OAKMONT COUNTRY CLUB
Course Architect: Henry Clay Fownes/William C. Fownes Jr (1903)
Restoration: Robert Trent Jones Sr, Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, Arthur Hills
and Associates, Tom Fazio Golf Course Designers, Inc. (2002-
Year Opened: 1904
Location: Oakmont, Pennsylvania
Slope: 150. Rating: 78.3
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 482 Yds 10 - Par 4 462 Yds
2 - Par 4 341 Yds 11 - Par 4 379 Yds
3 - Par 4 428 Yds 12 - Par 5 667 Yds
4 - Par 5 609 Yds 13 - Par 3 183 Yds
5 - Par 4 382 Yds 14 - Par 4 358 Yds
6 - Par 3 194 Yds 15 - Par 4 500 Yds
7 - Par 4 479 Yds 16 - Par 3 231 Yds
8 - Par 3 288 Yds 17 - Par 4 313 Yds
9 - Par 4 477 Yds 18 - Par 4 484 Yds
Par 353,680 Yds Par 353,577 Yds
Key Events Held: U.S. Open (1927, 35, 53, 62, 73, 83, 94, 2007, 2016),
U.S. Women's Open (1992, 2010),
U.S. Amateur (1919, 25, 38, 69, 2003),
PGA Championship (1922, 51, 78).
Awards: Ranked #1 by Golf Digest - Best-in-State rankings (2005-present),
#5 by Golf Digest - America's 100 Greatest Courses (2001-present),
#6 by GolfWeek Magazine - America's Best Courses (2004-present),
#9 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 Courses in the U.S. (2005),
#12 by Golf Connoisseur - 100 Most Prestigious Private Clubs (2006),
#14 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 Courses in the World (2005-present),
National Historic Landmark (1987).
Course Record: 63 (Johnny Miller, 1973 - U.S. Open).
HISTORY: Tradition. The word is an understatement when discussing Oakmont
Country Club. No other venue can boast of hosting more U.S. Open Championships
than Oakmont. Nine U.S. Opens, including 2007, five U.S. Amateurs, three PGA
Championships and two U.S. Women's Opens.
Designed by Henry Clay Fownes in 1903, the course was built in just three
short months and opened for play in the summer of 1904. When Fownes crafted
Oakmont, he vowed that it would be the toughest course in the world. The
Fownes design philosophy was that"a shot poorly played should be a shot
irrevocably lost. The charm of the game lies in its difficult. Keep it rugged, baffling, hard to conquer. Otherwise, we shall soon tire of it and cast it aside." When Tiger Woods visited the course for the first time, he commented that it was the hardest course he had ever played. High praise from arguably the greatest player of our generation.
The course is relatively the same as it was when it was designed except for
the eighth green, which was moved 10 yards in 1951 when the Pennsylvania
Turnpike was built and the 16th tee, which was moved behind the 15th green at
a later date. At one time Oakmont featured over 350 bunkers, however due to
member pressure, most were filled in with 210 still remaining. Most notable
are the famed "Church Pews," which guard the third and fourth holes, now,
after redesign, the size of a football field. In fact, the number of pews has
reached 12 from 8, 26,000 square feet from 15,000 and four feet deep from
"Oakmont Country Club is the best maintained, cool-season turf in the world," commented Tom Marzolf, ASGCA Past President. "Unique green contours are the toughest 18 greens in golf. Oakmont Country Club has the highest average winning score of any U.S. Open golf course."
Oakmont's Championship history begins with the 1919 U.S. Amateur, where an
Oakmont member, S. Davidson (Davy) Herron, defeated a 17-year-old named Bobby
Jones in the final, 5 & 4. It should be noted that Jones defeated W.C. Fownes
Jr. in the semifinals. Jones would later return in 1925 to capture the Amateur
title for the second consecutive year, an 8 & 7 win over Watts Gunn. Jones'
match scores were a remarkable, 11 & 10 over William Reekie, a 6 & 5 win over
Clarence Wolff and a semifinal victory over George Von Elm, 7 & 6.
Next up was the 1922 PGA Championship, where Gene Sarazen became the first
player in history to hold the U.S. Open and PGA Championship titles in the
same year. Sarazen bested Jock Hutchison, 3 & 1, in the quarterfinals and then
advanced to the championship match with a 3 & 2 win over Bobby Cruickshank.
The final against Emmett French was a nail biter, as the two were tied after
26 holes. Sarazen took control, winning the next three holes, and closed out
the match 4 & 3.
The 1927 U.S. Open, the first at Oakmont, was won by Tommy Armour in a playoff
over"Lighthorse" Harry Cooper. The best round by the two players was a 71 by
Armour in the second round and the playoff scores were 76 to 79. Both players
finished regulation at 301, 13-over par! Sarazen finished third and French
fourth. During the playoff, Cooper held a two-shot lead after the 11th hole,
but Armour squared the match with a birdie on 13 and a Cooper bogey on 15. The
pivotal hole was the long par-three 16th, as Armour made par to Cooper's
double-bogey. The win marked the last time a Scotsman would win the Open.
Just three years after turning professional, Sam Parks Jr. captured the 1935
U.S. Open at Oakmont. Parks, a local club pro near Pittsburgh, decided the
edge he needed was to play Oakmont over and over prior to the Open. The close
to 100 rounds paid off, as Parks, at 11-over par, defeated Jimmy Thomson by
two shots and the great Walter Hagen by three. The average score for the week
was 80.55 with just three rounds under par and not one in the 60s.
William Turnesa, a two-time amateur champion, won the coveted U.S. Amateur
Championship at Oakmont in 1938. Only one match reached the final hole, a
third-round encounter over John Fischer, as Turnesa won 1-up on the 20th hole.
The final was no contest, as Turnesa won easily over B. Patrick Abbott, 8 & 7.
The second PGA Championship was held at Oakmont in 1951, as Sam Snead crushed
Walter Burkemo, 7 & 6 in the final. Snead won five of the first six holes,
starting with an eagle, two birdies and three pars. Snead played the 202 holes
of the Championship in 21-under par. Snead was an amazing 24-under on the
front nine alone. During his run to the title, Snead defeated future Hall-of-
Famers Lloyd Mangrum and Jack Burke Jr.
The third U.S. Open at Oakmont was captured by Ben Hogan, as he led wire-to-
wire for a six-shot win over Sam Snead. The event was much closer than the
result indicated, as Snead trailed by only one after12 holes on the final
day. That was however, until Hogan slammed home a 60-foot birdie putt on the
par-three 13th. Despite a bogey on 15, Hogan finished par-birdie-birdie for 71
and Snead stumbled home with 76 for his fourth runner-up U.S. Open finish.
Hogan, later in the year would join Sarazen and Bobby Jones as the only
players to win both Opens in the same year. The 1953 U.S. Open marked the
first appearance in a present day major by then amateur Arnold Palmer. The
Latrobe, Pennsylvania native, who qualified as an alternate, missed the cut
with rounds of 84-78. Hogan and Snead were the only two players in the field
to break 70, shooting 67 and 69 respectively.
The 1962 Open was probably the one of the most memorable in golf history, as
Jack Nicklaus, a 22-year-old first-year professional, defeated local favorite
Arnold Palmer in a playoff for his first career title. Two-over par with only
two holes remaining during his morning 18 on the final day, Palmer drove the
17th green and sank the 12-footer for eagle. A bogey on 18 would drop Palmer
to 73 and tied for the lead with Bobby Nichols. Nicklaus and Gary Player stood
two shots off the pace. Both Nicklaus and then Palmer had 12-foot birdie putts
on the final hole of regulation, but they failed to drop as they finished tied
atone-under-par. Nicklaus exploded out of the gate in the playoff, posting a
four-stroke advantage after six holes, however Palmer drew within one after
back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12. Palmer would never get closer, as he three-
putted for the10th time in the championship on 13 and failed to catch
Nicklaus, losing 71-74. Nichols finished tied for third while Player tied for
When the fourth U.S. Amateur was held at Oakmont in 1969, Steve Melnyk was
sitting in a greenside bunker on the fourth hole in two. When he looked up,
Melnyk saw Arnold Palmer in the gallery. A somewhat startled Melnyk holed his
bunker shot from 60 feet for eagle en route to a five-shot win over Marvin
Giles III. Future PGA Tour players in the field included; Tom Watson (T-5),
Lanny Wadkins (T-11), Andy North (T-14) and Tom Kite (T-37). Melnyk led wire-
to-wire with rounds of 70-73-73-70 for a 286 total, the second-highest winning
score in the eight-year history of the stroke-play portion of the
Most people consider the final round of 63 carded by Johnny Miller in the 1973
U.S. Open the finest final round in championship history. Miller birdied the
first four holes and closed with three straight pars to seal his one-shot win
over John Schlee. Fan favorite Arnold Palmer shared the 54-hole lead with
Julius Boros, Jerry Heard and Schlee at 210, three-under-par. Miller stood six
shots behind and was making plans for an early exit from Pittsburgh prior to
his last round. Following his opening heroics, Miller three-putted for bogey
on the eighth, but birdies on nine, 11, 12 and 13 and a par at 14, put him
tied for the lead with Palmer. Stunned by the Miller run, Palmer bogeyed 12
through 14 and finished with a round of 72, tying for fourth. Miller, on the
difficult 15th, struck a 4-iron second shot to 10 feet and the made the birdie
for the lead he would not relinquish. Tom Weiskopf posted three sub-par rounds
after the opening day and placed third, while the Hall-of-Fame trio of Palmer,
Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino tied for fourth.
In 1978, the PGA ofAmerica returned for its flagship event, the PGA
Championship, as John Mahaffey registered the best comeback by a winner in
event history. Mahaffey, a 10-time PGA Tour winner, won for only the second
time in his career, as he rallied to defeat Tom Watson and Jerry Pate in a
playoff. An amazing seven shots behind with only 14 holes remaining, Mahaffey
made birdies on six and eight while Watson made bogeys on six and seven to cut
the deficit. Watson increased his advantage to five over Mahaffey with a
three-foot eagle putt on nine and by four over Pate. After a Watson double-
bogey on 10 and a bogey on 13 and Mahaffey birdies on 10 and 11 coupled with a
Pate birdie, the three were tied. Pate birdied the short 17 to take the lead,
but missed a four-foot par putt on the last to force a three-way playoff, the
first in tournament history. After all three players parred the first extra
hole, Mahaffey sank a 12-foot birdie on the next for the championship.
Five years later, the 1983 U.S. Open came to Oakmont, as Larry Nelson came
from behind to edge Tom Watson by one shot. After opening with a round of 75,
Nelson stood tied for 40th, six shots behind Seve Ballesteros. Although round
two was better at 73, Nelson was tied for 25th, but a third round 65 put the
three-time major championship winner just one shot off the lead of Watson.
Nelson was brilliant in his final two rounds, shooting 65-67 to set the Open
record for the final 36 holes. Even more impressive was his 99 strokes the
final 27 holes, breaking the previous mark of 100 set 51 years earlier by Gene
Sarazen. Nelson and Watson were tied for the lead following a Nelson birdie on
14 and a pair of Watson bogeys on 10 and 12. After a two-hour weather delay,
the USGA opted to resume play on Monday morning. Two holes ahead of Watson,
Nelson wasfaced with a 62-footputt for birdie. Instead of rain, lightning
struck in the form of Nelson making the monster putt to take the lead. A
three-putt by Nelson on the last produced a score of 280. Now tied, Watson
faced a simple second shot on the 17th, but pushed his 9-iron into a bunker
and failed to get up and down. Needing to birdie, Watson flew the green and
needed a 45-foot putt for par just to place second. Host professional Bob Ford
made the cut, the last time the home pro played on the weekend.
Oakmont invited the USGA again to visit its hallowed grounds, this time for
the U.S. Women's Open in 1992. A three-time runner-up, Patty Sheehan emerged
victorious as she defeated former college roommate Juli Inkster in a playoff.
After three rounds, the two were tied for the lead at two-under 211. With
just three holes remaining, Inkster held a one-shot lead and it increased to
two, as Sheehan three-putted the 16th. Both players drove off the 17th, but a
storm brokeout, forcing a lengthy delay. Returning to the course, Sheehan
knocked her second shot within 10 feet and made the putt while Inkster missed
and the lead was down to one. Sheehan then birdied the last from 20 feet to
force the extra session. Sheehan putted sensationally in the playoff, needing
only 29 to defeat Inkster by two shots. Sheehan led from the start of the
playoff after a 15-foot birdie on the first.
In 1994, Ernie Els out-dueled Loren Roberts and Colin Montgomerie under extreme
heat conditions to win his first U.S. Open title. Only 24, Els became the
youngest U.S. Open winner since Jerry Pate in 1975. The 1994 U.S. Open also
marked the final appearance in a U.S. Open by Arnold Palmer, becoming the only
player to compete in five Opens on the same course. With one hole remaining in
regulation, Roberts and Montgomerie were tied, but both bogeyed the last to
finish at five-under-par. The final round for Els began with aninteresting
ruling on the first, as he drove into very deep rough on the left behind a
motorized crane holding a television camera. The official on the scene, USGA
Chairman of the Championship Committee Trey Holland awarded Els a drop
instead of having the crane moved, thus allowing Els a more generous lie en
route to a bogey, which surely could have been worse. All three players
struggled in the playoff, as Els and Roberts each shot 74 and Montgomerie 78.
For the second time in U.S. Open history, sudden death was needed to crown
a champion. Starting on the 10th, both players made par, as Roberts sank
a six-foot putt for par and Els two-putted from 12 feet. Roberts was not so
lucky on the next extra hole, the 11th. Driving into the rough, Roberts
managed only to play to a greenside bunker while Els was on in regulation.
Following a poor bunker shot, Roberts just missed his par attempt, while Els
two-putted for victory. Worth mentioning. Roberts was 86th after his opening
round of 76, but fought his way back with rounds of 69-64-70. Despite 62
rounds under par, the course played to a scoring average of 74.25.
Following a huge course restoration, the 2003 U.S. Amateur Championship came
to Oakmont. The 312-player field managed only one round under par in the
stroke-play portion of the event at Oakmont, a one-under 69 by Steve Conway,
who lost in the first round. When all was said and done, Australian Nick
Flanagan defeated Casey Wittenberg, 1-up after 37holes for the title.
Flanagan became the first Australian in 100 years and the first foreign-born player in 32 years to win the U.S. Amateur Championship. In a match that featured only four birdies in
36 holes, Flanagan, a two-time winner on the Nationwide Tour, parred
the first extra hole, the 10th for the win. Flanagan never trailed in the
match, as he won the first two holes with bogeys and held a 4-up lead
following the morning 18. Wittenberg clawed his way back, losing only one hole
in the final 18 and halving the match with par on the 36th hole. Future PGA
Tour players who competed in the 103rd Amateur, Ryan Moore, Brandt Snedeker,
Bill Haas and Camilo Villegas, who lost in the second round to Wittenberg. Can
you believe that the stroke average for the two days of stroke play was 79!
The ninth U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont was staged in 2016, as Dustin Johnson became a first-time major championship winner, but not without controversy. Trailing third-round leader Shane Lowry by four shots heading into the final round, Johnson carded a one-under 69, highlighted by a three-foot birdie on the last for a three-shot win over Lowry, Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy. Having played in 28 previous majors, Johnson became the seventh of nine U.S. Open winners at Oakmont recording their first major. “After last year, to come back this year and perform like this, it definitely shows what kind of golfer I am, and it was awesome," said Johnson. “To finally get that major win is huge. It’s definitely a huge monkey off my back. I feel a lot lighter.” The controversy came by way of the fifth hole. As he prepared to make a short putt for par, Johnson's ball moved. Although he did not sole his putter behind the ball, Johnson immediately stopped and walked over to the rules official and told him that he did not cause his ball to move. Official Mark Newell agreed, but seven holes later USGA officials informed Johnson that he would be told after the round if a penalty would be assessed. Luckily for Johnson and the USGA, the stroke, which was taken away from Johnson did not affect the outcome of the championship.
REVIEW: Usually golf courses open with a relatively simple hole, however
Oakmont does not fall into this category. The first hole is generally regarded
as the hardest opening hole in golf at a robust 482 yards. The hole plays
straightaway off the tee, then drops severely to the green. After a
successful tee shot, which dissects the trio of bunkers on the right and the
five menacing traps on the left, not to mention the ditch further left, a
blind mid-iron is left to a green that slopes away from the player. The smart
shot is to land your approach short of the green and play the slope to the
hole. Most second shots landing on the green will run through the surface, as
the green, which slopes from front to back, also tilts from right to left.
When Miller captured the 1973 U.S. Open, he opened with a five-foot birdie en
route to his course record of 63. On a personal note, I have made one birdie
and three pars in my four rounds played.
Prior to the second hole, the player must now walk across the Pennsylvania
Turnpike for holes two through eight. For the 2003 U.S. Amateur and the
U.S. Open in 2007, a wider bridge was installed. Rumor has it that an
Oakmont member footed the bill (upwards of $300,000) to the Turnpike
Commission, so that they could stop traffic on numerous occasions to install
the bridge. The second hole is probably one of the few serious birdie chances
on the front nine. Just 341 yards in length from the green markers, the par
four plays straight uphill to a devilish little green that is only 27 yards in
depth. A long iron or fairway metal is required off the tee, but beware of the
ditch on the left and series of six traps on the right. A little wedge to the
green must find the surface below the hole, or a three-putt or worse is
likely. The putting surface slopes hard from back to front with three deep
bunkers left, two right and one deep. I take back the serious birdie
The third and fourth holes are highlighted by the famed Church Pews down the
left side of each hole. Over the past few years, the bunker has been increased
to 100 yards long and 30 yards wide with 12, up from eight grassy ridges,
three to four feet high running across it. A solid drive on the third,
avoiding the"Pews" and the five incredibly deep traps down the right, will
leave an uphill mid-iron to a fairly flat green that slopes in the front and
rear. Miss long and a shaved chipping area awaits, miss short left or right
and sand will swallow your approach. You've just played three of the five
hardest holes at Oakmont. Talk about a difficult start.
Once again the Church Pews come into play on the fourth, but even more
difficult are the bunkers down the right side on this bear of a par-five (609
yards). The hole bends towards the right, leaving a blind second shot to a
landing area protected by diabolical sand traps on the right. The big hitters
can get home in two since the front of the green is fairly open. A series of
four traps down the right, some 65 yards out can snare the offline approach,
so avoid at all costs. The putting surface is guarded by two massive bunkers
on the left and features a ridge in the center of the green and traps on the
right. In 1973, the hole played at 564 yards and was easily reachable in two,
now the players have to think about it. It should be noted that of the nearly
4,000 trees removed in the past years, one remains, the tall oak that resides
in the rough between the fourth and fifth.
Another birdie chance to get one back awaits as you reach the fifth. A long
iron or fairway metal off the tee will leave the golfer with a short iron to
one of the more narrow greens on the course. The landing area is protected on
both sides by rows of bunkers that require precision. The putting surface,
which is well below the fairway, is extremely difficult to hit in two due to
its tightly guarded surroundings and its right to left slope. As is the case
with most greens at Oakmont, deep sand traps await the errant approach, left,
right and deep.
The first par-three on the course is a downhill gem that's been stretched to
194 yards. Although a mid-iron is required, the sixth is by no means an easy
par. The green slopes severely from right to left and from front to back and
is surrounded by ver ydeep bunkers. A front pin is the narrowest and hardest
to hit. Bunkered right and you're sure to make a bogey. When Nicklaus defeated
Palme rin the1962 U.S. Open playoff, the Golden Bear made birdie while the
The seventh hole plays even longer now with a new tee box built some 51 yards
back from earlier years. The opening shot is uphill and must reach the crest
of the hill in the landing area in order to give you a good view of the green.
Any shot missing the fairway and catching sand will result in bogey. A mid to
long-iron remains to a putting surface that slopes left to right. Four deep
bunkers guard the green, which is one of the largest on the course at 40
yards in depth.
The longest par-three on the course and in U.S. Open history, the eighth is a
monster at 288 yards from the tips. That's right, 288 yards. In fact, from the
back of the box to the back of the green, it's 302 yards! To make matters
worse, the hole features a 100-yard bunker down the left side, appropriately
named "Sahara." The green is very long and slopes gently from back to front
and might be one of the easier surfaces on the course, although it does have
subtle breaks. The landing area fronting the green is firm and fast, so long
iron for the big guys and fairway metal for the mortals should suffice.
The ninth hole in the past has long been a birdie hole for most players, even
yours truly, however in 2003, it played as a par-four for the U.S. Amateur and
will once again for the Open in '16. The tee shot is directly uphill and
relatively blind. The fairway, which features a ditch to the left and five pot
bunkers to the right, slopes hard to the right, making it very difficult to
hit. Your second shot, also uphill, must negotiate the myriad of bunkers left
and right of the green. The putting surface features three different levels
and is very deep, due to the fact that the back part serves as the practice
putting green. As a par five for the members it's the 17th handicapped hole.
For tournament play, the ninth is a bogey waiting to happen.
Similar to the first, the opening hole on the back nine plays downhill and
runs parallel to number one. Another narrow driving area of grass hollows and
bunkers must be dissected if a player has any chance at reaching the green in
regulation. The traps and rough are so severe, that your second shot will be
played sideways, just to reach the fairway. If successful however, a short
iron should remain to an open green. Once again the putting surface slopes
away and right to left, so even the best approach shot might run through the
Although playing uphill, a long iron or fairway metal is required on the
birdieable 11thhole, as it runs just 382 yards from the tips. The key, as
with all holes at Oakmont is the tee shot, which must avoid the ditch that
runs down the right side of the fairway and in front of the green. The drive
must cover 222 yards to reach the plateau on the landing area, leaving just a
short iron to a well protected green. Birdies can be made, as the putting
surface runs gently from back to front, so keep your approach below the hole
for your best chance.
Most players always consider par-fives as birdie holes, but the 12th at
Oakmont is no cinch. At 667 yards, the 12th is "The" longest par five in U.S.
Open history. Connecting to the left to right sloping fairway is the most
difficult chore on the 12th. To make matters worse, a series of nine bunkers
guard the landing area on either side. A long iron or fairway metal second
shot, avoiding more sand in the landing area, will leave a wedge to a green
guarded left and right by ditches and sand. The putting surface, with a ridge
in the center, slopes from front to back. Certainly not reachable in two
nowadays, but in 1922, Gene Sarazen knocked his second shot 10 feet from the
hole, as he captured the PGA Championship.
The shortest hole on the course, the 13th is definitely no pushover, as it
plays uphill to a kidney-shaped green that features a severe hump on the right
side of the surface. A mid to long-iron must connect on this narrow, long
green to avoid bogey. Don't forget the four very deep bunkers waiting to
gobble up your errant tee shot.
One of two birdie chances remaining on the course, the 14th is only 358 yards
in length, needing just a long iron or hybrid off the tee. After splitting the
10 plus bunkers left and right of the fairway, the player is left with a wedge
to one of the longest greens on the course, some 46 yards in depth. The green
slopes from right to left and depending upon pin placement and wind, your
approach shot might be more difficult than you thought. When Larry Nelson
captured the 1983 U.S. Open, his second shot landed just one foot from the
hole for birdie.
How can a par-four be 500 yards in length? It can if you're at Oakmont. The
15th is listed at that magic number and could actually play longer if the pin
is placed in the back of the 52-yard long green. From the onset, the player is
faced with a blind tee shot to a fairway that slopes from left to right. A set
of mini Church Pew bunkers flank the left side while sand, a tentacle-like
ditch and deep rough loom right of the fairway. Club selection for your second
shot depends upon pin placement. A 95-yard bunker guards the right side of the
green, however the hole does allow for a run-up shot to the long putting
surface. Making par here is like birdie anywhere else.
Another difficult par-three, the 16th is long and demanding. A long iron or
fairway metal is required off the tee and must hit the green, as left is sand
and right is a deep incline and another bunker. A back-right pin is a sucker
spot and should be avoided at all costs. To make matters more difficult, the
putting surface slopes from left to right and back to front. No problem for
Larry Nelson when he holed a 62-foot bomb to beat Tom Watson in 1983.
Your final birdie chance is the 17th. At just 313 yards, a player only needs
to avoid all of the trouble on the left side, most notably the numerous deep
bunkers that guard the corner of the dogleg. Although guarded by many bunkers,
including "Big Mouth," which sits in front of the surface, the green is fairly
simple. Players have been known to drive the green, like Palmer in 1962
setting up an eagle or Nicklaus in 1973 when he eagled from 10 feet. The smart
play, fairway metal to the landing area and then wedge it close for three.
Probably the most picturesque hole at Oakmont and certainly one of the most
difficult, the 18th could be the best finishing hole in golf, sans Pebble
Beach or Pine Valley. A new tee was added since the 1994 U.S. Open, stretching
the hole to its present length of 484 yards. The drive off the tee must avoid
the strategically placed bunkers in the landing zone both left and right.
Although downhill off the tee, the second shot is uphill towards the green and
clubhouse. The putting surface, guarded by four sand traps left and one deep
bunker right, is very undulating and intimidating with numerous plateaus,
setting up for a glorious finish. When Ben Hogan captured the 1953 U.S. Open,
he hit his approach just six feet from the hole and made the putt to finish
3-3-3 and win the title by six over Sam Snead.
OVERALL: After revisiting Oakmont for a fourth time, there is no doubt in my
mind that Oakmont Country Club is the most penal course in America, hands
down. With rough as thick as molasses and dense as fog and greens as slick as
glass, no course in the United States can match the difficulty that Oakmont
possesses. But, as hard as it is, Oakmont is incredible to play and amazingly
The conditioning of the course is second to none and its amenities, from the
stylish clubhouse, to the practice facility, to its caddie program and staff
(head professional Bob Ford has been on staff for over 30 years), is
outstanding. How impressive is Oakmont, it was deemed a National Historic
Landmark for goodness sake.
The course has been brought back to its original roots, a links-style
heritage, as nearly 4,000 trees were removed. Not to be surpassed by the ever-
changing equipment, Oakmont added new tee boxes, adding over 200 yards in
length prior to the 2003 U.S. Amateur. In fact, in just four years since, the
course is now 59 yards longer than it was for the Amateur.
Oakmont has always been known for hundreds of hazards, beautiful fairways,
deep, deep rough, its famed "Church Pew" bunkers and of course, the greens,
probably the fastest in the world, coming in at 14-plus on the stimp meter.
"The putting surfaces are beautiful," remarked TomWatson at the 1994 U.S.
Open. "The type of architecture that was used here was a 'rejection
architecture' where the greens reject the shots...a very user unfriendly golf
course." Oakmont is not the kind of course you want to play day-in and day-
out, because it will beat you up and leave you for dead. Just ask Arnold
Palmer, who posted 11 three-putts when he lost to Jack Nicklaus at the U.S.
Open back in 1962.
It stands to reason that the United States Golf Association has tabbed Oakmont
to host 13 of its championships, including nine U.S. Opens, the most of any
club in America. According to Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules
and competitions, "This really is the gold standard for championship golf. It
doesn't get any better than Oakmont. This is just fantastic."
The overall bunkering at Oakmont is quite unique. Let's start with 210 dotted
around the course, some of them, next to impossible to get out of. "When you
get in one of them, you are not going to get to the green," said Davis. "It
will be worse than being in the rough." It's the Church Pews that get most of
the attention at Oakmont and rightfully so. Over the years they have become
exceedingly beautiful to the eye and painfully difficult to the scorecard. To
make matters worse, they increased to a full dozen, are now deeper and longer.
The course set-up is quite unique. Three of the four par-three holes are rated
in the top-10 as most difficult holes on the course. The two par-fives are
over 600 yards in length and the par fours range from 313 yards to 500 yards
long. In all, the course features the longest par-five and par-three and the
second-longest par-four in U.S. Open history. The course rating alone is 78.3
with a slope of 150!
If you get the chance to play Oakmont, listen to your caddie, he knows every
blade of grass and each and every slope. What makes Oakmont so difficult is
that every shot is as important as the last. The pressure felt from tee to
green on each and every hole is intense. There is no letup to this golf course.
Designed over 100 years ago, this course certainly has withstood the test of time. "Henry C. Fownes designed only one golf course; and no other course looks like this," added Marzolf, who works with Tom Fazio Design. " Oakmont protects his original work. Goal of the club is to hold onto its unique design. Get a sense this is a different course."
Oakmont is the type of venue that you want to play every once in a while so that you can walk amongst the hallowed fairways (and rough) that all of the immortals in golf strolled along. The greatest amateur golfer of all-time, Bobby Jones once called Oakmont, "the best test of championship golf in the country." I said it before and I'll say it again, Oakmont is as close to
perfection as any course in the world -- and the most difficult.