Oakmont Country Club: The Historic, Major Championship Golf Course

A view of the Church Pew bunker at Oakmont Country Club
The most famous feature at Oakmont is the daunting Church Pews bunker. Justin K. Aller/Getty Images for DC&P Championship

Oakmont Country Club, located near Pittsburgh, Pa., is one of the grand old golf courses of America, considered one of the best and most challenging in the world. The private Oakmont offers lush fairways tightly framed by punishing rough, and greens that are lightning fast with plenty of movement. Oakmont's membership is famous for relishing the difficulty of its golf course. And as befits a great and tough course, Oakmont's list of past champions is among the most impressive in the game (see below).

How difficult is Oakmont Country Club? In 2007, the USGA confirmed what had long been rumored: for the U.S. Open, Oakmont's greens have to be slowed down from the speeds members play them.

There is no water on the Oakmont Country Club layout, but nearly 200 bunkers, many of them deep, and 4- to 8-inch deep rough provide plenty in the way of hazards.

Most famous among the bunkers — one of the most famous hazards in golf — is the Church Pews bunker, which sits between the third and fourth fairways and can come into play for golfers on both holes. The bunker is so-called because its sandy expanse is broken up by a series of grassy berms that appear to some as rows of church pews.

Can You Play Oakmont Country Club?

Are you a member at Oakmont? Do you know any of the members at Oakmont? If you answered no and no, then you probably can't play there. Oakmont CC is a private club, open only to members and guests of members. However, if you belong to another private golf club, you can look into reciprocals.

Oakmont CC Architects

Oakmont Country Club's original design was courtesy of Henry C. Fownes, who founded the club in 1903. The course opened in 1904, and Fownes' son, William, an accomplished amateur golfer, continued tweaking the course's design for many years to come.

Several famous architects have done restoration and renovation work at Oakmont CC through the years, including Robert Trent Jones Sr., Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay and Arthur Hills. Tom Fazio handled the most recent major work, finished in 2006.

Yardages and Ratings at Oakmont CC

Oakmont Country Club is par-71* for men and par-75 for women (red tees rated for women). These yardages are for daily play.

  • Green tees — 7,255 yards, 77.5 rating/147 slope
  • Blue — 6,436 yards, 74/134
  • White — 6,221 yards, 72.4/130
  • Red — 5,629 yards, 75.6/136

The individual holes, their pars and yardages (related: photo tour of all Oakmont holes) from the Green tees:

  • No. 1 - par 4 - 482 yards
  • No. 2 - par 4 - 340
  • No. 3 - par 4 - 428
  • No. 4 - par 5 - 609
  • No. 5 - par 4 - 382
  • No. 6 - par 3 - 194
  • No. 7 - par 4 - 479
  • No. 8 - par 3 - 288
  • No. 9 - par 5 - 477
  • No. 10 - par 4 - 462
  • No. 11 - par 4 - 379
  • No. 12 - par 5 - 667
  • No. 13 - par 3 - 183
  • No. 14 - par 4 - 358
  • No. 15 - par 4 - 499
  • No. 16 - par 3 - 213
  • No. 17 - par 4 - 313
  • No. 18 - par 4 - 484

*The course is a par-70 during U.S. Open play. During the 2016 U.S. Open, the course was set up at 7,219 yards.

Significant Tournaments Played at Oakmont

Oakmont Country Club has been the site of more U.S. Opens than any other course, 2016 marking the ninth such occasion. These are the amateur and professional majors played at the course, and the winner of each:

  • 1919 U.S. Amateur: S. Davidson Herron
  • 1922 PGA Championship: Gene Sarazen
  • 1925 U.S. Amateur: Bobby Jones
  • 1927 U.S. Open: Tommy Armour
  • 1935 U.S. Open: Sam Parks Jr.
  • 1938 U.S. Amateur: William Turnesa
  • 1951 PGA Championship: Sam Snead
  • 1953 U.S. Open: Ben Hogan
  • 1962 U.S. Open: Jack Nicklaus
  • 1969 U.S. Amateur: Steve Melnyk
  • 1973 U.S. Open: Johnny Miller
  • 1978 PGA Championship: John Mahaffey
  • 1983 U.S. Open: Larry Nelson
  • 1992 U.S. Women's Open: Patty Sheehan
  • 1994 U.S. Open: Ernie Els
  • 2003 U.S. Amateur: Nick Flanagan
  • 2007 U.S. Open: Angel Cabrera
  • 2010 U.S. Women's Open: Paula Creamer
  • 2016 U.S. Open: Dustin Johnson

Oakmont CC will be the site of the U.S. Open again in 2025, at which time it will become the first golf course to host that tournament 10 times.

Oakmont Country Club Trivia

  • Williams Fownes, son of founder Henry C. Fownes, won the 1910 U.S. Amateur and captained the first U.S. Walker Cup team in 1922.
  • Henry Fownes founded the club after making his fortune in the steel business, and after selling out to Andrew Carnegie.
  • Oakmont has been the site of more U.S. Opens than any other course. Including other professional majors plus the U.S. Amateur, Oakmont has hosted more majors total than any other U.S. course. (Not including Augusta National, which is the permanent site of one of the majors.)
  • The invention of the Stimpmeter, the device used for measuring green speeds, was inspired by the Oakmont greens at the 1935 U.S. Open.
  • Jack Nicklaus defeated Arnold Palmer in a playoff to win the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont, Nicklaus' first professional victory.
  • Johnny Miller's closing round of 63 to win the 1973 U.S. Open is one of the iconic rounds in golf history. It was once voted the "greatest round of the 20th century." It is also the Oakmont course record.
  • Oakmont's treacherous greens run at around 14 on the Stimpmeter for member play, but are slowed down to a still-lightning-fast 13.5 or 13 for tournament play.

A Few Famous Quotes About Oakmont

  • “There's only one course in the country where you could step out right now — right now — and play the U.S. Open, and that's Oakmont.” — Lee Trevino
  • "When I mark my ball ... the coin even slides downhill." — Sam Snead, on how fast the greens are.
  • "It's probably the best course in the world. This is the greatest course I've ever played." — Johnny Miller
  • "You gotta sneak up on these holes. If you clamber and clank up on them, they're liable to turn around and bite you." — Sam Snead
  • "Courses are either fun, great or hard. There's nothing fun about Oakmont. There's nothing great about Oakmont. But it's extremely hard. It's probably the hardest course I've ever played." — Phil Mickelson

Biggest Change at Oakmont CC? Tree Removal

Two major changes over the decades to the golf course are aesthetic ones, and both involve trees. The original layout was mostly treeless, open to the wind. A "beautification program" in the 1960s led to the planting of thousands of trees along its holes, and Oakmont transformed into a more typical American parkland course.

Beginning around 1994, following Ernie Els' U.S. Open win that year, the club began removing trees, as much in the beginning to provide more sunlight to its turfgrasses as for any desire to return to the original aesthetic. But traditionalists at the club decided to go all-out and a massive tree-removal program began.

It was expected to be so controversial among club members that in the early stages most of the tree removals took place at night. Eventually around 5,000 trees were removed, and today Oakmont resembles its original self. Trees still line its perimeter, but the interior of the course is mostly treeless.