Major championship weeks can often highlight the best of the game while still having deleterious downstream effects. Think how Augusta National has influenced the American golfer to expect an impossible standard of maintenance at their home course. Now, according to Adam Schupak at Golfweek, the lowish(?) scores and widish(?) fairways at the Gil Hanse-restored LACC may have some Oakmont members grumbling about the work Hanse might do at their cherished U.S. Open venue, notorious for its brutality.

Oakmont’s members are equally notorious for demanding their course punish the best players in the world when it’s on display for a major championship. There are the usual boasts that they slow the greens down from regular play for a U.S. Open, and tales of membership angst when scores start to dip below par. Ahead of the 2007 U.S. Open, club President Bill Griffin was quoted as saying, “We like to see the best players in the world humbled by our golf course.” So it’s unsurprising that there are at least some members possibly concerned about one of the greatest living architects touching their course.

Last year, Andy broke the news at The Fried Egg that Oakmont had enlisted Hanse for a restoration project to push some of the greens out to their original sizes, rebuild and reconfigure bunkers back to their original intent, and address the issue of elite players playing down adjacent fairways, a trend that emerged at the 2021 U.S. Amateur.

Schupak’s report could be nothing more than some isolated, preliminary chatter from a small sect of the membership that made its way to the press. The mantra from the USGA setup folks at LACC was letting the course play as architect George Thomas intended. Oakmont may be one of the unique cases where restoring the course to its original intent also serves the purpose of punishing championship players to the fullest extent. Schupak’s article reminds of H.C. Fownes’s original plans to create a brute, and his son’s particular masochistic bent. The recent master plan for this restoration outlines this as well, stating, “Gil Hanse’s philosophy focuses on implementing H.C. Fownes’ original architectural intent while improving Member playability and maximizing difficulty for Championship golf.”

Perhaps it was just the mix of low self-expectations, great company, and excellent weather, but this mid-handicap chop attests to Oakmont’s playability for mere mortals. Expecting pain and discomfort, it was one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had on a golf course. The best designs do this, of course—challenge the best players while allowing the rest of us to actually play and enjoy its architectural brilliance. What the best designs do increasingly less, however, is protect the notion of “par” and defend against scoring that might bruise some club egos. Trying to combine the state of current equipment, the notion of the USGA protecting par, and club/course egos damaged by their venues being lit up is not tenable. It’s simply not. One has to give, and right now, it’s not the equipment.

PGA Tour golf has always felt like an entirely different product from the majors. But what’s increasingly clear is that all of pro golf, majors included, keeps getting further and further apart from every other kind of golf played on any of these great courses. We are operating with divergent species and trying to make it all work in one increasingly incongruous habitat. Almost all of these courses should focus on the game as it’s played by 99 percent of the world (Garrett Morrison’s postmortem on LACC is ringing in my ears as I type this.) Or give up any pride tied to par.

Oakmont’s nature, and its original intent being to kick some ass, may come the closest to combining playability while pushing the pros closer to par. Dustin Johnson won at four-under in 2016. The larger concern with Oakmont members reacting to this with a preference for narrow fairways is the copycat league approach that might follow from sites that can’t mix daily fun with the occasional strict professional test.

Hanse is obviously an extremely capable architect. He has done exemplary restoration work before, and should do so again at Oakmont. But a few low scores at LACC spooking a few members at Oakmont, two places that can balance both playability and punishment, cannot lead to a parade of point missers elsewhere. That domino effect would be disastrous.

This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.