(CBS New York / CBS Local) – TPC River Highlands is once again this week’s Passenger Championship. The scenic and staring field happens to be the oldest track on the TPC network as well as the shortest at only 6841 yards. Although it was updated a few years ago, including the removal of about 50 bunkers and the placement of several others, the par-70 layout is still an old-fashioned golf test.
And it’s still demanding everywhere. The TPC River Highlands is located on a bluff overlooking the Connecticut River, about 10 miles south of Hartford in Cromwell, Connecticut.
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And it also took the best of the PGA Tour.
Opened in 1928, the original architects of the layout were Maurice Kearney and RJ Ross, a cousin of the well-known Scottish course architect Donald Ross. Since its debut, it has undergone several renovations with input from famous designer Pete Dye, Bobby Weed and former PGA tour players Howard Twitty and Roger Maltbie.
The process by which TPC River Highlands took its current form is truly unique and engaging. Through a magnificent undulating property in the Connecticut River Valley, the golf course was created in 1928 as Edgewood Country Club. Orrin Smith did a modest redesign in 1951.
Then came Pete Dye, who in 1984 took his certain genius brand back to the so-called Connecticut TPC. While he added some courage to the appearance of the venue, including spectator roar, he knew enough about the quality of the original design to leave much of his charm, including blind shots, modest-sized greens, and tees near the greens.
In 1991, the course got its current name, and Weed, who studied at Dye and oversaw changes to Sawgrass’s TPC, designed 11 new holes that included more natural amphitheater rises that offer sweeping views of the course and river. PGA tour players Howard Twitty and Roger Maltbie served as consultants.
“Everything is tied together pretty nicely. It’s a balanced golf course,” Weed said a long time ago. “There’s an old-fashioned strategy at work. You have to think your way around the golf course. You can’t just drop it out of the way and shoot every pin.”
Indeed, the field dominates the ball more than anything, which is why long-time hit Bubba Watson has won there three times and precision player Jim Furyk was able to blow up the track for 12-under-58s. History of the PGA Tour.
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Weed was a consultant when TPC River Highlands received the latest facelift in 2015-16. In addition to the bunker work, other improvements to the course included: raising several green leading edges and corners for a larger number of pin seats; level several tournament tee boxes, including a new tee in 15; and improved routing and drainage.
The players of the round have a great respect for the field, especially because it is a challenging finish. British Open champion Stewart Cink, winner of the 2008 Travelers Championship, called the closing holes “the four most interesting finish holes in the group around the world”. The group has an area of three holes known as the “golden triangle,” consisting of holes 15-16-17 and located around a pond of about 4 acres that determines a variety of strategic choices.
Of these, the 296-yard par-4 15th hole may be one of the most interesting in tournament golf. Players have the opportunity to try to drive the green, but the water lies dangerously close to the green on the left and the bunkers protect the right side. Ironing still requires precision to avoid left lane traps. On his way to victory in 1995, Greg Norman tried to drive green, landed in a bunker, but then splashed home in a cup.
The 16th is a short par-3, measuring just 175 yards, although hitting the green can be very challenging, while the 17th place in the par-4 is traditionally one of the hardest on the track. The 433-yard par-4 18th offers a strong finish where many tournaments have ended.
As for Furyk’s 58, who also had 59 earlier in his career at the 2013 BMW Championship at Conway Farms, that by no means shows that the field would be easier. He won the field scoring average that day with an awesome 10.66 strokes.
Watch the Travelers Championship on Saturday, June 26th and Sunday, June 27th from 3pm to 6pm ET on CBS.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio has been dealing with golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper editor and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and on the Internet. Shedloski, who has won 23 national author awards, 20 of which are golf covers, is currently an assistant writer at Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as CEO of The Memorial, the official Memorial Tournament magazine in Dublin, Ohio. He has written three books, and he has written three other books, including “Golf For Dummies” in the second edition with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all the professional teams in Cleveland, a poor guy.
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First published June 21, 2017 at 1:05 PM ET.