Nov 14, 2023

PGA Championship: Oak Hill’s pivotal holes that will determine a winner

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Holes 12 through 15 are crucial for anyone that is looking to win at Oak Hill Country Club and capture the 2023 PGA Championship.

Players and golf pundits have called Oak Hill's East Course a stern test throughout this week.

Some even noted that this course would better suit a U.S. Open than a PGA Championship.

Moreover, Paul McGinley, a former European Ryder Cup star turned Golf Channel analyst, noted that Oak Hill, along with Winged Foot and Bethpage Black, "are the three hardest golf courses he has ever played."

Finding the narrow fairways and having uphill putts on these undulating greens are critical to having success at Oak Hill. The rough is lush, penal, and gnarly; players that find the thick stuff will have a tough time making par.

Nonetheless, the East Course has four consecutive holes on its back nine, providing chances for every player's round and perhaps igniting fireworks down the stretch on Championship Sunday.

Let's take a closer look at the PGA Championship's most pivotal stretch of holes.

Following the challenging Par 3 11th hole, players will head to the tee at the 12th, where a birdie opportunity presents itself.

Most of the field will likely use a fairway wood or a long iron to put themselves in position off the tee.

A bunker on the right side of the fairway sits 272 yards out. At that point, the fairway is roughly 20 yards wide, so laying up short of it will be the more popular play.

Players want to have a short iron or wedge in their hands from the short stuff. They will also prefer a flatter lie. Before the trap, the fairway is relatively flat as opposed to beyond the bunker as it contours from left to right.

The green complex sits on one of the high points on the property. Three bunkers guard the left side, front, and front right of the green.

The 12th green slopes adequately from back to front while feeding shots toward the deep left bunker, which is about 22 yards long.

The best players in the world love having a short iron or wedge in their hands, and they often capitalize on these opportunities. Watch out for the field to take advantage of this hole this week.

Nicknamed the Hill of Fame, the 13th is Oak Hill's signature hole.

The longest hole on the course, this uphill Par 5 will not yield many eagle opportunities but should provide good looks at birdie.

The tee shot plays downhill, but trouble lurks.

Allen's Creek meanders through the fairway around the 325-yard mark as it snakes its way down the right side. If a pushed tee shot carries at least 275 yards, it will likely find the water.

If players stay dry, they face an uphill second shot where they must avoid two sand traps situated to the right of the fairway about 125 and 100 yards short of the green.

Considering the windy conditions this week, as 13 usually plays into the prevailing westerly wind, players reaching this green in two will be few and far between.

Nonetheless, a generous landing area 100 yards and in awaits the field.

The green complex on this hole looks completely different after Andrew Green's 2019 restoration, as the bunkering beyond the green has been removed.

The green has been widened and squared, giving officials more options for pin placements.

Two bunkers guard the front left and front right of this green, while the undulations on the green feed toward the front middle.

Being above the hole on 13 will prove treacherous.

Yet, 13 should provide plenty of fireworks this week.

The only driveable Par 4 on the course, the 14th hole can quickly produce both eagles and double bogeys.

Out of bounds lurks down the entire left side as players must choose off the tee—it shares a teeing ground with the first hole—whether to go for the green or layup in the fairway.

Two deep sand traps sit left of the fairway 244 yards out, while a devilish pot bunker lies 275 yards up the right side.

The fairway slopes uphill towards the green, so if players lay back, they will have an uphill lie for their approach shots, forcing the ball to go higher. Higher shots generate more spin, creating plenty of action once it lands on the green.

The green has two tiers, the back, and the front, as everything slopes towards the three punishing bunkers that guard this green.

One PGA Official told SB Nation's Playing Through that the 14th "may prove as Oak Hill's best hole this week" as so many options exist.

No matter how the field attacks this treacherous hole, entertainment is the only guarantee.

This treacherous hole is the shortest on the course, which has drawn some comparisons to the famous 8th hole at Royal Troon in Scotland, otherwise known as the "postage stamp."

The teeing ground sits high above the green—about 20 yards up—as the players will have a short iron or even a wedge in their hands at this little Par 3.

The green is long and skinny, with no portion extending more than 20 yards wide.

Two deep bunkers guard the front of this green, while a long sand trap lies along the left side.

Before the restoration, a large pond sat to the right of the green.

Today, a steep bank with deep rough occupies that right side, while a low collection area sits beyond that. That shortly-mown area, which resembles fairway, will prove difficult for players to get up and down.

The 15th can yield plenty of birdies and will produce many bogies.

Share 12th Hole - 399 Yards, Par 4 13th Hole - 623 Yards, Par 5 Hole 14 - 320 Yards, Par 4 Hole 15 - 155 Yards, Par 3