Andrew Green is already a world renowned golf course architect. However, this week is the first time his work was the site for a major championship. He admitted there were some sleepless nights lately.
“I had about a six hour drive up to Rochester… and I kinda talked myself into a bit of a dark place,” he said with a smile. “What are people gonna say? How’s it gonna go?”
Fortunately for Green, “It’s been just fantastic.”
Green wanted to work in course construction his entire life. He took a unique blend of courses in college and pushed forward despite logical warnings from professors this would be a tough business to find success. It was the right decision.
The reviews of Oak Hill’s East Course have been widely praised. Phil Mickelson even took the time to tweet Friday night that he thought “Oak Hill is as great a major course and set up as I’ve seen.” Mickelson didn’t stop praising Green’s work on Saturday.
“I think they did a great job with the overall set up–the width of the fairways, the pin placements, the rough height,” the two-time PGA Championship winner said. “You have dry conditions. You have windy conditions. You have wet and, yet, it’s playable under all those conditions. I think it’s a sign of a great architect.”
Green called it surreal to hear that kind of praise coming one of the game’s all time great players.
“It’s such a balance to make it challenging for these guys and not make it unfair,” Green said. “That idea of it being hard, but fair is exactly what we were striving for.”
Pin placements were one of the items Green was most curious about this week. The back pins on number two (one of which cost Mickelson a shot Saturday) and the center pin on 13 that was used Friday stuck out.
The new 500-yard sixth hole played as the hardest single hole on Friday in the last 30 years of major championship play. It was three-quarters of a shot over par on average and featured as many bogeys as pars. Scottie Scheffler called it the hardest hole he’s ever played.
Yet, no one called the hole unfair. As Mickelson said, the goal is to identify the best players in the world, but not embarrass them. Green’s work is doing exactly that.
“I really wanted the players to think through every shot in the game,” Green said. “Go through everything that’s in the repertoire and figure out how to best attack it.”
This type of response to the restored East Course won’t only be good for Oak Hill Country Club, it will also likely be a benefit to Green’s course building company A.H. Green Design. Not that he’s hurting for work. Green is currently working on the restoration plan for Interlachen Country Club in Minneapolis, MN and the restoration of East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, GA, which hosted the PGA Tour Championship for two decades. That’s among a few other projects, as well.
Green is excited to see what Tour officials think of his work at Oak Hill. “It’s shining some light on what we’ve done here.”
Although challenging the world’s best was a major thrust of the Restoration at Oak Hill, it wasn’t the only priority. The course needs to also be appreciated and enjoyed by the members. It’s no small task making major changes to a course that’s already secured it’s place in golf history. Balancing those goals is one of the top things Green has learned through this project.
Green admits the membership took a “leap of faith” trusting him with their Championship course. He says his work is an honor to Oak Hill’s belief in his ability.
“To see this week come through the way it has… I don’t if vindicated is the right word… but it’s certainly put the product where we thought it needed to be,” Green said. “Striking this balance between the amazing history of the club, it’s legacy of all these great championships and allowing it to host more into the future.”
Monday brings for Green a debrief on the week at Oak Hill and a return to the thing he loves doing the most.
“For me, it’s back to work.”