Let The Oakmont Previews Begin...

oakmont2.jpgI rolled my eyes through E.M. Swift's excellent Golf Digest piece on the Oakmont members and their obsession with humiliating guests via greens stimping at 15 and other nonsense.  There really is more to the game than inflicting misery, isn't there?

Meanwhile Gerry Dulac looks at the club's tree removal for Golf World, building on his original Post-Gazette piece, and offering some fresh insights into the politics:

The decision to get rid of all the trees created one of the most contentious periods in club history, pitting members who liked shaded, tree-lined fairways against those who sought to restore Oakmont to its original design (and, by doing so, improve turf conditions). It didn't help that some of the trees were secretly removed without the consent of the membership. But with the U.S. Open returning for the first time in 13 years, most of the members have apparently embraced the new look, even if some are reluctant to say so publicly. Trees have been replaced with high fescue grass that sways in the wind, creating the Scottish look Fownes desired.

"If [the support is] not 100 percent, I don't know who is on the other side," says Ford, Oakmont's pro since 1979. "There is no grumbling at all. Everybody is very upbeat about it."

To be sure, the new-look Oakmont has received rave reviews from just about everyone in golf. What's more, the restoration, which began shortly after the club hosted the 1992 U.S. Women's Open, has helped restore some luster to the Oakmont tradition. Because of the changes, Oakmont has moved up to No. 5 on Golf Digest's America's 100 Greatest Courses, behind only Pine Valley, Shinnecock Hills, Augusta National and Cypress Point. Even the USGA is pleased with the new look, advising other clubs seeking to undergo similar restoration to form a committee and visit Oakmont.

Fast forward... 
Oakmont's decision to remove trees was not widely embraced, even outside the membership. Environmentalists wrote letters and e-mails, protesting the wide-ranging elimination and citing the ecological problems created by their loss. A local church even offered prayers, asking for the trees' survival. Internally, some club members threatened lawsuits, claiming trees were removed without their knowledge.