Course Review: Oakmont Country Club

When most people hear the name Oakmont Country Club, they immediately think of the famous major-host course in Western Pennsylvania. Some Northern Californians may even think of Oakmont Golf Club up in Santa Rosa.

However, Southern California has its own Oakmont Country Club, located in the hills of Glendale. It was established in 1922. It’s been around almost as long as most of LA County’s other classic clubs, but it doesn’t always get the attention it might deserve. You’ll certainly never hear it mentioned in the same breath as LACC, The Riviera or Bel-Air. Of course, these most famous local clubs are in rarified air.

The original course was designed by Max Behr. Brian Curley did a more recent renovation, and there was a major turf reduction that took place amidst the drought. They removed over 23 acres of grass with a pioneering charge to reduce water usage at the facility. When you look at the course now, you can easily imagine what it used to look like with wall-to-wall lush green grass coverage. At times, the desert-style waste areas feel a bit out of place and they will come into play quite often with a poor shot. However, they don’t take away too much aesthetically. It’s still a beautiful course in a great setting.

Beyond the turf reduction, you can definitely see how civilization has encroached upon the course in the past 95 years. There are some electrical towers and power lines that run through parts of the course. There is also a large cement drainage canal that cuts right through the middle of the course (just like the one at nearby Brookside). It comes into play on several holes when you need to hit right over it, so I imagine some drainage canal was there back in the day. Either way, it may look a bit ugly but it is nicely integrated to the course and it’s hard to imagine a few holes without it presenting an intimidating hazard to avoid.

The reason I got to play at Oakmont was because a friend of mine was celebrating his 1000th course played (a milestone I hope to hit myself as soon as next year). The SCGA got behind his quest and helped set up this special round at one of the few top-level local courses that he hadn’t played yet. I was lucky enough to be a part of his foursome. They treated us really well and even hosted us for lunch in the clubhouse.

We teed off a little after 8:00 ahead of a women’s member tournament. They never pushed us and we never caught up to anyone ahead, so we enjoyed our own nice pace of play.

The layout is fun and challenging. I played the white tees at 6,274 yards. The longest set here is the special John Goodman tees, that stretch out to over 7,000 yards (not named for the actor but for the golfer, who was the last amateur player to win the U.S. Open in 1933).

The white tees were more than enough for me as it’s not the length that will challenge you at Oakmont. This is more of a target course. There are some major doglegs in play and lots of tall trees that produce very uncomfortable tee angles if you want to play any sort of curve. When you add in the cement canal and those turf-reduced waste areas, it makes things feel even tighter off the tee. If you get safely on the fairway and are decently positioned, then you might have some scoring opportunities. The greens are pretty accessible as long as you avoid some deep bunkers.

The green designs aren’t too tricked out and most slope from back to front. You definitely want to try and avoid being above the hole here. The putting surfaces are slick and it’s hard to stop anything rolling downhill.

Perhaps the most memorable hole was the 15th, which really brings the drainage canal in play. If you are playing from the white tees or anything further back, you will hit across the ditch to the fairway that ultimately doglegs hard right. Overhanging trees, however, make it tough to play a cut shot like you might want to for the shape of the hole. If you get out to the corner, then you will hit back over the canal toward the green. This hole puts a real premium in positioning and execution on each shot.

The conditions were excellent on all levels. It was so nice to see something so nice and green here in Southern California. The tee boxes were great. The fairways have some kind of bermuda hybrid grass (I think). It’s not as lush a green color as the rough is, but it plays nicely. You get fair rollouts and you always have a nice fluffy pad of turf underneath the ball. The rough was thick, green and tough to play from. It was hard to just find the ball sometimes.

The bunkers were excellent and so were the greens. They were firm, yet receptive enough on well-struck approaches. Then, as I mentioned, they were rolling super smooth and lightning fast. Couldn’t ask for much better than these greens!

I haven’t actually played any of LA’s most historic and famous private clubs yet (invites are always welcome, though—hint, hint), so I don’t have much comparison for Oakmont. If this is one of the “lesser” clubs on that best of the best list, then I sure can’t wait to experience any of the others. Oakmont was a wonderful experience and I am grateful that I was able to enjoy it with some good friends. I would highly recommend it if you ever get a chance to play.

Some pictures from Oakmont Country Club (11/14/17):

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