Tour & News

The Evolution of Oakmont: 9 Dates That Have Shaped U.S. Open History

Tour Confidential: Is Oakmont the Best Venue for the U.S. Open? 
SI's Michael Bamberger and Gary Van Sickle discuss the history at Oakmont and whether or not it's the best U.S. Open test. 

These are the nine most important dates in the evolution of Oakmont Country Club, which will host the U.S. Open for a record ninth time this week.

1856

Henry Clay Fownes is born in Pittsburgh. He later starts an iron manufacturing company with his brother, W.C. Fownes.

1896

Carnegie Steel buys their company, making them rich.

1903

Henry Fownes buys some 200 acres on a plateau overlooking the Allegheny River, and begins building a vast, links style golf course with a crew of 150 men and approximately two-dozen mule teams.

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Oakmont has hosted more U.S. Open tournaments than any other venue.

Oct. 1, 1904

The first and only Henry Fownes design opens -- as a par 80!

1910

Henry's son, also named W.C., wins the U.S. Amateur and later appoints himself a consultant on Oakmont, setting the tone for a series of refinements. His credo: "A shot poorly played should be a shot irrevocably lost. The charm of the game is in its difficulty."

Late 1940s

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is built, bisecting the course.

Photo:

At 288 yards, the 8th at Oakmont is the longest par three in U.S. Open history.

1962

Herbert Warren Wind, writing in The New Yorker, calls the course "an ugly old brute," touching off a tree-planting blitz to beautify it.

Mid-1990s

Hewing to Henry Fownes's original design, the club goes full Lorax, getting rid of about 7,000 trees over a 25-year span.

2007-2016

The club finishes what it started, getting rid of around 7,500 more trees. Result: Water usage is down 45 percent, and from the back porch of the clubhouse you can see almost the entire property, except the 16th green. Today, in addition to the trees around the clubhouse, there is just one tree left on the interior of the course, a lone elm near the third tee.

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