Why Oakmont is not for the faint-hearted

The U.S. Open stops off at Oakmont Country Club this year, one of the most difficult courses on the planet.

The Pennsylvanian course is ranked the fifth toughest course in America and with the kind of scores we have seen in U.S. Open at the venue in the past, it’s not hard to see why.

Last time around in 2007, Angel Cabrera won with a score of five over par. Just eight rounds under par were recorded by the 153-strong field over the week.

Prior to that in 1997, Ernie Els finished at five under par and would win after a Monday playoff with Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts, where Montgomerie carded seven over 78.

At the U.S. Open in 1983, the field averaged 76.13, a touch over five over par for the event.

It’s long, very long
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Part of what makes the course so tough is its prodigious length. One need look no further than the massive 667-yard par five 12th. Tough to reach the green in two, the hole forces players to use a short club for their third. The narrow green slopes away from them, making it hard to keep the ball on the green.

Even the short holes aren’t short. The par three eighth will play all of 288 yards, with the potential of being over 300 yards depending on pin placement and the tee box. That means a wood off the tee for most of the field…on a par three.

Greens slicker than ice
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The firm greens at Oakmont are somewhat of a legend. In fact, the lightning fast surfaces inspired the creation of the stimpmeter (the device used to measure the speed of greens) after inventor and amateur golfer Edward Stimpson attended the US Open in 1935.

Seven-time major winner Arnold Palmer once said: “You can hit 72 greens in the Open at Oakmont and not come close to winning,” while PGA Tour hero Sam Snead once joked he tried to mark his ball on one of the greens, but the coin slid off.

Added to their undulation and speed, four of the 18 greens slope away from the fairway, requiring deft touch from players.

More sand than the Sahara
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Oakmont features of the most recognisable bunkers in the game. The enormous Church Pews bunker lies between the third and fourth fairways and apart from all the sand, consists of 12 three foot high mounds of tall fescue grass.

This half acre of purgatory could seriously damage any round, with the hellish fescue a potential nightmare to be avoided.

Aside from Church Pews, there are 209 other traps to avoid, which averages out to over 11 bunkers per hole. On a course this long, it really hurts to get stuck in the sand.

As a result, Oakmont remains a favourite amongst the world’s elite golfers who relish a challenge.

Come next week, when the best players descend up Oakmont for the 116th U.S. Open, we will see who rises to that challenge.

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