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George Pazin

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Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« on: April 10, 2007, 12:15:31 PM »
Well, we made it through the whole course. I didn't plan out the timing of the climax too well, as it coincided with Masters Week and my vacation, so I'm adding some summary thoughts on the entire course. I hope you'll add yours as well.

What I LOVE about Oakmont:

1) The simplicity of the design ideas - As a recovering math geek, I confess a fond affinity toward simplicity. In this regard, I am referring to the manner of challenge of each hole. The course almost seems to be one giant essay question - albeit with 18 perplexing parts! - but each part is framed initially in beautiful simplicity. The long 1st hole presents the challenge of a fallaway green at the end of a long downhill approach. Hole 2 contrasts wonderfully by offering a short par 4 with a heavily defended green sloped severely toward the golfer. Then you have Hole 3, where the somewhat domed green sits atop a hill. And so on, and so on. Despite appearances on the diagrams, and in spite of what seems to be repetitive flanking bunkers, each hole presents a unique challenge, and the whole is most definitely greater than the sum of the parts.

2) The routing - What's not to like? Very short green to tee walks, dramatic topography, an incredible number of little multi-hole loops with contrasting holes.

3) The amazing utilization of seemingly typical landforms - As I have noted on this site many times, the land at Oakmont doesn't seem different from the rest of the millions of acres of land in western PA, yet there is only one Oakmont. I simply marvel at the usage of the landforms, whether it's large hills such as the one used by holes 1, 9, 10 & 11, or small ravines such as the one crossing in front of the 5th green.

4) The beauty of the course - This one probably sounds bizarre, as many would cite the lack of ocean, other water, trees, etc., as major negatives, but I love the stark, barren landscape. In contrast to the isolation of some great courses, Oakmont presents the golfer with many open vistas that encompass large areas of the course. The golfer can stand by the practice green and see on 1, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15 and 18, and even see tiny little golfers across the Turnpike on other holes! It's almost the anti-Pine Valley, in terms of isolation.

5) The presentation of the course - Hats off to Oakmont's membership for maintaining the course in a fashion that truly illustrates the genius of the architecture. It must be one of the most consistently firm and fast courses anywhere, let alone for a course that sits entirely on western Pennsylvania clay. True, the rough is a bit long for many golfers, and I think the course would present an amazing challenge even without the rough, but this is nitpicking!

6) The history associated with the course - How many courses can boast of Hogan, Nicklaus, Armour, Miller, etc. as major winners? True, this is as much a function the the many opportunities to host the Open as anything else, but it sends chills up and down the spine of any mortal golfer, to walk in the footsteps of such greatness.

What I don't love about Oakmont:

Nothing. :)

Here are links to the series of threads (thanks to Ryan Farrow for digging them up, and thanks again for Ryan for providing so many photos that wonderfully illustrate the course - he's the hero of the series, imho):

Week 1: The long par 4 1st

Week 2: The short par 4 2nd

Week 3: Hole 3 & The Church Pews

Week 4 - The long par 5 4th and the Pews again!

Week 5 - The par 4 5th

Weekl 6 - The par 3 6th

Week 7 - The par 4 7th

Week 8 - the looooong par 3 8th

Week 9 - the par 4/5 9th

Week 10 - the wonderful par 4 10th

Week 11 - the par 4 11th

Week 12 - the utterly amazing par 5 12th!

Week 13 - The (not as uphill as I thought) vexing par 3 13th

Week 14 - the shortish par 4 14th

Week 15 - the brutish par 4 15th

Week 16 - The par 3 16th

Week 17 - the short par 17th and Big Mouth!

Week 18 - Home at last at the par 4 18th
« Last Edit: April 19, 2010, 10:48:55 AM by George Pazin »
Big drivers and hot balls are the product of golf course design that rewards the hit one far then hit one high strategy.  Shinny showed everyone how to take care of this whole technology dilemma. - Pat Brockwell, 6/24/04

Phil McDade

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2007, 12:20:56 PM »
George:

Again, kudos for this series as thoughts turn to June and the US Open. Among the many things I learned were two concerns that popped up:

-- Weather conducive to fast and firm, and the kind of strategic playing and thinking that we saw on Sunday at Augusta. The tree-cutting and openness to the course make it seemingly ideal for a F/F Open set-up; I hope it's windy as well as dry.

-- Adjacent fairway corridors being used as shortcuts for a few holes.

Great work!




RJ_Daley

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2007, 12:27:56 PM »
Thanks George for the concise review of the course.  I've bookmarked this so I can link to it and review the holes more so when the tournament commences.  
No actual golf rounds were ruined or delayed, nor golf rules broken, in the taking of any photographs that may be displayed by the above forum user.

Garland Bayley

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2007, 12:35:28 PM »
That's it. I dropped my USGA membership last year so I won't be getting the US Open brochure. So what! I put this thread in my notifications and I will be able to find it come US Open time.

For my interests, this thread and its links are far superior to any USGA publication!

I will continue to learn more about the course when I see how it plays during the open. It is hard to add further comment without having been there.
"I enjoy a course where the challenges are contained WITHIN it, and recovery is part of the game  not a course where the challenge is to stay ON it." Jeff Warne

David Stamm

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2007, 12:39:00 PM »
George, thank you so much for the work you put into this. I will be referring to this for the Open.
"The object of golf architecture is to give an intelligent purpose to the striking of a golf ball."- Max Behr

Mike Nuzzo

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2007, 12:42:44 PM »
That was a great show george, I am more looking forward to the US Open, thank you.

I visited once a few years ago and did have a chance to walk the course.
I thought it was superb.
The fairways were outstanding and worked great with the land.
The greens were awsome.
The bunkering looked great and I thought was pretty quirky how the forms were built up to make them visible.

I also happend to visit a very fine course that weekend where everything looked very nice and all the land forms flowed together especially the bunkers, but it had manufactured appearance to me.  Those two courses juxt a position really had a big impact on my ideals as I was way closer to Oakmont than the other.

Fast forward a couple of years ... I was roughing in a bunker complex - and while studying the land forms I thought of Oakmont.  It looked a little propped up from the back.

I couldn't leave it like that, so I spent a lot of time making the back of the bunker look like the surrounds - whenever the shaper and I walk by, in case he forgot, I point out my shaping work...  it is funnier in person - as he's shaped just about the entire course.

I think I've shifted a tiny, tiny bit since that day at Oakmont, not in my like for the course - but that I didn't think some of the details would make for the best course.

That story is to illustrate my one small new criticism - that if I were given the same property to build a new course today the bunkers might not be of the exact same style - they might point in more directions and I'd try to make them a little more natural - from the back.

Can't wait, thank you George.

Have you played there?

Thinking of Bob, Rihc, Bill, George, Neil & Tiger.

Bill_McBride

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2007, 03:49:55 PM »
George, as I suggested last time we met, it would be great if these threads could be consolidated into one and included in the "In My Opinion" section.  It is a series worthy of study in the future without having to search for 18 individual threads.  Great job and thanks for your hard work, I know this was a labor of love.

Jim Franklin

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2007, 03:58:13 PM »
George, fantastic job of hole review and your summary was spot on. Oakmont is the best championship test in this country IMHO and I can't wait until the Open. Actually, I can't wait to play it again.
Mr Hurricane

tlavin

Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2007, 04:00:51 PM »
It strikes me as a perfect venue for a US Open.  It has a terrific routing, great variety of holes, multiple hazards in play, spectacular greens and tradition/history.  What's not to like?  Nuffin...

Here's hoping its firm and fast...

John Foley

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2007, 04:56:07 PM »

3) The amazing utilization of seemingly typical landforms - As I have noted on this site many times, the land at Oakmont doesn't seem different from the rest of the millions of acres of land in western PA, yet there is only one Oakmont. I simply marvel at the usage of the landforms, whether it's large hills such as the one used by holes 1, 9, 10 & 11, or small ravines such as the one crossing in front of the 5th green.

George - first of all great work, that was just fantastic work.

I love your analysis highlighted. Here is Western NY I often think about the vast millions of acres of Farmland and wonder how many great courses are out there. Even around Oak Hill, w/in a 3 mile radius you've got 3 other great courses by Ross, yet none hold up as well.

It really says something about jusy how key that routing on that property delivers the best result.

Great Job!!
« Last Edit: April 10, 2007, 05:05:44 PM by john_foley »
Integrity in the moment of choice

Guy Phelan

Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2007, 09:41:35 PM »
George, as I suggested last time we met, it would be great if these threads could be consolidated into one and included in the "In My Opinion" section.  It is a series worthy of study in the future without having to search for 18 individual threads.  Great job and thanks for your hard work, I know this was a labor of love.

George,

Fabulous job! I have read this as it came to be and have enjoyed the series. As one who has played Oakmont numerous times, I can thoroughly relate and look forward to the US Open and looking back! Thank you!

Geoffrey Childs

Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2007, 09:49:02 PM »
As others have said - Kudos George

I hope we can use these 18 threads for discussion of how the course plays in June.

I hope the weather cooperates for firm and fast conditions and I hope the cool season so far allows rough that is not too penal to prevent risk taking to try to hit those green complexes.

Mark_Fine

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2007, 09:59:24 PM »
George,
I also want to congratulate you on some outstanding posts.  I read a number of them and wish I had time to participate in more.  I love Oakmont and will actually be out there this week to play it again.  It is a hectic trip or I'd find time to try to catch up with you.  I'll be out there again before the Open for sure.  

I expect it will be a great tournament.  It will need to be firm and fast to play at its best and if so, it will be a real terror for the pros.  They will be exhausted at the end of each round.
Mark

Matt_Ward

Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2007, 10:22:53 PM »
George:

Great itemization of all the holes.

I have personally been at each Men's Open since '73. The course has evolved so far beyond what I originally encountered over 30 years ago. The deforestation has been a major ingredient in desmonstrating conclusively how a clear focus can be so critical in bringing back to life the very qualities originally intended -- the folks at Augusta should visit this year's Open site to see firsthand what I and others believe to be true.

Oakmont is one of personal top five courses I have played in the USA. It is a layout that has crowned the elite of the game in some of the biggest events ever played -- save for Sam Parks. ;D

I can only hope that trend will continue and if I might add in closing I am praying the USGA will use the 296-yd marks for the 17th hole in order to create some real tension duringthe final round.

Phil McDade

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2007, 11:29:50 PM »
Matt:

If -- maybe a big if -- Oakmont is fast and firm, is 296 yds at 17 the ultimate go/no-go distance for those playing the Open? Do you think it will prompt the kind of strategic thinking (outcomes aside) that we saw on 13 and 15 at Augusta on Sunday?

One of the things that made Sunday at Augusta interesting to watch was how those two holes -- given their position in the round (back nine, somewhat late, but with some tough holes to play) -- yielded varying approaches tactically. Do you think 17 comes too late in the round for golfers to really risk going at it, given what comes next and last (a very tough finisher)? Is eagle really possible there at that distance? I, too, agree with your earlier observation that 2-iron/wedge time and again will be a pretty boring way to (nearly) conclude the round.

Ryan Farrow

Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2007, 12:36:13 AM »
Phil, Firm & Fast is not a big 'if' at all. It has been going on at Oakmont for how many years now? I think I said this before, the only way Oakmont will play soft is if we get a week of steady rain, prior to, and during the tournament. I could probably count the number of heavy rains in Pittsburgh on one hand in the last 2 summers.

Phil McDade

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2007, 09:40:24 AM »
Ryan:

You know way more about this course than me, but -- can it really play F/F with a week's worth of rain? I actually spent a good deal of my life living in both Cleveland and State College, PA, and I recall not infrequent summer showers in June in each place.

Matt_Ward

Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2007, 10:33:10 AM »
Phil:

The 17th is the only real opportunity to birdie on the last few holes at Oakmont. There is also the possibility that an eagle can be had with a bit of luck and a good deal more of skill.

At the same time -- the best players in the world are not chumps (for the most part) -- they won't "go for it" unless there is roughly a 50/50 shot at getting some sort of reward.

Frankly, the USGA can be quite inventive with the tee locations and avoid just planting the markers from a set distance and leave it at that. The USGA has done this with par-3 holes in the past (e.g. 4th at Baltusrol / Lower, to name just one example).

No doubt whether people decide to give it a try at the green will depend upon where they find themselves at that point in time. Going safe will likely be the option for quite a few because they don't have the wherewithal to execute the tee shot required to pull it off.

We shall certainly see.

Ryan:

Just an FYI on the weather -- I remember the '83 event like it was yesterday. Play was held over to Monday and it simply was a SOAKING RAIN for the bulk of the weekend play. I can only hope your prediction will fall upon the right ears.

Doug Braunsdorf

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #18 on: April 11, 2007, 10:35:47 AM »
George-

  Firstly, thanks for posting this.  It was, and is, a great resource on the holes which make up Oakmont.  Personally, I didn't know a lot about it; I know it's one of the top five in PA, I have heard it's difficult beyond belief, but I didn't have much of an idea past this.  I can now see the greatness of the course, and it provides a look into the course that a lot of us don't have the resources at the time to see first-hand.  So, well done!  
"Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction."

Ryan Farrow

Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2007, 02:07:55 PM »
Phil & Matt, I have no doubts about past rainfall in Pittsburgh, maybe itís all this global warming that is changing things. The last two summers I have been outside working just about every day and I can only remember a few occasions of steady rainfall. I think last summer was a little worse but there were still weeks of no rain followed by a day or two of heavy showers. The greens will hold up well and run fast no matter the weather but the firmness will suffer.

mike_malone

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2007, 02:16:22 PM »
 In Philadelphia, June would be the second best time to have f/f. Only the fall would be better. I think that was the main charm of the Masters this year and don't forget The Players. Let's see how much f/f all that money buys this year.
AKA Mayday

Jim_Kennedy

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2007, 07:49:18 PM »
George,
Thanks, this is what GCA.com is all about.

"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon

Jim_Kennedy

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #22 on: April 11, 2007, 07:51:04 PM »
..or should be.   :o
"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon

Gordon Oneil

Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2007, 12:19:00 AM »
George,
Thanks, this is what GCA.com is all about.



Couldn't possibly sum George's series on Oakmont more perfectly, or succintly.
The thread is what GCA is all about, what a golf course is all about, a golf club, a golf experience, golf history...
If anything, I think Oakmont is underrated, and has a bad rap as well, for being too difficult, IMHO.

George Pazin

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Re:Summary thoughts on Oakmont - please add yours
« Reply #24 on: April 12, 2007, 10:48:17 AM »
Thanks, everyone, for the kind words. As I have said to many people, I'm far from the most qualified person to discuss Oakmont on here, I'm just the only one with the time to do so!

The main reason I thought up the series was simply something entertaining and hopefully illuminating to get us foul-weather folks through the winter - having the oppurtunity to show Huck why Oakmont trounced Pebble in the latest GD rankings was merely the icing on the cake. :)

I will try to flesh out the above thoughts for an Opinion piece, as several have suggested. In the meantime, I suggest bookmarking this thread for later reference.

Also, I did forget one thing I wanted to include in my summary:

The 7th thing I love about Oakmont: The irony! - Here is a course that was designed to be penal from the start. There's the famous quote from Mr. Fownes about a shot lost irrevocably, the stories about following golfers and putting bunkers in where their mishits went, and so on. In the realm of golf course architecture, penal courses seem to be considered non-thinkers' courses in the extreme. And yet, I would sincerely doubt there are many, if any, courses in the world that place such a premium on thoughtful play. I think there is much to be learned from Oakmont, even if, as Mike suggests, the lessons don't always translate perfectly.
Big drivers and hot balls are the product of golf course design that rewards the hit one far then hit one high strategy.  Shinny showed everyone how to take care of this whole technology dilemma. - Pat Brockwell, 6/24/04

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