The 2016 U.S.Open at Oakmont: A Guide to the Most Difficult Golf Tournament of the Year

Press Clippings: Today, Thursday 16 June 2016, the U.S. Open golf tournament starts. This year, it will be played for the 9th time at OAKMONT Country Club. From the press reviews and from the player’s perspective, this U.S. Open will be the toughest, most difficult test of golfing skills the players will face all year. It’s always supposed to be that way at the Open–it’s a tradition to play the tournament (which rotates every year to a different course in the U.S.) on courses that test every facet of a player’s game. At Oakmont, players will not only be tested on the physical component of their game, but on the mental component as well. You can play well at Oakmont, but if you don’t think well, you’re probably still going to post a high score in a sport in which the low score wins.  Asked for a prediction on what the winning score will be, Jordan Spieth, who won the U.S. Open last year (played at Chambers Bay), said above par was a possibility–1 to 5 strokes over par. Here are 4 of the unique hazards players will face at Oakmont, which is a course unlike any other.
No trees.

Oakmont has razed all the trees. Approximately 14,000 of them in over a a decade. That means that the sight lines that players typically used to line up their tee shots and other approach shots are missing. There are no trees to hit but also no trees to assist in getting into the right position for the next shot. The landscape is very barren and the membership is proud of it. Better have a very good, very precise course book. The lack of trees will make this U.S. Open very tough.
Drainage ditches.

Oakmont has drainage ditches that parallel the fairways of 10 holes on the course. These are ditches first and drainage channels second.  They are deep and planted with fescue grass. At one point in time they served to channel water off and away from the course but they are more of competitive speed brake now.  If a player lands a ball in one of these ditches, he’s in for a high score and a bad day, especially if he opts to try and play the ball out of the ditch versus just taking the one stroke penalty and getting on it. The drainage ditches are going to ruin more than a few rounds. They are unique to Oakmont and, as one writer put it, form a very individualistic form of non-water water hazard.
Hard, fast greens.

Players like soft greens. Soft greens means that approach shots stick and the surface is slower, so putts don’t over-run on missed shots. Not so at Oakmont. The greens at Oakmont have all the softness of a billiard table. They are hard, fast, quick. Two putting is a viable strategy. Miss on a downhill putt and the come-back putt can be much longer and much more difficult. The greens are so fast that putting uphill at Oakmount can be more treacherous than putting downhill at other courses. So, think of it this way: you hit a solid drive, right down the center of the fairway. Knock your approach shot to within 10 feet of the hole. And then, awaiting you, is one of the fastest greens in all of golf. There is no relief (do not be surprised if you see players praying for rain during this weekend, in hopes the course will soften up) at Oakmont. Solve one problem and another one or two come into view. Challenging to say the least.
The Church Pew Bunker

Oakmont has one of the most unique bunkers in all of golf: the “Church Pew Bunker”, located between the 3rd and 4th fairways. This is a large sand bunker with “turf islands” positioned inside the bunker. There are 12 of these turf islands and they are hazardous in more ways than one. The turf islands (pews) are approximately 3 feet high, two -to three feet from the edge of the bunker with approximately 4 to 6 feet of sand between each turf island. Sounds like a handful? It is. A very, very, difficult bunker that’s easy to get into and extremely difficult to get out of. And totally unique to Oakmont.
The U.S. Open begins today. Watch the coverage via the channels listed below:

For Thursday, 16 June 2016 (Coverage varies by channel)


10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET — FOX Sports 1

5 to 8 p.m. — FOX

Streaming (online)

7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

FOX Sports Go

10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

You can listen to the U.S. open via PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 93/208), on air from noon to 8PM

And don’t forget the coverage provided by the Golf Channel (“Live from the U.S. Open”)…they’ve got some terrific commentators (Nobilo, Chamblee, and Duval are very, very good) and lots of perspective on the event.

And, finally, a Clickpak of best articles, resources, and posts about the U.S. Open.

U.S. Open Leaderboard

Interactive Course Map

TV Coverage from SB  Nation

How to Watch the First Round of the U.S. Open

Fox coverage of U.S. Open

U.S.G.A. Official Site

Oakmont Sets the Standards for U.S. Open

Building a Pro style Short Game
A short course in the Stimpmeter
The Fine Print: Special thanks to the folks at Getty Images, who provided every single photo for this article. Darn, those are nice people. I wish everyone was that nice. Please check them out. 

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