Oakmont Country Club
|Green M: 75.3/139||462||340||423||569||382||194||435||252||477||3534||462||379||602||172||358||494||231||313||479||3490||7024|
|Blue M: 73.5/135 W: 79.7/143||441||325||405||538||365||175||390||225||462||3326||440||337||585||155||345||465||211||296||440||3274||6600|
|White M: 71.7/130 W: 77.3/138||421||317||380||504||319||152||357||209||452||3111||436||305||550||135||332||435||189||261||415||3058||6169|
|Red M: 69.1/126 W: 74.3/132||415||260||339||467||275||145||274||185||445||2805||431||271||466||129||327||421||135||241||410||2831||5636|
It's All About The Greens
I've been to Oakmont several times over the years to study what makes it so great. It's a fairly broad, hilly site that few would have identified immediately as a great site for golf, but all the elements of what makes the course great were there -- the starkness of the landscape, the tough soils that required a network of drainage-ditch hazards to tame, and the always-sloping topography.
They've made fewer changes to Oakmont for the upcoming U.S. Open than at any course to host the championship in the past 25 years. The reason it has stood the time as a test of golf so well is that it has numerous greens that fall away from the line of play [toward the back of the green]. Even if you're hitting an 8-iron to the green today, instead of a long iron or fairway wood back in the day, you can rarely count on it to stop where it lands ... you have to allow for the bounce and roll-out, and that makes it very difficult to make birdies at the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th, 12th, and 15th. Combine that with the heavily contoured greens and the wicked green speeds, and it's a course where you are never comfortable over a golf shot. Every single shot can get you in trouble ... even the tap-ins.
I'm not a good enough golfer to want to play a course like this every day, and that's why it doesn't get a 10 on The Doak Scale. But it's a solid 9, because there is no place else quite like it. Everyone should take the chance to play Oakmont if it comes their way.
Classic, and tough!
I had the chance to play Oakmont the Monday after the 2007 U.S. Open, which was won by Angel Cabrera by a stroke over Tiger Woods, who was expecting his first child imminently.
A long time has passed since, and my tastes in golf course design have evolved. I went back and read a few things I wrote about the round for WorldGolf, and the major sticking points for me then were the fact that greens were incredibly difficult to hold (a well-struck sand wedge trampolined high in the air upon landing on the green and rolled out over 50 feet). Rough is very penal and fairways are narrow. Sure, we didn't play the back tees, but even the member set was a brute. Oakmont membership is famously masochistic when it comes to their course setup, even going as far as to say they set the course up easier for the US Open than daily fee (yeah, right).
I do of course appreciate Oakmont and it's traditional US Open test of narrow fairways, penal rough and challenging greens, and the piece of property is classic and excellent (though it could use a little more shade during the warmer summer months). My favorite things about the course are the drivable par 4s and the church pew bunkers. I do like my courses a little more player-friendly, however. I wonder if my handicap would improve if I had a membership here, or would I be so beaten and bruised I'd quit the game entirely.
It was certainly a memorable week covering the open and playing the course was a great cherry on top.
It is harder than their setup for the open. The greens are typically faster and the rough gets up to 7 inches. Before Mickelson and others enjoy their whine and they cut it down (2007).
No fun at all
I've played Oakmont three times as a guest, and caddied there. If you can get on, I suggest you do. But be prepared for a long, frustrating day.
Each hole is different, and the routing is wonderful. However, most holes share a common thread - In the landing zone, the fairway is modest in width, to each side are penalizing bunkers, and then, within ten or so yards of the fairway, lies untrammeled grass two feet or more higher. Hit into that, and then (if you find your ball at all,) hack it out. The greens seem large, but the slope makes them small. Miss it, you're in a bunker or penalizing rough. Yes, they're faster than probably any green you've ever played.
As a caddie, I'd see first-time guests there extremely excited as they prepped and stood to the first tee. Then on successive holes, their confidence would slip away. And finally, as we slogged up the 18th fairway, their grins were long gone, replaced by scowls and a desire simply to get off the course.
Play it once, and unless you're an extremely proficient golfer, you'll want to decline your next invitation.
The hardest golf course I've ever seen
Oakmont is the poster child of penal golf. Miss a shot anywhere and it will bury you. This is how hard the place is...they don't even have air conditioning in the locker room. They want you sweating before you even get on the course. The course hits you hard and it hits you early. The first hole is the toughest starting hole on the planet. In the last three US Opens it's only yielded 58 birdies. That's 58 TOTAL. For ALL three of those US Opens. The only place you even have an opportunity for birdie is the reachable 8th hole. It measures 288 yards. Oh wait. I forgot. That's a par 3! You gotta be kidding me. It's an amazing golf course. But it's also the hardest golf course I've ever seen. Expect to shoot a minimum of 10 shots over your handicap...if you are having a good day. And figure out a way to make that fun. Which it is. But not every day.
An unyielding test
Oakmont is one of the select few courses that is both an enigma as a fiercely private country club as well as being something of a public asset, owned in the hearts and memories of fans of the game that have watched the game’s history defined by it’s legends.
Oakmont is the hardest course in America in the minds of many. What is remarkable is that while that is very well true, the course is not unfair. How a course can challenge every aspect of a player’s game, yet reward a well thought out and executed shot at the same time is part of the magic of Oakmont. So Oakmont is not about indifference to good shots as it is about severely punishing a bad one. What’s more, Oakmont is not a one-trick pony. Oakmont’s greens are legendary, routinely rolling upwards to 14 on the stimpmeter, mandating that you must keep the ball under the hole at all costs. However, once you are at Oakmont you realize that the elevation changes and variety, look and length of the holes, brutal bunkering and lush rough are guaranteed to keep you fully engaged.
In keeping with the above attributes, my favorite hole was the par-4 3rd, stretched to just under 430 yards from the tips. This is the hole that plays host to the famed and iconic “Church pews” bunkers. These Church pews are more of the Puritan variety for if you are wayward they will not send you softly on your way with a few Hail Marys. Rather, you’ll pay a heavy price for your sins. Tiger double-bogeyed this hole at the 2007 U.S. Open and ended up losing to Angel Cabrera by one shot! Your work is not done even if you do avoid the Church pews for the approach shot is uphill to a well bunkered semi-blind green with a false front and a steep fall off if you go long.
Oakmont is not pretentious, it is simply a look-you-straight-in-the-eye unyielding test.
Played Oakmont with a college teammate in 1997.
Oakmont has a reputation as one of the most difficult courses in the world. It's well earned.
The course is long and tight with thick rough and the fastest greens you'll find anywhere.
That said, it's a great experience and a can't miss if you get the chance.