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Phil McDade

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Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« on: June 06, 2016, 03:04:52 PM »
The U.S. Open is approaching, at the best course for hosting the nation's championship ;) , so maybe it's time for some GCA discussion on Oakmont.


I'm fond of short, gambling par 4s. Watching the U.S. Mid-Am a few years ago at Milwaukee CC, I was struck by the 9th there, a terrific little par 4 playing back to the clubhouse. Jack Nicklaus said Riveria's 10th was his favorite short par 4 that he's ever played, and Ben Crenshaw was particularly fond of Merion East's 10th. One of my personal favorites is Lawsonia's 8th, where the more dangerous route toward the green is obvious off the tee, and the more appropriate and better line is hidden.


Watching the flyovers the USGA has posted, I'm struck once again by how neat the 17th at Oakmont looks: http://www.usopen.com/en_US/course/hole.html?n=17


This is just great architecture:


-- A sharply uphill tee shot...
-- to a fairway that cants severely right-to-left...
-- toward all of the fairway bunkering -- deep things which the rough (per Davis of the USGA) will not inhibit poorly hit tee shots from finding...
-- with a green site angled sharply from front left to back right...
-- which means you want to hug the side of the fairway (left) where you are most likely to encounter trouble off the tee...
-- because it opens up the line of attack into the green...
-- yet those who play safely off the tee out to the right are left with a delicate pitch over some of the course's deepest bunkering, including Big Mouth, the deepest (and meanest?) bunker on the course...
-- to a green that plays more narrow, and thus the need for a much more precise shot into it, the safer you play off the tee...
-- and will play to a length of 317 yards, short enough for some to go for the green off the tee.


I also love how it's placed in the round -- a gambling hole amid a mean finishing stretch of 15-16-17-18, and a hole where your position on the leaderboard may determine how one attacks it.


What say you? How does the 17th rate among short par 4s in America? (For definition's sake, let's limit this to par 4s under 340 yds.)Maybe Ryan Farrow (still posting here!) can regale us with tales of fly-mowing Big Mouth.


I enjoy watching U.S. Opens at Oakmont more than almost any other course on the rota. My favorite hole to watch will be the 17th.








Joe Schackman

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2016, 03:28:57 PM »
This is slightly off-topic but I'm currently reading Chasing Greatness about the 1973 US Open and they talk about this hole a great deal.

Apparently before the tournament the club decided to push back the tee to prevent the pros from driving the green as they did in the '62 US Open. But from how I read it the tee was pushed back further not to put it out of reach of the pros but because it pinned the player back behind trees that basically eliminated that line of play. But I don't see any trees? Were they all removed or have I completely misunderstood the book?

Also Nickalus still drove the green in round 1! He may have done it another day but I'm not finished with the book and wasn't exactly alive in '73  :P .

Jim Nugent

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2016, 03:39:31 PM »
Watching on TV in 2007, #17 seemed to me too hard.  The green looked so small -- so narrow IIRC -- chances to hit it were tiny.  (And if you went for it and missed you were in jail.)  But hitting iron off the tee looked damn hard as well. 

I guess that describes Oakmont overall: damn hard.  Even so, in the final round in 2007, the average score on 17 of the top three players that year was 4.67.  I'd like to see more potential reward in such a short hole.   


Stephen Davis

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2016, 03:45:49 PM »
This is slightly off-topic but I'm currently reading Chasing Greatness about the 1973 US Open and they talk about this hole a great deal.

Apparently before the tournament the club decided to push back the tee to prevent the pros from driving the green as they did in the '62 US Open. But from how I read it the tee was pushed back further not to put it out of reach of the pros but because it pinned the player back behind trees that basically eliminated that line of play. But I don't see any trees? Were they all removed or have I completely misunderstood the book?

Also Nickalus still drove the green in round 1! He may have done it another day but I'm not finished with the book and wasn't exactly alive in '73  :P .


Yes. All trees on the interior of the golf course (and many, many trees on the periphery) were removed. If I recall, the only tree left on the course is by #3 tee.

Tom_Doak

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2016, 04:17:30 PM »
Seriously?


I love Oakmont but I think the 17th is about the worst hole on the course.  [That and the 8th.] 


I say so because to play toward the green you are driving blind over a ridge with no sense of where the green is.  And there's no way that  a difficult lay-up shot makes for a superlative hole.

Carl Nichols

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2016, 04:19:19 PM »
Watching on TV in 2007, #17 seemed to me too hard.  The green looked so small -- so narrow IIRC -- chances to hit it were tiny.  (And if you went for it and missed you were in jail.)  But hitting iron off the tee looked damn hard as well. 

I guess that describes Oakmont overall: damn hard.  Even so, in the final round in 2007, the average score on 17 of the top three players that year was 4.67.  I'd like to see more potential reward in such a short hole.   


That's a very small sample size.  According to the usopen website it played as the third easiest hole in 2007.

Jim Nugent

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2016, 04:26:33 PM »
Watching on TV in 2007, #17 seemed to me too hard.  The green looked so small -- so narrow IIRC -- chances to hit it were tiny.  (And if you went for it and missed you were in jail.)  But hitting iron off the tee looked damn hard as well. 

I guess that describes Oakmont overall: damn hard.  Even so, in the final round in 2007, the average score on 17 of the top three players that year was 4.67.  I'd like to see more potential reward in such a short hole.   


That's a very small sample size.  According to the usopen website it played as the third easiest hole in 2007.

What was the average overall?

Charles Lund

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Alex Miller

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2016, 04:34:07 PM »
Seriously?


I love Oakmont but I think the 17th is about the worst hole on the course.  [That and the 8th.] 


I say so because to play toward the green you are driving blind over a ridge with no sense of where the green is.  And there's no way that  a difficult lay-up shot makes for a superlative hole.


Interesting- I've only played Oakmont virtually but I'm surprised these are your two least favorite holes. They seem like interesting odd-length holes, but I totally understand the point about the blind drive for 17.


From my knowledge of the course, 11 and 14 always seemed weaker, but maybe I just buy into the idea of Oakmont being as much of a brute as possible. It really does a fantastic job being a great and difficult course.

Charles Lund

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2016, 04:50:06 PM »
In 1983, Tom Watson bogeyed 17 when he did not get it up and down from a bunker, contributing in part to Larry Nelson's win.

So the 17th looks like it played a part in the outcome of many of the Opens held there, when contenders bogeyed the hole at the end or in the case of the 1962 Open, Phil Rodgers made 8 on opening day and finished two strokes out of the playoff.

Charles Lund

Eric Hammerbacher

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2016, 05:06:38 PM »
Does anyone know if they also removed the trees to the right of the green?  I played Oakmont a few years ago and drove through the fairway on 17 and was blocked out by overhanging branches...I punched out into Big mouth, then went over the green into another bunker, etc.    Not how you're supposed to play it but oh well.  If they took out the big trees to the right you could probably lay up pin high, but would still have the worst angle over the bunkers.  Also I think it's OB back there as it's the back of the driving range.  Regardless of how I played it, I liked the hole but I'm not sure about the best short par 4 in America.  Either way, 8 and 17 will sure get a lot of attention in a few weeks.
"All it takes, in truth, for a golfer to attain his happiness is a fence rail to throw his coat on, and a target somewhere over the rise." -John Updike 1994

Phil McDade

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2016, 05:18:18 PM »
Seriously?


I love Oakmont but I think the 17th is about the worst hole on the course.  [That and the 8th.] 


I say so because to play toward the green you are driving blind over a ridge with no sense of where the green is.  And there's no way that  a difficult lay-up shot makes for a superlative hole.


Thanks Tom for your thoughts.


You've been there, and I haven't, but I'm curious:


-- I've played plenty of short-ish par 4s with a blind drive and no sight of the green. Haven't you built a few of those? Does that necessarily make for a bad hole? Wouldn't even a modest bit of review of the hole -- looking at a scorecard, even -- yield some basic information about the green's location from the tee? This isn't a resort or public course; it's one that has a serious golfing membership (one of the most serious in the country, from all reports) and historically hosts significant tournaments (with ample opportunity for practice rounds among competitors).


-- How hard, really, is a conservative play off the tee toward the right side of the fairway? I'm genuinely curious. It's a 317-yd hole; a shot of 200 yards -- an iron for many players, a mid-iron at most for the pros -- leaves a wedge/9-iron into the green. Sure it's a precise approach shot with all kinds of trouble for a slight miss -- a shot true to the character of the rest of the course, it seems.

Mike Bowen

Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2016, 05:52:23 PM »
I suspect the majority of the players will just bomb driver up near the green.  Better to be trying to get up and down for birdie than par.


I find it odd that the green favours a left to right tee shot.  Playing to the fairway off the tee seems to put you at a disadvantage. 

Carl Nichols

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2016, 07:01:00 PM »
Watching on TV in 2007, #17 seemed to me too hard.  The green looked so small -- so narrow IIRC -- chances to hit it were tiny.  (And if you went for it and missed you were in jail.)  But hitting iron off the tee looked damn hard as well. 

I guess that describes Oakmont overall: damn hard.  Even so, in the final round in 2007, the average score on 17 of the top three players that year was 4.67.  I'd like to see more potential reward in such a short hole.   


That's a very small sample size.  According to the usopen website it played as the third easiest hole in 2007.

What was the average overall?


4.07

Charles Lund

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2016, 07:03:10 PM »
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=V-xVENdWKUc

Gil Hanse on #17.

Charles Lund

Joe Bausch

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #15 on: June 06, 2016, 07:10:24 PM »
@jwbausch (for new photo albums)
The site for the Cobb's Creek project:
https://cobbscreek.org/
Nearly all Delaware Valley golf courses in photo albums: Bausch Collection

Brad Tufts

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #16 on: June 06, 2016, 08:24:00 PM »
I was fortunate to play Oakmont a few years ago, and I thought 17 was far from a pushover.  For my game, I found it awkward.  Because I hit it 250-260, the green wasn't an option from the tee for me.  The hill presents an issue, as you need to clear the slope to get a view of the green, which if I remember requires an uphill shot of 210-220.  To make sure you cover that ground, you need a strong club that brings an odd approach distance into play.  Then this approach must be hit over the big mouth with a poor angle that makes the green very shallow.


My guess is that most pros hit driver to avoid an awkward shallow angle from 50-75 yards.
So I jump ship in Hong Kong....

Eric Hammerbacher

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #17 on: June 06, 2016, 09:46:29 PM »
I was fortunate to play Oakmont a few years ago, and I thought 17 was far from a pushover.  For my game, I found it awkward.  Because I hit it 250-260, the green wasn't an option from the tee for me.  The hill presents an issue, as you need to clear the slope to get a view of the green, which if I remember requires an uphill shot of 210-220.  To make sure you cover that ground, you need a strong club that brings an odd approach distance into play.  Then this approach must be hit over the big mouth with a poor angle that makes the green very shallow.


My guess is that most pros hit driver to avoid an awkward shallow angle from 50-75 yards.

I agree Brad, I couldn't get driver there either and was so afraid of missing left that I bailed right.   Left is absolutely dead.   If you hit driver there is not a lot of room for error, and you're trying to hit a green you can't see from the tee.    The pros margin of error is so small they know they a mis-hit will still probably put them in the bunkers around the green.  I also think it gives people trouble because it comes after the other tough 16 holes...I know I was mentally drained towards the end of my round.  My caddie said the rakes would need to be re-gripped I hit into so many bunkers.
"All it takes, in truth, for a golfer to attain his happiness is a fence rail to throw his coat on, and a target somewhere over the rise." -John Updike 1994

RSantangelo

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #18 on: June 06, 2016, 10:27:17 PM »
I always appreciate the different opinions and perspectives on this site.  I quite enjoy 17 and have played it 4 times (3 different ways) and yet to find any to be a straightforward par.


The approach shot is so demanding that i really want to hit the approach with a 60 degree wedge which means a decently aggressive tee shot up the hiLl [size=78%]that makes it difficult to completely take the bunkers out of play....in oakmont fashion, you have to commit to a tee shot and execute fairly well...laying safely back and right is safer but the longer approach for me more than offsets the benefit of a safe tee shot for my game[/size]


If the rough is ok (pretty playable outside the ditches on my visits) the driver left and short where you have a safe pitch or bump and run up the mouth of the green worked out pretty well... The risk of a blow-up offset by a more straight forward 4 if you draw a decent lie...And I even had a decent putt for 3....this strategy merits special consideration if your partner finds the fairway


I personally really enjoy the hole but I can see how others might not....for my game, [/size][size=78%]there really is no safe Route for a gentlemens par which we tend to expect of a drivable par 4.....and I can see how that result in different opinions [/size]


[/size][size=78%]Overall, though, I quite look forward to it[/size]

mike_beene

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #19 on: June 06, 2016, 11:55:46 PM »
I have wanted to like this hole but to me it is just too uphill and blind. It seems like a how do we get up the hill and get a necessary hole in. It is the opposite in feel to the 10th at Merion.

Tim Gallant

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #20 on: June 07, 2016, 03:03:51 AM »
Seriously?


I love Oakmont but I think the 17th is about the worst hole on the course.  [That and the 8th.] 


I say so because to play toward the green you are driving blind over a ridge with no sense of where the green is.  And there's no way that  a difficult lay-up shot makes for a superlative hole.


If I imagine you talking about LACC North's 6th hole, you could use the same exact description, and yet, I fell in love with that hole. I haven't played another hole where a drive PAST the green could be the best play. Options a plenty, but essentially you play to a blind corridor / green, and are left with a delicate pitch to a shallow green (assuming you don't go for it in 1). No love here either?

Sam Kestin

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2016, 09:09:22 AM »
Definitely some home-cookin' bias but I'd vote for the 10th at Riviera.

Tom Birkert

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #22 on: June 07, 2016, 10:20:32 AM »
The best short par 4 in America is 10th at Riviera in my opinion (with a nod to the 1st at NGLA and 8th at Pine Valley).

17 at Oakmont doesn't have the same visual appeal as Riviera or NGLA. I prefer the strategic merits of Riviera's 10th and I think Pine Valley's 8th must be one of the hardest half wedges - downslope, small green etc.

I wonder if the USGA will move the tees up on 2 to make that driveable?

Tom_Doak

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #23 on: June 07, 2016, 10:21:07 AM »

If I imagine you talking about LACC North's 6th hole, you could use the same exact description, and yet, I fell in love with that hole. I haven't played another hole where a drive PAST the green could be the best play. Options a plenty, but essentially you play to a blind corridor / green, and are left with a delicate pitch to a shallow green (assuming you don't go for it in 1). No love here either?


Not much love there, either.


I don't hate these holes, but the opening post asked if the 17th at Oakmont was the best short par-4 in America.  There are two better ones at Pacific Dunes ... and neither of them is the best short par-4 in America, either.  There are lots of great short par-4's where you have a better idea of what to do, and more realistic options on how to play them.

Tom_Doak

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Re: Is the 17th at Oakmont the best short par 4 in America?
« Reply #24 on: June 07, 2016, 10:22:35 AM »
I wonder if the USGA will move the tees up on 2 to make that driveable?


Last time, it was #14 they shortened up.  I don't think it had a lot of impact on play, though.

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