Thanks to reader Edward for sending the link to Gerry Dulac's definitive piece on the Oakmont tree removal program, which appeared around Nissan Open time and when I was preoccupied with that.
This is one you'll want to print out, assuming you are a member of a club debating tree removal. I know, a longshot, but just thought I'd put it out there.
The decision to remove trees, sometimes without the consent of the membership, led to one of the most contentious periods in club history, pitting members who liked shaded fairways against those who sought to restore Oakmont to its original design and, by doing so, improve the health of its turf.And...
But, with the U.S. Open looming four months away, most Oakmont members appear to have embraced the new look. Trees have been replaced with high fescue grasses that sway in the wind, creating a Scottish look.
"If it's not 100 percent, I don't know who is on the other side," said Oakmont golf professional Bob Ford. "There is no grumbling at all. Everybody is very upbeat about it."
But that look began to change in the 1960s when Mr. Brand took umbrage with a comment made by writer Herbert Warren Wind in The New Yorker magazine. Mr. Wind wrote that the U.S. Open was returning to Oakmont, and referred to the course as "that ugly, old brute."
"Well, I got to thinking, why can't it be a beautiful old brute," Mr. Brand was quoted as saying in "Oakmont 100 Years," a book detailing the club's history.
And so began a makeover in which Mr. Brand commissioned architect Robert Trent Jones to plant more than 3,500 trees -- pin oak, crab apple, flowering cherry, blue spruce -- around the property. It was known as the beautification of Oakmont, a program designed to enhance the appearance of the course but one that would ultimately lead to an unsettling era in the club's rich history.
It changed Oakmont from the links-style course that Mr. Fownes had embraced to a parkland-style course like New York's Winged Foot, site of last year's Open, and Merion, a legendary course near Philadelphia. It was a look that likely would have had Mr. Fownes spinning in his grave.
"They were beautiful trees," said Mr. Smith, who started the tree removals. "It went from a links-type course to a very pretty, shaded Western Pennsylvania-type of course. But it wasn't unique."