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Is Oak Hill Too Oaky?

While “revered for the boldness of his vision and for the clarity with which he designed, shaped, and built golf holes,” according to Discovering Donald Ross by Brad Klein, the Scottish master would not recognize Oak Hill’s East Course—site of the PGA Championship—today. A Dornoch man, he adopted principles of links golf in his work. Ironically, the club’s site, in the suburbs of Rochester, was lightly treed when Ross walked it in 1922. The oaks at Oak Hill came later, thanks to a club member who planted tens of thousands of hardwoods around the holes. Tight, wooded corridors will test the accuracy of the game’s best players this week, but Oak Hill’s preponderance of oaks had no place in Ross’s original plan. Sacrilege to remove them? No less an authority than C.B. Macdonald once wrote, “Trees in the course are…a serious defect.” Ross was no tree-hugger. Were he alive today, he’d show up for the first round with a chainsaw.

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