Just how good is U.S. Women's Open host Oakmont Country Club?
Despite some predictions that the ladies wouldn’t make it around Oakmont Country Club in one piece, it appears first round U.S. Women’s Open scores are right about where they usually are in an Open staged by the USGA - leaders hover around even par.
But for regular golfers like us, the question about Oakmont is this: if the club offered some limited tee times (or you had a member hookup), would it be worth traveling to play?
I’ve played roughly 400 golf courses in my life thus far, and Oakmont is in the top 50 for sure, and probably top 25. Getting any higher than that is tough because I’ve played too many incredible links golf courses in Ireland and the U.K.
Oakmont is certainly not at the head of my class domestically, despite rankings usually in America’s top 10 in most magazines panels. It has some great holes, like the third, which not only has the church pew bunkers but an elevated green that demands perfection. I also appreciate a course with short par 4s, and Oakmont has two on the back nine alone.
I think the golf course design is solid, but what bugs me about Oakmont is that it warrants merit for being tough, when really it’s set up to the limits (and in some ways beyond) in order to make it such. During my round there, I hit a perfectly struck sand wedge that trampolined about 50 feet after hitting a firm spot on the 12th green. And shots that find the rough by two feet usually require a hack out of about 20 yards.
Click here for my column on Oakmont for regular golfers.
The property Oakmont sits on is a nice, rolling parcel of land that sits on relative high ground near Pittsburgh, and it’s almost completely gutted of trees. I know a lot of writers and design critics applauded Oakmont for their secretive tree-removal process between the 1994 and 2007 Open that took out practically all of them. I’m all for a restoration to the way a golf course was intended, and Oakmont was built by H.C. Fownes to play and look like a links.
But, not to sound like a hippy or anything, I like trees on my golf course, especially in the humid summertime when all I want is a little shade to hide under time-to-time. And a few strategically-placed trees or tight dogleg holes that require a player to shape a shot, like Colonial C.C. in Forth Worth, never hurts in my opinion - and is a better way to make a course difficult than super firm conditions that are near impossible to uphold from a maintenance perspective.
A good course to compare Oakmont to is Pinehurst No. 2. Both were built in the same era on relatively similar pieces of property. Pinehurst has more pines but they essentially never come into play off the tee. If I had a choice of rounds, I’d probably opt for No. 2 by a nose over Oakmont, partly because of the green complexes are so tough that if you can conquer them, your sense of accomplishment is massive. Additionally, the whole golf atmosphere at Pinehurst is virtually unbeatable in the U.S. - and that’s a big part of golf travel.
And Pinehurst has trees. Lots of ‘em. Did I mention I like trees?
Photo credit: Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf
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2. Overabundance of trees makes growing grass very difficult. The tree thinning process was not for aesthetics, but for cost and ecological impact.
3. I like that you address average golfers...average golfers from slow-greens muni wouldn't know what to do with Oakmont's 14 stimped putting surfaces. It probably isn't the best place for the average Lebron to take his game.