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16th hole at Hazeltine
On the back side, the dramatic par-4 16th remains a focal point for final-round fireworks. (Cannon/Getty Images)

Keeping Up, Thanks to the Joneses

Rees Jones has again updated his father's design at Hazeltine National to challenge the world's best players.

By Don Jozwiak, Contributor

When Hazeltine National Golf Club opened in 1962, architect Robert Trent Jones was proud of his work – but far from done. The patriarch of the legendary golf course design family continued to work on the course over the years. That included a major redesign after the club hosted the 1970 U.S. Open, and a collaboration with son Rees on another renovation prior to the 1991 U.S. Open. Robert Trent Jones passed away in 2000, but Rees Jones returned to tweak the course before the 2002 PGA Championship.

Players and spectators familiar with Hazeltine National are likely to notice that Rees Jones has made more modifications in advance of this year's PGA Championship.

"There are a lot of parallels between Hazeltine and Augusta National Golf Club," Jones says. "Each has continued to grow the golf course, make changes and not be satisfied with the status quo."

Hazeltine National PGA Head Professional Mike Schultz has been around to see many of the changes the Joneses have made. In spite of – or perhaps because of – the changes, Schultz believes the course remains true to the original design intent of Robert Trent Jones.

"I think the best way to describe the course is that it's a true heavyweight,” says Schultz, who has been at Hazeltine National Golf Club for 34 years. "It's big, it's brawny, and everything is right in front of you. There's no need to trick up the course to make it a good test. It's very traditional – there aren't a lot of courses that still host major championships as par-72 courses with four par 5s on the card."

In the latest round of renovations, Rees Jones added more than 300 yards to the golf course and repositioned fairway bunkers on several holes. The angles on some tee shots were altered to make the doglegs more of a challenge and accommodate modern ball flight and distance off the tee.

One hole that boasts slight changes from 2002 is the par-4 fifth hole, which will play approximately 40 yards longer this year. The fairway bunkers have been brought back into play, and players that were hitting irons off the tee will now need to hit accurate drivers or 3-woods for an optimal approach into a green with difficult hole locations.

On the back side, the dramatic par-4 16th remains a focal point for final-round fireworks. "The 16th is a favorite hole for spectators, and it always plays tough for the professionals," Schultz says. "You need to drive the ball between Hazeltine Lake and a creek – if you miss the fairway, double bogey is a real possibility."

Some architects design a golf course, oversee the construction and walk away. That's clearly not the case at Hazeltine National Golf Club, thanks to four decades of work by the Joneses.

Editor's Note: This story appears courtesy of The 91st PGA Championship Journal.

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