'Something special': A hole-by-hole look at what PGA Tour pros will face at DGC

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — If you like birdies, then the Rocket Mortgage Classic definitely is for you.

Nearly 3,800 birdies (3,782 to be exact) and 82 eagles have been carded in the first two years of Detroit's PGA Tour tournament, which also has seen 647 rounds below par, including 382 in the 60s at Detroit Golf Club.

Behind the 18th green at Detroit Golf Club.

That's not likely to change in 2021, nor do tournament officials want it to change.

"We love where the golf course is at, players love where it's at," said Jason Langwell, tournament director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. "We feel great about it."

Tournament officials continue to examine ShotLink data every year, and if there are changes to be made, they make them. For instance, they noticed players were simply bombing it past the fairway bunker on the right on the par-4 12th, so they added 40 yards to the hole, and now the fairway bunker will be in play. The feedback Langwell has received from players: Focus on making the hard holes even harder. They've done that.

But there have been no wholesale changes since the PGA Tour came here in 2019, nor will there be any any time soon. In both of the first two years, seven holes played over par for the week, and 11 played under. And officials are just fine with that.

So, too, are the players, who don't want major championship conditions every week.

"This golf," said defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, "is something special."

More: The Rocket Mortgage Classic field is set; see who's teeing it up at DGC

Easy for him to say, of course. He's the PGA Tour's resident bomber, and even jokingly (we think) apologized to late course designer Donald Ross before last year's tournament. He planned to turn it into a pitch-and-putt, and he did just that, reaching the par-5 14th hole with a 9 iron, and once even waiting for the green to clear on a 400-yard par 4 before hitting his tee shot. He won by three shots over Matthew Wolff.

The main defenses at DGC are the greens, some of the toughest in the state, and the rough, which grounds crew won't cut again this week. The course is wet (and more rain is in the forecast), so that'll make it play longer, but also make the approach shots easier. Wind, which hasn't been a factor the first two years, could spice things up, too.

Here's a hole-by-hole look at DGC, heading into the third Rocket Mortgage Classic, set for Thursday through Sunday.

No. 1 — par 4, 397 yards

2020 average: 3.849 (12th)

2019 average: 3.847 (13th)

Outlook: Players have a fine chance to get off to a hard start with this rather benign opening hole. It's just a wedge into this green, even if they don't hit driver off the tee. Here, the biggest key is avoiding the fairway bunkers on the left.

No. 2 — par 4, 453 yards

2020 average: 4.058 (third)

2019 average: 4.033 (fifth)

Outlook: And as easy as the first hole is, the second hole is a toughie, with trouble off the tee in the form of bunkers, trees and out of bounds. It's probably not a driver for most, given the bunker in the center of the fairway that can gobble up the bigger hitters.

No. 3 — par 4, 393 yards

2020 average: 3.722 (15th)

2019 average: 3.816 (14th)

Outlook: This is the only hole from the South Course used during the Rocket Mortgage Classic. It's a slight dog leg to the left, and the main defense here, as it with so many Donald Ross greens, is a severely sloped, back-to-front green.

No. 4 — par 5, 635 yards

2020 average: 4.778 (14th)

2019 average: 4.743 (15th)

Outlook: It's the hardest of the par 5s, which doesn't mean it's hard, despite its massive length. There are actually players who can reach this green in two, though it could be difficult this week given the wet course should cut down on driving distance a bit.

No. 5 — par 3, 167 yards

2020 average: 2.931 (ninth)

2019 average: 2.856 (12th)

Outlook: The longest hole on the course is followed by the second-shortest, though it can be a tricky par 3 with a mound in front and a severe back-to-front green. Both aces in event history have come here, Ollie Schniederjans in 2019 and Ryan Armour in 2020.

No. 6 — par 4, 461 yards

2020 average: 4.011 (sixth)

2019 average: 4.093 (third)

Outlook: One of the holes that regularly plays over par, because of the demanding tee shot. A ball in the fairway puts a player in position for birdie, especially if the pin is cut on the front. A pin on the back shelf makes things much more difficult.

No. 7 — par 5, 552 yards

2020 average: 4.622 (17th)

2019 average: 4.549 (17th)

Outlook: Here's the easiest hole on the front nine, especially for anybody who finds the fairway. It's pretty reachable for just about the entire field. Missing the fairway presents challenges. A layout front right of the green leaves a very difficult chip to a sloped green.

No. 8 — par 4, 372 yards

2020 average: 3.947 (eighth)

2019 average: 3.923 (ninth)

Outlook: The shortest par 4 on the course, but that doesn't make it a cakewalk. It's not a driver for most, because of the narrow view from the tee. The fairway is bordered by bunkers, trees galore and OB to the left. And the green, well, there's a theme here.

No. 9 — par 3, 207 yards

2020 average: 3.040 (fourth)

2019 average: 3.038 (fourth)

Outlook: One of the best viewing spots for fans on the course, they can get a pretty up-close look at the action. It's the second-toughest par 3 at DGC, though should tournament officials want to spice things up, they can shorten it to 175 or so.

No. 10 — par 4, 425 yards

2020 average: 3.836 (13th)

2019 average: 3.889 (11th)

Outlook: Odds are, fans will see more shots on this hole than any other, because it's right by the entrance. The dog-leg left, shaped by many trees, is daunting for an amateur, but has proved no issue for the pros in two years of the Rocket.

No. 11 — par 3, 233 yards

2020 average: 3.087 (second)

2019 average: 3.157 (first)

Outlook: The toughest par 3 at DGC, and it was toughest of all the holes in Year 1 of the Rocket. It plays long, with a bunker guarding the right side of one of the toughest greens on the course. This has been a three-putt haven, even for the pros.

No. 12 — par 4, 489 yards

2020 average: 4.007 (seventh)

2019 average: 4.007 (sixth)

Outlook: This hole marks the biggest change to the course from last year, with about 40 yards added to the length. That brings the bunker into play down the right side off the tee; in past years, pros would blow right over it. Expect scores to go up here.

No. 13 — par 4, 393 yards

2020 average: 3.920 (10th)

2019 average: 3.916 (10th)

Outlook: Another short par 4, and it isn't a driver for those in the 156-player field who value accuracy off the tee. But last year's champion, Bryson DeChambeau, actually waited for the green to clear before hitting his tee shot — and it was playing 399. Nuts.

No. 14 — par 5, 555 yards

2020 average: 4.664 (16th)

2019 average: 4.655 (16th)

Outlook: This is the start of the signature stretch of the course, so-called AREA 3-1-3 by organizers. If you find the fairway here, it's go-time for most of the pros, despite the daunting lake that sits in front of the green. It's a mid-iron, or even short iron, for most.

No. 15 — par 3, 160 yards

2020 average: 2.913 (11th)

2019 average: 2.969 (eighth)

Outlook: This should be the rowdiest place on the course, with an amphitheater setting that tournament officials hope someday rivals the 16th at TPC Scottsdale. Bunkers guard the wedge tee shot, but the green is one of the easiest on the course.

No. 16 — par 4, 446 yards

2020 average: 4.022 (fifth)

2019 average: 4.000 (seventh)

Outlook: One of the more demanding tee shots, because if you find the rough (playing at 4 inches or even more this week) or fairway bunkers down the right, the approach is going to be a problem. Par is a fine score here, and you don't say that much at DGC.

No. 17 — par 5, 577 yards

2020 average: 4.496 (18th)

2019 average: 4.509 (18th)

Outlook: The Rockets have been Sunday runaways (Nate Lashley won by six, Bryson DeChambeau won by three), but if there is to be a thrilling battle on the back nine, this hole will be a blast. It's reachable for everyone; there were 14 eagles in 2019, 13 in 2020.

No. 18 — par 4, 455 yards

2020 average: 4.149 (first)

2019 average: 4.113 (second)

Outlook: A very cool finishing hole that, appropriately, has played tough. The drive has to avoid a ravine that runs the entire length of the hole, to a green that guarded by some of the thickest rough, and which slopes severely back to front. Don't be above the hole.

Total — par 72, 7,370 yards

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984