Category - Major Events
Oak Hill in ‘Next Level’ Conditions for PGA Championship
By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Like many who find their way into the field of golf course maintenance, Jeff Corcoran (above) knew early in life that it would be his calling.
What Corcoran likely didn't know when he took his first job at 13 years old at Stonehedges Golf Course in his hometown of Groton, New York, was where he would be today.
Corcoran attended SUNY Cobleskill to get his associate degree in Turfgrass Management, then went to Penn State University to pursue the same field of study. While in college, Corcoran worked at Cornell University's Robert Trent Jones Golf Course and then moved into an internship at the site of the 2023 PGA Championship – Oak Hill Country Club.
After Corcoran graduated from Penn State in 1995, he returned to Oak Hill to work at that year's Ryder Cup. He was asked to stay at Oak Hill and moved into the role of Second Assistant Superintendent, quickly moving up to the first assistant role under the tutelage of then-superintendent Paul Latshaw.
Corcoran would leave Oak Hill in 2000 for his first opportunity as a Head Superintendent but would return to Oak Hill before long.
In chatting with Corcoran earlier this week, he shared more about his career journey.
"I’ve been in the industry for 30 years,” says Corcoran. “My first superintendent's position was at The Weston Golf Club just outside of Boston, and then I was fortunate enough become Manager of Golf Courses and Grounds at Oak Hill in the fall of 2003 – this is my 20th season at Oak Hill."
I asked Corcoran what he thought made Oak Hill unique in his eyes.
Hosting majors is part of Oak Hill's DNA.
Like all venues that have hosted multiple major championships, Oak Hill always has exceptionally high maintenance standards, according to Corcoran. Whether it’s the PGA Championship or a Saturday summer afternoon, the course is perennially in excellent shape.
"We maintain Oak Hill at a high level on a day-to-day basis,” adds Corcoran. “The major difference is that, since October of 2022, we’ve had no play on the East Course. It makes a difference in the level of product we can provide and allows us to take our maintenance to that proverbial next level."
I asked Jeff if he would share specifics of some of those standards, and he graciously obliged. Tee height is .350 inches, fairway height is .350 inches, rough height is at 3 inches while the collage and green heights are .110 inches. Oak Hill's tees and fairways are Poa and Bent grass, the rough is a TTF/KBG/PR blend, and the greens are Bentgrass.
As the leaders get their weekends underway at Oak Hill, Corcoran has a few holes for fans to keep an eye on.
The first is the 230-yard par-3 third. This demanding hole is guarded by deep bunkers in the front, and is sure to catch balls that come off the sloping false front of the putting surface.
The next is the new 503-yard par-four sixth. This has been one of the most talked about holes at the Championship. In the 1970s, Oak Hill had the Fazio’s come in to change aspects of the East Course. Part of those changes was to the sixth, where they broke it into two holes, a short par four and a medium-length par three. This was not a very popular change for many. However, with the 2019 updates, the sixth hole is one that many are looking forward to seeing.
The next hole Corcoran said to watch is the short par-4, 14th. Known as "Bunker Hill," the 320-yard, potentially drivable par four has a raised green guarded by three treacherous front bunkers eight feet deep.
Last on Corcoran’s list was the par-3 15th, a short 155-yard, redesigned gem. When the Fazio's changed this hole in the 1970s, they added a small water feature in the front. With Ross in mind, Andrew Green reimagined the green complex in his 2019 redesign. The pond was removed, and three greenside bunkers to the left and front were added—the filled-in pond is now a low chipping area to the right of the raised green.
When I asked Jeff what he was most proud of leading up to this year's PGA Championship, he quickly replied.
"The performance of our staff,” he says, “and the amount of dedication and work ethic they have demonstrated on a daily basis."