s 71, but not all was lost for the former Auburn Tiger.
He was still in the final pairing on Sunday with veteran Jim Furyk, still with a fighter’s chance. Jason had an opportunity to add his name to the list of major championship winners, and boy, did he grab the bull by its horns.
Flawless golf through the first 16 holes on Sunday was enough to build a two-shot lead with two to play. Despite making bogeys on his final two holes, Furyk did the same and fell from -10 to -8. “Duf” posted 10-under-par (270), and nobody could catch him.
Just like that, Jason Dufner had elevated himself from a “solid player” into a force to be reckoned with.
If you weren’t a fan of golf or don’t remember the last time the PGA Championship took place at Oak Hill, you are in luck! The PGA of America declared the East Course as the site of the 2023 PGA Championship, to be held in May of that year.
President of the PGA of America, Derek Sprague, seemed more than thrilled with the announcement, as he stated the following to pga.com.
“Oak Hill’s membership and the Rochester community have always embraced major championships. Their enthusiasm for the game and collective spirit of hospitality is recognized in golf circles worldwide as something to behold.”
It’s still quite some time in the future, but we can promise you that the locals in the vicinity of Rochester have their calendars circled.
U.S. Amateurs at Oak Hill CC
The 1949 U.S. Amateur was the first time that Oak Hill Country Club was used for a USGA Championship, and it did everything but disappoint. The tournament was won by Charles Coe, a name that became very familiar in the world of amateur golf.
In fact, Coe would go on and become one of the most accomplished amateur golfers of all time. The 1949 U.S. Amateur champ also won the 1958 edition and lost to Jack Nicklaus in the 1959 finals in his bid for his third U.S. Am title.
What was so impressive about this victory was the fashion in which Coe got it done. After blitzing past Bill Campbell 8&7 in the semi-final match, Coe absolutely obliterated Rufus King in the Finals, 11&10.
USGA President at the time, Fielding Wallace, stated,
“It is my considered opinion that this was one of the most successful, interesting, and exciting tournaments ever held.”
The second and most recent U.S. Amateur at the East Course at Oak Hill CC was much more evenly-matched. When it was all said and done, 22-year-old Hank Kuehne downed Tom McKnight 2&1 to win the trophy. Hank might have only been half the age of McKnight (44), but he was the one who played like the wily veteran down the stretch.
This was the fourth USGA title for the Kuehne family after his sister Kelli had won the 1994 Girls’ Junior and the 1995 and 1996 U.S. Women’s Amateurs. Hank’s older brother Trip, who was on the bag this week for Hank, actually lost in the final match against Tiger Woods in the 1994 U.S. Amateur.
After battling addiction and overcoming drugs and alcohol, this win meant everything to Hank Kuehne. Although he never got his professional career going the way he had hoped, he’ll always have his name on the Havemeyer Trophy.
The 1995 Ryder Cup – Down to the Wire
This might be a week that some members from the American side would like to forget, but the European team will never forget the 1995 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill. After narrowly winning the 1991 and 1993 Cups, the Americans were looking for a three-peat when they arrived in Rochester in September of ’95.
Things were going according to plan entering Sunday’s singles session, with the United States’ squad leading 9-7. Winning both of the fourball sessions 3-1 was the key to building their lead, a lead that would start to dissipate as play progressed on Sunday.
The Euros wound up winning 7.5 out of the possible 12 points the final day, pushing them past the Americans by the slimmest of margins. The clinching point came when Ryder Cup rookie Philip Walton slipped past American stalwart Jay Haas 1 up.
Scotsman Bernard Gallacher was on his third try as captain of the European Ryder Cup team but had yet to taste victory. As they say in life, sometimes the third time is a charm.
Not Far from the Canadian Border
We have delivered loads of information and historical context for what has transpired over the years at Oak Hill Country Club. Now it’s time to evolve this guide into a conversation about the property’s exact whereabouts. You may never get the chance to tee it up at Oak Hill CC, but surely you can be a spectator at the 2023 PGA!
The East Course is located in the state of New York, but it’s really nowhere near the actual city. It’s around 330 miles from “door to door” when thinking about the commute from Times Square up to Oak Hill.
The good news is that there’s another option, thanks to the airport nearby. Those flying in will want to look for something landing at Greater Rochester International Airport, just 15 or 20 minutes west of the golf course.
Your best bet is to check Delta Airlines, as they are responsible for transporting nearly a third of the total passengers that fly in and out of Rochester. You can find plenty of museums and golf courses in the neighboring area, but nothing like the hustle and bustle some 5 hours south in the Big Apple.
If you drive 10 miles straight north from Oak Hill, you’d run right into Lake Ontario. Any further north, and you’d be across the border and into Canada. It is within that 10 miles from the club to the shoreline where you can check out the most popular tourist spots.
For example, Seneca Park Zoo and Seabreeze Amusement Park are both extremely family-centric destinations and can offer some alternate views from the ones on the links.
If you prefer a more low-key setting and would rather stick to sightseeing, George Eastman Museum and the Rochester Museum of Science are just a couple of the places you might want to check out.
All in all, the Pittsford and Rochester areas are fantastic places to visit. If your stay includes a round at Oak Hill’s East Course, then that’s just the cherry on top.
What to Remember
Did you catch all that? Don’t worry. Bookmarking this page will allow you to come back to it any time you have any questions about Oak Hill Country Club. Wondering when it opened and who was in charge of the design?
We covered that. Interested in learning about what the layout presents and which holes are the toughest tests? No problem; we checked that box as well.
If you want to impress any friends with a wealth of knowledge about any past major golf tournaments at the golf course, we can definitely help you out there. Pointing out each occasion a United States Open or PGA Championship was held here allows you to understand how deeply rooted the traditions are.
The goal was simple: to fill you in on as much relevant information about the East Course as possible. The history, the course description, the results, the highlights… it’s all part us streamlining all the information and data about Oak Hill and putting it in one central location.
That place is this article, and we hope you found what you were looking for. Chances are, you found a whole lot more!