Oakmont: Fast greens, great scenery

To take in Oakmont Country Club from the first tee is breathtaking.

I cannot imagine looking at the 1994 Oakmont.

Actually, really don’t want to.

All those trees are gone and the views are spectacular.

“I think Oakmont has a fascinating history and certainly culture,” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said during Monday’s Media Day at Oakmont. “It was conceived of and designed by Henry C. Fownes in 1903. Henry really was a one-hit wonder with respect to the architecture of the golf course.

“When Fownes found this property, it was just pasture land. It was a couple hundred years, a couple hundred acres of pasture land.

“When the club started to plant, this club started to plant trees in 1960 and then we saw what it was like the whole way up through the mid-1990s, it really became much more of a park land look to it. I do think that it took away some of the strategy of the golf course that Fownes designed. It certainly took away some of the wind that you would encounter.

“There’s also, and this was done by Oakmont itself, which is wonderful, the removal of trees, which get this back to the way the Fownes designed it.

“This was pasture land. When they bought it, they wanted it to resemble a links like course.”

And, they did.

There are no trees within the field of play at Oakmont. All the trees are peripheral and are basically used as aiming points.

But, what makes Oakmont are the greens.

They are fast.

It’s kind of like putting on your linoleum floor. Although, Oakmont’s greens are faster.

“If Oakmont has a signature, it has to be these lightning-fast greens,” Davis said. “And listen, this isn’t a recent phenomenon. These greens have been like this really from Day 1. In fact, if you go back the 1935 U.S. Open that was played here, the players were complaining incessantly about the greens being too fast. That was 1935. In fact, some of them almost boycotted and didn’t want to play.

“And what was interesting, in 1935, we didn’t have anyway to measure speed of greens. I think H.C. Fownes, if you read history, said, well, I know the greens are right at Oakmont if I drop a ball at the back of the second green and it rolls the whole way off the green, then I know we have got them right.

“But that 1935 U.S. Open, there was a gentleman named Ed Stimpson, who was here at Oakmont, a Harvard engineer, a big golfer, who decided he thought the greens were too fast, but we needed a way to measure. And that was the birth of the USGA Stimpmeter.

“The greens themselves really are a wonderful, and very different type of from an architectural standpoint, set of greens.

“Some of them slope left, some right, some back front and there’s some that slope, in fact three greens here, that slope front to back. These greens that have plateaus in them, valleys going through them.

“But the point of Oakmont is they are extremely fast, but they’re extremely strategic. You always – playing into the greens or playing around the greens or putting on it – it’s as Robbie Hofmann said, you want to be below the hole.

“Which may mean that you want to be in the left side of the hole location, right side, short of it or even past the hole location in the cases of those greens that cant away from you.

“But they really are what makes Oakmont Oakmont.”

It would be nice, through, if Slope could actually read one correctly.

Slope was our caddy Monday.

Good dude and I was only kidding about him reading a putt.

He has been at Oakmont for 12 years.

I told him I would hit some really good shots and some really bad shots and when (not if) I hit some really bad shots, he could machine gun me with insults and I would probably just laugh.

I did and he did.

A great day.

I think Slope and myself could do some honest damage on that track.

Well, actual good damage.

I love really hard golf courses and Oakmont fits the bill in every aspect.

You cannot just bomb it off the tee, hit it somewhere on the green and make a birdie putt.

That doesn’t happen at Oakmont.

Ever.

Well, it did on June 17, 1973, when Johnny Miller shot 63 on Sunday to win the U.S. Open.

Miller’s lone bogey was on the 244-yard par 3 8th hole (it is now 288).

He followed that with a birdie on the uphill 480-yard par 5 9th hole (driver, 2-iron, two-putt). It will be played as a 477-yard par 4 in six weeks.

Oakmont is special.

Oakmont is hard.

Oakmont is fun.

I had a couple of good holes, the best being the 430-yard par 4 18th hole.

Driver, 5-iron from 178 yards to 4 feet and made the putt.

Slope read that one.

I sure hope Slope gets a bag for the U.S. Open on June 16-19.

If he does, I will hide my press credential and be Donald from Happy Gilmore (to Slope, not his player.)

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com, followed on Twitter at @MathisonMike and is on the radio weekday mornings from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. with Joey Klepack and from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturdays on WEIR-AM)