ASGCA Past President Tom Marzolf of Fazio Golf Course Design responded to questions via Twitter June 7, discussing Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania, host to the 2016 U.S. Open June 16-19.
Following is a transcript of his chat with golf fans.
Q: Can you talk about the rich history and design of Oakmont Country Club?
A: Henry Fownes designed the course w/few trees and unique bunkers in 1903. It opened Oct. 1, 1904. His son, W.C. Fownes, said, “A shot poorly played should be a shot irrevocably lost. The charm of the game lies in its difficult. Keep it rugged, baffling, hard to conquer. Otherwise, we shall soon tire of it and cast it aside.”
The big story is what the club has done to create a wide open property. It’s a broad valley, you can see all of the holes. Oakmont Country Club created wide open spaces with fescue that frames the holes. It is the St. Andrews of U.S. Golf.
Q: Oakmont Country Club has been called “The toughest golf test in the USA.” What is it that makes it so difficult?
A: Oakmont Country Club is the best maintained, cool-season turf in the world. Unique green contours are the toughest 18 greens in golf. Oakmont Country Club has the highest average winning score of any @usopengolf course. 2016 is the 9th open they have hosted, tops in USA.
Q: Which green has the most severe contour?
A: Hole 10 has the most severe pitch. The green pitches back-left; players will routinely turn their backs to the cup.
Q: Is there a signature hole at Oakmont Country Club?
A: Each hole is unique anddifferent. Every hole dramatically different. Ex: all bunker styles are seen. They are bold, deep & strong.
Q: What is the special quality of No. 8 at Oakmont Country Club?
A: The 8th is the longest par 3 in championship golf, 305 yards. Open fairway approach allows for roll on the slight downhill shot.
Q: No. 17 is also noteworthy, isn’t it?
A: No. 17 is a driveable par 4, uphill at 280-313 yards. Famous “big mouth” bunker right of the green is deepest on the course.
Q: “Firm and fast” greens have been the case at recent @usopengolf events. Will that be the case at Oakmont Country Club?
A: Yes. Oakmont Country Club Superintendent John Zimmer & his team have created the firmest approaches and greens. Rock hard conditions ensure the ball will bounce. Players will lose control of approach shots.
Q: How has the course at Oakmont Country Club changed since the 2007 @usopengolf?
A: Big change is mowing lines feature low-cut turf leading into all bunkers. In ’07, mishit shots fed into bunkers. Also, holes 6 and 12 have been restored to original Fownes.
Q: If I’m watching the @usopengolf from home, what should I focus on to better enjoy the tournament?
A: The shot is not over until the ball stops rolling. Pitch in fairway affects ball; and contour of greens moves the ball. Players need to aim in a different direction to WHERE they want the ball to roll to a rest.
Q: Both men’s and women’s @usopengolf has been held at Oakmont Country Club. What are the differences?
A: Same hole locations, women played 6,850, men played 7,250. Cabrera was +5 in ’07, P. Creamer was -3 in ’10.
Q: Do the comments professional players make after playing the course affect you at all?
A: Not at all. Comments usually reflect how they played. Make the cut, you comment on conditions. Win tourney, they are the best greens ever.
Q: What other adjustments have been made to Oakmont Country Club grounds for the event?
A: 50 acres of gentle land adjacent to the 3rd hole all have long-range views of the golf course. The club proactively created a tournament support area to enhance the enjoyment of their spectators.
Q: Do you have any input into pin placement or hole-length during the four competition days?
A: The rich history of Oakmont features traditional hole locations at major events. The USGA does a great job utilizing the hole locations so today’s players test themselves against players of the past.
Q: Henry C. Fownes designed Oakmont Country Club in 1903. How does it compare today to his design?
A: Henry C. Fownes designed only one golf course; and no other course looks like this. Oakmont protects his original work. Goal of the club is to hold onto its unique design. Get a sense this is different course.