For all the talk last week at the U.S. Open about Merion’s East Course being so short, would you believe that the course at this week’s PGA Tour stop is even shorter? It is.
TPC River Highlands, home of the Travelers Championship just outside Hartford, Ct., plays to 6,841 yards, or 152 yards shorter than Merion. Both courses are par 70, but you can bank on plenty of guys shooting under in Connecticut. Whereas Justin Rose won Sunday at Merion with a 1-over-par, Marc Leishman took last year’s Travelers at 14-under. Even the men in 64th place were under par.
Those great scores are part of why fans come out in droves to TPC River Highlands. The Travelers is often the second-best attended event on the PGA Tour, behind the Waste Management Open in Phoenix.
The course, originally laid out in 1928, sits on a cliff overlooking the Connecticut River. The world-renowned Pete Dye redesigned River Highlands in 1982 (when it was known as TPC Connecticut), and it was upgraded again in ’89 by Bobby Weed, with consulting from former Tour pros Howard Twitty and Roger Maltbie. It then became TPC River Highlands.
The new look has been well-received over the years, not just by the fans but by players as well. The course ranked No. 25 in 2012 in a poll from Golf World Magazine that asked PGA Tour players about their favorite courses. That ranked ahead of famed courses such as Torrey Pines and Doral; Augusta National was No. 1. And according to Golf Digest‘s 2013 rankings, TPC River Highlands is No. 10 in the state of Connecticut.
Players begin with four consecutive par 4s before encountering the longest par 3 at No. 5, 223 yards (click here for hole flyovers). From there it’s on to the first of two par 5s, the 574-yard sixth hole, which ranked as the easiest on the course in 2012 (236 pars, 190 birdies, three eagles). The other par 5 is at 13, which is 523 yards and was the second-easiest hole at last year’s Travelers (175 pars, 187 birdies, 17 eagles).
Things get tougher once at No. 15, which starts a three-hole journey around a four-acre lake. Fifteen has become River Highlands’ signature hole. A small pond sits near the tee box and bunkers left and right of the fairway necessitate accurate drives, as do the trees all along the right. The lake sits to the left of the green, which is also protected by bunkers on the right and left.
Next is the par-3 16th, the second-shortest hole at 171 yards. Players need a solid showing there before heading to 17, the course’s toughest hole. It’s a par 4 at 420 yards that curves to the right around the lake. Wayward drives can get wet, as can approach shots that come up short.
The 18th is a 444-yard par 4 that ranked fourth in terms of toughest at the 2012 event. Water is no longer in play, but the green can be an intimidating sight with the natural amphitheater surrounding it. Pro Stewart Cink once called TPC River Highlands’ homestretch “four of the most exciting finishing holes in a group anywhere in the world.”
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