In the weeks leading up to this week’s U.S. Open, Jacobsen, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, had a chance to visit David Delsandro, Director of U.S. Open Operations & Projects and John Zimmers, Superintendent of Oakmont Country Club.
Much has been said about the famed course over the years and its unrivalled reputation as being tournament ready every day of the year. Lee Trevino perhaps put it best when he said, “There’s only one course in the country where you could step out right now – right now – and play the U.S. Open, and that’s Oakmont.”
“When you say things like tournament ready or championship ready, these are the expectations of Oakmont Country Club and what we strive to provide our members every day,” said Zimmers.
“Of course, those expectations bring a certain level of stress,” adds Delsandro. “But we embrace that pressure, and, although we really don’t maintain the course that differently for the U.S. Open, we strive to not grip the bat too hard or overthrow. We focus on what we normally do and let our body of work show for itself.”
See Delsandro and Zimmers talk about preparing for the 2016 US Open in this brief video.
What the team ‘normally’ does is nothing short of incredible – consistently providing green speeds over 13 and 14 feet – in addition to maintaining 210 bunkers and keeping 300 acres looking picture-perfect every day.
“Ultimately, it goes back to what course designer Henry Fownes originally wanted: a very brutal test of golf, but fair. And I think that’s really how you describe the U.S. Open, you want the players to grind, and the best player will get the trophy.”
Even the famed church pews get special attention at Oakmont. “We make sure the church pews look good year round,” said Zimmers. “It’s not unusual to get people in the dead of winter who really want to see them.”
Zimmers and his crew have been using Jacobsen PGM 22 walking greens mowers since he arrived in 1999.
“Part of the history, the culture here at Oakmont has always been about firm and fast greens,” said Zimmers. “Our greens are a very unique poa annua grass that we found are best maintained with a Jacobsen PGM 22 outfitted with a 19” reel on a 22” roller. I’ve been doing this for years now and we’ve tried other mowers, other technology and we always come back to this mower. It cuts better, you get a better green speed, better quality-of-cut, better performance, better turf health and it’s just undoubtedly, hands down the best mowers for Oakmont’s greens.”
“We actually recently renewed our fleet of greens mowers, and local Jacobsen dealer Krigger & Co. came in and replicated the identical setup of our mowers, which have been dialed in so precisely for our needs,” said Delsandro.
Jacobsen was also able to fulfill a very specific need for Oakmont with its newly released HR700™ 14-foot wide-area rotary mower.
“The new HR700 rotary enables us to meet the USGA specifications for rough mowing, added Delsandro. “With this mower, we can mow over a four-inch height-of-cut and get a more uniform, denser stand of rough.”
For Zimmers, one of the most rewarding things about working at Oakmont is seeing his team come together and realize how much they have accomplished.
“Right now, we have a very special group of young men who are starting to see in these last few weeks the results of all their hard work and dedication, to appreciate what they did on a cold March morning,” said Zimmers. “And it’s very rewarding for me to see where these young men will be in a few years and how successful they will be.”
And what does Zimmers consider a successful U.S. Open?
“The ideal outcome for this U.S. Open is to have a great championship and a great champion for the world and our members. And, of course, we’d like to see a nice score around par.”