Oakmont Country Club is one of the most historic venues in all of golf. It has played host to eight U.S. Open’s, five U.S. Amateurs, three PGA Championships, two Women’s U.S. Opens and is set to host it’s next U.S. Open in 2016. Designed by Henry Clay Fownes in 1903, Oakmont Country Club features some of the most penal bunkers and undulating greens that you have ever seen. The Club is known its ability to host a U.S. Open any day, and that is absolutely true. The greens are always firm and fast, the bunkers deep and the rough thick. For the average golfer, making it around without a three putt is a huge accomplishment. The feel of the place is surreal and the experience second to none.
The moment you get out of your car and walk into the locker room, you immediately get a feel for how rich the history really is. The locker room is more of a museum with endless photo’s, leaderboards and memorabilia from past Majors. The locker room is also known for its lack of air conditioning and the original lockers. You’re sure to be wide-eyed before you even strap on your shoes.
The fun continues on the walk to the first tee as you get a full panorama of the course. The severe undulations can be noticed immediately on the 18th green and the first putt of the day likely rolls 50 feet onto the ninth green.
The First Hole at Oakmont Country Club is a beast of an opening hole. The tee shot puts a premium on hitting the fairway and leaves very little room to do so. The approach is very challenging as the green sits well below and everything runs off the back of the green. As you can see in the picture above, the fairway goes dramatically down hill and the green slants away from you. On a hot summer day holding this green is very challenging.
After the first hole, you have to cross the Pennsylvania Turnpike which separates the second through the eighth holes from the rest of the course. The second hole is a great short par-4 that gives you the option to lay up with a 200 yard shot or take driver over the bunkers on the right. The ditch cuts in on the left though, so hitting driver can be a big risk. The approach is to a small, undulating green that slopes back down into the fairway. Putting from above the hole can be treacherous and it is very possible to putt it right off the green. Two good shots into the middle of the green give you the best chance at par.
The third hole is the number one handicap hole. A challenging tee shot with the famous church pew bunker on the left and very deep fairway bunkers on the right makes for an intimidating tee shot. The approach shot is very challenging as it will be blind unless on the far left side of the fairway. The green is shaped like the hood of a car as if it were facing away from you and the false front makes for a deceiving view.
The fifth hole at Oakmont Country Club is my personal favorite. The tee shot is challenging because you cannot see the trouble that lies ahead so aiming is very difficult. The fairway runs into a ditch that cuts in front of the green so a three wood is a good play off of the tee. The fifth green is one of the best on the course as it is well protected and very undulated. In order to have a chance at birdie, getting in position on the green is essential.
The sixth hole is a short par-3 but the shape of the green makes it hard to commit to the tee shot. Deep bunkers surrounding the green make up and down’s nearly impossible. It’s a great par-3 and is challenging for players of all different skill levels. Hit the green and you’re in good shape.
The seventh hole is a challenging, uphill par-4. Getting your drive to the crest of the fairway will allow for a look at the green on your second shot. The big, two tiered green can make for a big difference in the yardage of the approach shot. From the back tee’s it is a 240 yard carry to the fairway!
The eighth hole is a beast of a par-3, measuring 250 yards from the men’s tee and is capable of playing 304 yards from the championship tees. Although it is a long hole, there is plenty of room to land the ball short and run it up and is by no means all carry. The massive green has many subtle breaks making for work to do even if you are on in regulation.
The ninth is a par 5 for members but is played as a par 4 in USGA events. The tee shot is demanding with the ditch on the left and heavy bunkering right. It’s a beast of a par-4 and can be a beast of a par-5 if you miss the fairway. The green is likely the biggest green you’ve ever seen before, as it is also the practice green.
Oakmont Country Club is a unique and special place. There isn’t anything like it. The U.S. Open returns in 2016, and there will likely be a few more changes to the course between now and then to get ready to put on it’s usual impossible championship test.
Stay tuned for a tour of the back 9.