A guide to Oakmont Country Club

There are few courses more suited to hosting the US Open Championship 2016 than Oakmont Country Club, one of the most storied and historic golf venues in the United States.

Oakmont will host it’s ninth US Open this year, and first since 2007, when Angel Cabrera beat Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk by a single stroke.

The links-style course is also considered one of the toughest challenges in all of golf, and the world’s best players can be certain they’ll be subjected to an incredibly challenging 72-hole test over the four days of competition.

Located near Pittsburgh’s northeast suburbs of Plum and Oakmont, in Pennsylvania, Oakmont was first opened in 1903, 113 years ago.

Welcome sign

Designed by Henry Fownes, it straddles the Allegheny River Valley but has virtually no water hazards, while most of the trees – more than 7000 of them, in fact – were removed ahead of the 2007 US Open, with thousands more having been taken away since.

What it lacks in water and trees, however, it more than makes up for in bunkers. There are more than 200 sand traps located all over the course which, together with its large, slick and undulating greens, makes it one of the most difficult courses in the entire United States.

Since Fownes’ original design, Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Arnold Palmer have both done further renovation work, helping it remain among the top 10 courses in America, according to Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the World ranking.

18th hole

Here’s what course expert Joe Passov has to say: “No course on earth plays so much viciously harder than it looks than Oakmont. No trees, no water, few forced carries and huge greens normally add up to a sea of red numbers for the game’s best, but not here. Not with the ferocity of these greens (which they actually slow down for US Opens), a lethal combination of speed, contour and firmness, plus brutal rough and more than 200 bunkers.”

“You can hit 72 greens [in regulation] in the Open at Oakmont and not come close to winning,” said Arnold Palmer in reference to Oakmont’s fearsome greens, which USGA Sr. Director Mike Davis called the “scariest” in golf.

In fact, it was Oakmont’s fast greens, way before they were fashionable for championship golf, that caused the invention of the stimpmeter in the late 1930s.

One of the signature aspects of the course is the famous Church Pews bunker that comes into play on the third and fourth holes. It features twelve grass covered traversing ridges that resemble church pews.

Third hole

Past US Open champions at Oakmont

2007: Angel Cabrera (+5)
1994: Ernie Els (-5)
1983: Larry Nelson (-4)
1973: Johnny Miller: (-5)
1962: Jack Nicklaus: (-1)
1953: Ben Hogan (-5)
1935: Sam Parks Jr. (+11)
1927: Tommy Armour (+13)

Hole-by-hole Guide

1 – Par 4 – 481 Yards

A brutal challenge first up, the first hole requires a pinpoint mid-iron into a steep, sloping green. Get even a little out of position with your approach and you’re facing an incredibly difficult up and down.

2 – Par 4 – 341 Yards

Second hole

A shorter par four, but plenty of danger around the green, including a ditch on the left and bunkers left, right and behind it. Players will try and position themselves below the hole, because three putts are common above it.

3 – Par 4 – 426 Yards

The famous Church Pews bunker guards the left of the fairway, while five severe bunkers lie in wait on the right, making for a tough tee shot. Thankfully, the green, while elevated, is relatively flat by Oakmont standards.

4 – Par 5 – 621 Yards

The Church Pews again lie in wait on the left, while deep bunkers on the right add to the challenge. Long hitters should be able to avoid most of the danger, however, and this reachable-in-two par-five does present a birdie opportunity.

5 – Par 4 – 383 Yards

fifth hole

Players will take an iron off the tee and a short iron into the green, which features many subtle undulations. There is danger all around the green, in the form of heavy rough and deep bunkers, so it’s imperative to find the putting surface.

6 – Par 3 – 196 Yards

The first short hole the players will have to contend with. The green slopes sharply from right to left, and an almost certain bogey awaits players missing it to the right.

7 – Par 4 – 486 Yards

This longish par four features a relatively straightforward tee shot, but once again, a treacherous green lies in wait. A severe slope from left to right and surrounded by bunkers, you simply can’t miss left here.

8 – Par 3 – 253 Yards

Eighth hole

A very long par-three that requires a long iron or even a fairway wood to reach for some. The green is fairly sedate compared to most on this course, with few undulations, but careful of ‘Sahara’ on the left, a 100-yard long bunker.

9 – Par 4 – 481 Yards

One of the toughest and most pivotal holes on the course. The tee shot is blind and uphill into a fairway flanked by a severe ditch left and pot bunkers right, and the green has severe undulations. This hole normally plays as a par-five for members, but the pros only have four shots to complete it. The back half of the green also serves as the practice green during the tournament.

10 – Par 4 – 463 Yards

A downhill tee shot into a narrow fairway followed by a second shot into a very challenging green that slopes from front right to back left. Players will be happy to walk off with a par here.

11 – Par 4 – 382 Yards

11th hole

Most players will opt for a long iron or 3-wood to put themselves on the plateau in the best possible position for their approach to a flattish green that slopes from back to front.

12 – Par 5 – 626 Yards

A monster par-five fraught with potential perils, the toughest of all the long holes on the course. Two big shots are required to negotiate the long, winding fairway guarded by more than 10 bunkers left and right. The green slopes away from the player, making the approach shot very tricky and the putts very challenging.

13 – Par 3 – 185 Yards

The hole features a narrow hourglass green, surrounded by four bunkers, which should not be missed long or right. The pros will look to stay below the hole to give themselves the best chance of a two.

14 – Par 4 – 360 Yards

A long iron followed by a short iron gets you on the green in regulation, but there’s still plenty of work to do from there. The green features subtle contours and slopes from right to left.

15 – Par 4 – 502 Yards

15th hole

Another long par four, this one features a blind tee shot to a fairway that slopes from left to right. More Church Pews left and ditches and bunkers on the right demand an accurate tee shot. A large but devious green awaits, full of potential pitfalls.

16 – Par 3 – 233 Yards

A long iron is required into a large green that slopes from left to right. Players will take care to avoid missing left, which will lead to a fiendishly difficult chip shot. Anything short will feed back down to the fairway.

17 – Par 4 – 315 Yards

A classic risk and reward hole. Some players will opt to carry the severe bunkers 50 yards from the green, while others will choose to lay up. A huge bunker, known as Big Mouth, lies in wait to the right of the putting surface.

18 – Par 4 – 495 Yards

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One of the greatest finishing holes in golf, players must drive from the fairway to avoid to avoid the bunkers left and right, which can only be chipped out of. A mid-iron into the undulating final green that slopes hard from front to back provides a grandstand finish.

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