Few venues in the world of golf have the championship tradition of Oakmont. Introduced in 1903 by designer Henry Fownes, Oakmont Country Club has hosted more major Championships than any other course in the US, including eight United States Opens, five US Amateurs, three PGA Championships, and two US Women’s Open.
Oakmont remains perhaps the most difficult course in North America, with 210 deep bunkers (personified by the Church Pews), hard and slick greens that slope away from the player, and tight fairways requiring the utmost precision. Oakmont was the site of “the greatest round of the 20th century”: Johnny Miller’s final round 63 at the 1973 US Open. Golf Digest ranks Oakmont #4 in its most recent version of America’s Top 100 courses.
Hole 1: Par 4 - 482 Yards
The opening hole is one of the toughest starting holes in championship golf. The tee shot is played to a narrow fairway bordered by bunkers. The downhill approach shot is played to a green that is semi-blind and slopes away from the fairway. Players will likely need to land their approaches 10 to 15 yards short of the putting surface and allow the slope to carry the ball onto the green. The green has many subtleties, which makes distance control critical.
Hole 2: Par 4 - 340 Yards
Accuracy from the tee is at a premium because of a ditch to the left of the fairway and a bunker complex to the right. Approach shots need to be accurately placed on a green that is protected on all sides by bunkers. The putting surface slopes significantly from back to front and there are several noteworthy undulations. If played smartly, making a 3 is a real possibility, given that this hole yielded the most birdies of any par 4 on the outward nine in 2007.
Hole 3: Par 4 - 426 Yards
Along with the famed Church Pews on the left side of the drive zone, deep bunkers must also be avoided on the right. The second shot is one of the most uphill on the course, a blind approach to a green that slopes gently away from the fairway. Approaches that come up short could roll back down the hill, and recovering for par is difficult from the closely mown area behind the green, where a pitch shot can easily roll back to the player’s feet.
Hole 4: Par 5 - 609 Yards
The Church Pews, one of 17 bunkers on this hole, are again on the player’s left from the elevated teeing ground. Players must also avoid deep bunkers on the right of the drive zone, which slopes toward those bunkers. Layup second shots must avoid bunkers on the right, although favoring the left side of the fairway can leave a more difficult approach. The most demanding hole location is in the narrow, back-left quadrant of the green.
Hole 5: Par 4 - 382 Yards
Many players will use something less than a driver because positioning is critical on this short par 4. The fairway narrows significantly about 160 yards from the green. The relatively short approach shot is played to a green set well below the fairway. Approach shots executed with precision will provide a birdie opportunity. However, substantial undulations and ridges on the putting surface will funnel errant shots away from certain hole locations.
Hole 6: Par 3 - 194 Yards
Players face a slightly downhill shot to a putting surface that presents a very narrow target and slopes toward the teeing ground. A recent restoration to the original Fownes design expanded the putting surface in the back right, which will provide at least one more hole location for the U.S. Open. Players who miss the green to either side will face one of the most difficult up-and-down challenges on the course.
Hole 7: Par 4 - 479 Yards
This hole starts a four-hole stretch that played the toughest in the 2007 U.S. Open. The fairway runs parallel to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which opened in 1951. The tee shot must avoid deep bunkers to set up a challenging approach to a green that slopes from back to front, putting a premium on staying below most hole locations. Missing to the left will present the players with a very difficult chance for par.
Hole 8: Par 3 - 288/252 Yards
When set to its full length, this hole will once again play as the longest par 3 in U.S. Open history. A bunker protrudes into the expansive approach area about 80 yards short of the green, and shots that land beyond it can roll onto this wide putting surface, which has less undulation than most at Oakmont. Players hit this green in regulation only 27 percent of the time in 2007, placing a premium on their short games.
Hole 9: Par 4 - 477 Yards
The narrow landing area cannot be seen from the teeing ground. A large ditch on the left and deep bunkers make the fairway, which gently slopes from left to right, an elusive target. Approach shots are played to a unique putting surface, the back area of which serves as a practice green. The green features severe undulations and substantial movement, making two-putt pars a challenge for the world’s best players.
Hole 10: Par 4 - 462/440 Yards
The opening hole of the inward nine presents a downhill tee shot to a narrow drive zone. The fairway slopes from right to left, creating the potential for long rollouts, but players must be aware of deep bunkers on the left of the drive zone. Much like the first hole, players may need to land approaches short of the green and allow the ball to roll onto the putting surface, which slopes severely from right to left and front to back.
Hole 11: Par 4 - 379 Yards
This short par 4 plays uphill and back toward the clubhouse. The landing area cannot be seen from the teeing ground, and the fairway was surprisingly tough to hit in 2007, even though players frequently hit less than driver from the tee. The green runs on a slight diagonal to the fairway and is protected by deep bunkers. While the green’s slope from back left to front right can be deceptive, if played smartly, there will be birdie opportunities.
Hole 12: Par 5 - 632/667 Yards
The drive zone appears generous, but the left-to-right pitch of the fairway puts slightly errant tee shots at the risk of ending up in a bunker or the rough. Depending on which teeing ground is used, some players may attempt to reach the green in two. Otherwise, second shots are played to a fairly narrow landing area. In 2007, despite many approach shots being played with wedges, players hit this long, narrow green in regulation only 44 percent of the time.
Hole 13: Par 3 - 183 Yards
The shortest of Oakmont’s par 3s also played as the easiest of the four in the 2007 U.S. Open. The green is mostly surrounded by bunkers, several of which appear to be almost as large as the putting area. The slope of the green is generally back to front and away from the right and left edges, placing a premium on staying below most hole locations if players want a realistic chance at a birdie opportunity.
Hole 14: Par 4 - 358 Yards
The fairway slopes from right to left and narrows about 270 yards from the teeing ground, near the last group of bunkers in the drive zone. With lofted clubs used for approaches, players can be more aggressive to a long putting surface that is divided into sections by a few distinct ridges. In the 2007 U.S. Open, players hit the fairway 67 percent of the time and the hole yielded 85 birdies, which tied for the most allowed with the par-4 17th hole.
Hole 15: Par 4 - 500 Yards
The longest par 4 on the course features a blind tee shot to a landing area that slopes from left to right. Approaches are played to a putting surface that is the deepest on the golf course and is framed on the right by one of the longest bunkers at Oakmont. This green has numerous subtleties, making lag putting a challenge on a hole that yielded the fewest birdies (26) of any hole on the inward nine in the 2007 U.S. Open.
Hole 16: Par 3 - 231 Yards
The fairly large green is fronted on the right by a deep bunker. Those who play conservatively into the approach area at the front left of the putting surface have a fairly straightforward up-and-down opportunity. The green slopes from back to front and left to right, so errant shots long or left face a difficult recovery. In the 1983 U.S. Open, Larry Nelson made a 60-foot birdie putt in the final round that propelled him to the championship.
Hole 17: Par 4 - 313 Yards
The shortest par 4 on the golf course provides great theater. From the tee, players have the option of playing to the fairway, then hitting a lofted approach shot, or trying to drive the green. Missing the putting surface presents a variety of potential recovery shots, because of the slopes around the green, several bunkers and the varying height of the rough. Those who lay up from the tee are left with a precise wedge shot, likely over the “Big Mouth” bunker.
Hole 18: Par 4 - 484 Yards
This is one of the most demanding finishing holes in the game. Troubles abound for those who miss the fairway, which narrows about 260 yards from the teeing ground. The second shot is uphill to a large green that, despite its size, was hit in regulation only 33 percent of the time in 2007. The putting surface is full of undulations, and hitting a conservative approach shot could leave the player with a very demanding two-putt.