The BMW Championship
Four holes to watch at Aronimink Golf Club
by M. James WardThe handiwork of Donald Ross will be on display this weekend at Aronimink as the world's best players compete for the BMW Championship. The Ross design style was helped by the club's smart hiring of Gil Hanse, the Malvern-based architect who updated and renovated the course. Countless trees were removed and the total amount of square footage on the 18 greens was expanded by nearly 30,000 square feet. Aronimink is blessed with superb land -- moving in all sorts of directions - and with a routing that never shows predictability or sameness. The club has hosted other big time events -- the most recent coming with the hosting of the AT&T National event in 2010 and 2011. In 2027 the club will stage its second major event with the PGA Championship returning.
11th hole / 425 Yards / Par-4
A striking hole visually when standing on the tee. The hole moved uphill gradually in the drive zone before rising noticeably to an elevated green. Bunkers guard the drive zone but sufficient width allows strong players to be aggressive. The main defense rests with the perplexing putting surface. Hanse increased the size of the green to provide for a range of pin positions. Gauging the approach is central -- those too long will be challenged with a swift downhill putt. Those too short can run the risk in spinning the ball off the green courtesy of a false front.
15th hole / 515 Yards / Par-4
From the tee players will see a bunker pushing in from the right. The hole rises slightly in the drive zone and the influence of the hillside pushes shots from the tee to the right. The best shot shape is to work the ball from left-to-right as any ball moving left will likely fail to rest in the short grass. The approach is played with a long to mid iron to a very large green. Unlike the other putting surfaces at Aronimink the 15th provides for more subtle breaking movements. The key begins in finding the fairway -- failure to do will mean a struggle to avoid bogey or worse.
17th hole / 229 Yards / Par-3
The penultimate hole is a white knuckler. The approach is played over a fronting water hazard and the green has a range of tough to decipher movements. Getting near to the pin is no easy feat and Hanse has added a variety of roll-off areas for those who hit the green with just too much pace. Controlling trajectory and distance is an absolute must here and for those hitting 4-iron or more the demands will be certainly intense.
18th hole / 463 Yards / Par-4
Hanse made a few changes here. The back tee was extended a few yards and now rests slightly below the main teeing area. The trees that invaded the right side were removed and the overall scenery has truly been enhanced. A huge solitary tree far down the right side of the hole provides a superb scene with the clubhouse located just beyond. There is a single bunker on the right side and the carry is in the range of 300-310 yards. Those landing in the bunker will be under tremendous pressure to escape and get near enough to the green. Bailout too far left and gnarly roughly awaits. The green, like others at Aronimink, is elevated with different sections providing for subtle movements.
Photos courtesy of Russell Kirk Golflinksphotography.com