The venerable Oakmont Country Club in western Pennsylvania has plans to undergo a historic renovation by Hanse Golf Course Design during the 2023 golf season.
Hanse’s proposal focuses on rebuilding and reconfiguring Oakmont’s bunkers to match the intentions of founding architect H.C. Fownes as well as expanding greens to their original sizes. The master plan document, obtained by The Fried Egg, summarizes the work as follows: “Gil Hanse’s philosophy focuses on implementing H.C. Fownes’ original architectural intent while improving Member playability and maximizing difficulty for Championship golf.” The plan does not call for the greens to be rebuilt but rather restored through expansion.
One other issue the project proposes to address is the availability of alternate routes of play down adjacent holes. Long-hitting players memorably took advantage of these options during the 2021 U.S. Amateur:
Players are getting creative at Oakmont this week at #USAmateur, taking as many as six alternate driving lines into adjacent fairways:
1 -> 9
3 -> 4
9 -> 1
10 -> 11
11 -> 10
14 -> 12 pic.twitter.com/k6R7HAc6BJ
— Brentley Romine (@BrentleyGC) August 13, 2021
The members refer to this as “cross-country golf,” and Hanse’s plan is characterized as “comprehensively” addressing this concern. For example, on holes 10 and 11, the document calls for the current “hook bunker” to be rebuilt and for another bunker complex to be added in order to deter the use of the adjacent hole.
Illustration: Cameron Hurdus
Oakmont has hosted nine U.S. Opens, more than any other course, in addition to three PGA Championships, two U.S. Women’s Opens, and five U.S. Amateurs. Last year, the USGA established the course as an “anchor site” and announced that it will be the venue for four U.S. Opens from 2025 to 2049, two U.S. Women’s Opens, a Walker Cup, and a U.S. Amateur.
While the renovation proposal was initiated by the club and not mandated by the USGA as a condition for future championships, the master plan speaks of creating a test that is “as, if not more difficult, for the U.S. Open.”
This enhanced test would come primarily from changes to the bunkers, which Hanse proposes to move in order to keep up with the increased driving distances of today’s top pros and amateurs. In addition to being relocated, Oakmont’s bunkers would be rebuilt to improve drainage and address years of degradation.
The project would run one calendar year, from spring of 2023 to spring of 2024. The club would remain open for play with some disruptions.
Oakmont would be the latest historic major-championship host to work with Hanse Golf Course Design. Other Hanse projects include The Country Club in Brookline, Southern Hills, Winged Foot, Baltusrol, Los Angeles Country Club, The Olympic Club, Aronimink, and Merion.