7 Minute Miles

Changes at Hazeltine – Front Nine

Posted Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 06:51 pm GMT -5 in Golf

Wow, I can’t believe I started writing this post more than a year ago, thinking I had all the time in the world to finish it before the 2009 PGA Championship. Well, here we are, one week from the start of the tournament – time to finish it up!

Thanks to a wonderful friend and mentor, I’ve had the privilege of playing Hazletine National on several occasions during the past ten years. The course has changed a great deal during that time and will change even more before the next major event is held there (the 2016 Ryder Cup). We’ll have another post about the future of Hazeltine during tournament week.

Hazeltine has always been a very tough course for me. As a 15 handicap, the best score I’ve ever had was a 94 from the gold tees, which at the time played to around 6,600 yards, with a rating of 73.6 and a slope of 148. As everyone likes to say, the “new” Hazeltine will be the longest course in PGA history at 7,674 yards. Let’s take a look at the front nine:

Hole 1, Par 4, 490 Yards
Long, long, long. For a short and inaccurate hitter like me, this is a tough opening hole. When the long grass hasn’t been burned down (or set up for galleries), easy to lose balls when you stray wide. I watched Ernie Els get out of the green-side bunker at the 2002 PGA to save par on the tricky, multi-tier green.

Changes: the championship tee at 490 is new (back 48 yards), left fairway bunker moved in 10-12 yards, front left bunker moved closer to the green, right bunker extended towards green.

Hole 2, Par 4, 431 Yards
I’ve always liked this dog-leg left par four, which rises to a nice green complex after you turn the corner. I think I might have made par here last time (or bogey).

Changes: Left fairway bunker relocated 290 yards out, hill on the left side lowered and tree removed, two bunkers added to right drive zone, fairway narrowed.

Hole 3, Par 5, 633 Yards
I’m lucky if I can reach this green in four shots when the wind is blowing. Once you get there, very tricky green to two-putt. Easy to be dead in the trees, too. And tough bunkers (see above). Glad ESC says I can only take 7 here…

Changes: none.

Hole 4, Par 3, 210 Yards
Thank goodness for a par three after the long third hole! In true Hazeltine fashion, though, number four is no push-over. This hole always seemed very tight to me, with trees everywhere. The green is large, but the amount of sand surrounding the green is much greater, it seems.

Changes: numerous trees removed to open green structure to tees, which were extended to 212 yards.

Hole 5, Par 4, 448 Yards
Oh, how I love this hole. A dog-leg right par four, there are a series of bunkers on the right that I’ve been in more than once. It is vitally important to hit this green, which is tucked into a grove of trees and surrounded by deep bunkers. There have been people in our group who have gone from one bunker to the other…and back again.

Changes: championship tee moved back 48 yards, right fairway bunkers deepened and shifted towards the fairway, fairway moved closer to the left fairway bunker.

Hole 6, Par 4, 405 Yards
A “short” par four at 405 yards, this is another fun par four that I like a lot. I usually try to hit a three wood down the left side of the trees that line both sides of the first half of the dog-leg left. Unfortunately, I usually end up in the trees on the right side and have to punch out. That leaves an approach shot over the pond to a large, multi-level green. The people that own the houses across the pond will have a great view of the tournament.

Changes: none.

Hole 7, Par 5, 572 Yards
There is a plaque on the seventh tee that reads “U.S. OPEN 1991, No. 7 PAR 5, 518 YARDS.” That would probably be a par four these days, eh? I remember playing this hole well last time, laying up and hitting a decent wedge shot across the pond. Hitting in the trees on the right off the tee is dead, but they really aren’t in play for good players.

Changes: new championship tee is 30 yards back and to the left of the old tee (which was removed), new bunkers and mounds on the left driving zone, fairway narrowed, forward trees on left removed to allow play from new tee.

Hole 8, Par 3, 176 Yards
The second par three on the front side is the shortest on the course, but don’t let that fool you. The green is tiny, the pond comes in way too close for my game and there are all those bunkers on the other side of the green. I saw Tiger hit the grandstands to the left of the green at the 2002 PGA and then hit a perfect pitch over the bunkers to a pin position on the green that sloped towards the water. One of the most amazing pars I’ve ever seen.

Changes: none.

Hole 9, Par 4, 432 Yards
The ninth and eighteen holes run parallel to each other back uphill to the clubhouse. They are similar to each other, but seem to play differently for me. Number nine doesn’t have too much trouble to find – it’s just a long, steep climb to close out the front side.

Changes: fairway bunker complex on left and right rebuilt, moved towards fairway and deepened.

Stay tuned – we’ll take a look at the back nine later this week.

UPDATE: Based on member feedback, some of the changes mentioned above have been edited. Also, the championship yardages listed on the Hazeltine scorecard are a little different from what the PGA lists on their web site:

1-490, 2-433, 3-633, 4-212, 5-448, 6-405, 7-572, 8-176, 9-432, 10-452, 11-606, 12-518, 13-248, 14-352, 15-642, 16-402, 17-182, 18-475 total 7,678.

Originally published by DK on August 4, 2009 at 6:51 pm

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