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.
Henry Clay Fownes is born in Pittsburgh. He later starts an iron manufacturing company with his brother, W.C. Fownes.
Carnegie Steel buys their company, making them rich.
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.
Oct. 1, 1904
The first and only Henry Fownes design opens — as a par 80!
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.”
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is built, bisecting the course.
Herbert Warren Wind, writing in The New Yorker, calls the course “an ugly old brute,” touching off a tree-planting blitz to beautify it.
Hewing to Henry Fownes’s original design, the club goes full Lorax, getting rid of about 7,000 trees over a 25-year span.
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.