A Lengthy Hazeltine Is Ready for PGA Championship

A Lengthy Hazeltine Is Ready for PGA Championship 1
(Living in Carter County/Flickr)

Contributed by GCM NewsWeekly

JAMES NICOL, THE GOLF COURSE SUPERINTENDENT at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., has polished the historic gem for another major, as the PGA Championship returns this week.

Nicol worked with famed golf course architect Rees Jones to add or move tees on nine holes, bringing the length of the par-72 course to 7,685 yards, the longest ever for a major. Holes 12, 13 and 15 are the longest par 4, par 3 and par 5, respectively, in the championship’s history.

“A reason for the added length is to bring the bunkers into the drive zone,” said Nicol, a 30-year member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) who is in his 13th year at Hazeltine.

“Length alone is not a big deal to these guys, it’s the green surrounds that are the course’s biggest defense.”

Hole by Hole Changes

Nicol and Jones relocated a bunker on the left side of No. 2 that will make flying it more difficult and forcing golfers to the right, where there are two more bunkers.

No. 5, a par 4 dogleg right, has been extended nearly 50 yards to 455 so that the landing area is now where the bunkers are, and the bunkers on the right have been redone and brought closer to the fairway.

A new cross bunker short of the green enhances the risk-versus-reward aspect of No. 14, a short 352-yard par 4 that the PGA of America will look to push the tee forward at least one day so the players can go for the green.

A new tee box on No. 15 extends the long par 5 to 642 yards, bringing bunkers back into play on both the first and second shots.

A new tee has also been built on the par 5 No. 7 at a slightly different angle, adding 27 yards.

Bunkers were also moved closer to the fairway, pinching the landing areas on holes No. 1, 10 and 18.

Shorter Rough

A dry spring and summer have led to the current drought conditions in the area and therefore the Kentucky bluegrass/perennial ryegrass/fine fescue rough will not be as thick, or even as tall as it was for the 2002 PGA Championship. The first cut surrounding the fairways is 3 1/2 inches high and it is 4 inches tall beyond that. Nicol has the bentgrass/Poa annua greens at championship speeds.

Nicol uses a high-tech irrigation system with moisture sensors to conserve water and present a fast, firm golf course.

Approximately half of the 60 acres of rough at Hazeltine are unmanaged out-of-play natural areas, providing habitat for wildlife while preserving resources and maintenance costs. Nicol’s staff also maintains several bluebird boxes throughout the property.

Next year the PGA Championship will be at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin.

Hazeltine History

Former USGA President Totton Heffelfinger started Hazeltine National Golf Club, originally named Executive Golf Club of Minnesota, in 1961, next to Hazeltine Lake, southwest of Minneapolis in Chaska, Minn.

Heffelfinger charged Robert Trent Jones to design a golf course suitable for national championships. Jones’ son, Rees, has led renovations at Hazeltine, in 1990, again in 2008, and he will work with Nicol on a greens renovation in 2010.

Hazeltine has played host to the 1970 and 1991 U.S. Open, 1966 and 1977 U.S. Women’s Open, 1983 U.S. Senior Open, 1994 U.S. Mid-Amateur, 1999 NCAA Men’s Division I Championship, 2001 U.S. Men’s State Team Championship, 2002 PGA Championship and the 2006 U.S. Amateur. The PGA of America will return to Hazeltine for the 2016 Ryder Cup.

For more information about Hazeltine and the PGA Championship from a golf course management perspective, visit GCSAA.org.

(Brought to you by YourGolfTravel.com and the ARMCHAIR GOLF STORE.)

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

3 thoughts on “A Lengthy Hazeltine Is Ready for PGA Championship”

  1. From what I have heard and read about the course, it does seem like a very interesting setup and one, where we hope the weather if fine enough to provide us with four days of great golf. It is interesting to note the remarks about the bunkers being brought more in play to make it far more challenging. Interesting because the most challenging hole on the course, the par-4 16th, is a hole where you won’t find any greenside bunkers and it will do just fine without them. It is always fun to come across holes, which pose a different kind of challenge and do not need to be replenished with the usual army of bunkers to make it a difficult hole.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the 16th turns out to be the most difficult hole on the course. But the length of the course is bound to be a huge factor. What else do you expect from a course with three par-5s longer than 600 yards and the other one, a mere 572 yards long.

    A lot of us remember this course as the place where Tiger Woods almost pulled off the most remarkable come-from-behind win but fell by one shot despite birdieing each of his last four holes. Looking at the way the Majors have panned out this year, I really do hope that this one does not turn out to be an anti-climatic affair. Let’s hope for the best.

  2. The area received six inches of rain last weekend and the temprature is to be in the mid 90's. You might be able to see the rough grow. All that said the 16th will be where the action is. There is a Lake to the right and creek to the right, deep rough on both sides with a 220 yard carry to the fairway. Enough said if you can avoid the heatstroke it should be a wonderful week.


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