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U.S. Senior Open: How the 2008-09 renovations took Oak Tree National back to its roots

With input from Oak Tree pros Scott Verplank, Bob Tway, Willie Wood, plus club owner Everett Dobson and project shaper Bill “Hollywood” Willingham, Tripp Davis and Associates spent 10 months in 2008 and 2009 restoring the par-71 layout.
By Mike Baldwin Published: July 3, 2014
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photo - Fairway leading to the 7th green. Oak Tree National golf course in Edmond, site of the 2014 U.S. Senior Open,Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman
Fairway leading to the 7th green. Oak Tree National golf course in Edmond, site of the 2014 U.S. Senior Open,Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman

— For Corey Pavin, Oak Tree National will look a lot like it did in 1988 when Jeff Sluman won the PGA Championship.

For Jay Haas, who won the Senior PGA at Oak Tree eight years ago, the course will look different for the 2014 U.S. Senior Open (July 10-13).

With input from Oak Tree pros Scott Verplank, Bob Tway, Willie Wood, plus club owner Everett Dobson and project shaper Bill “Hollywood” Willingham, Tripp Davis and Associates spent 10 months in 2008 and 2009 restoring the par-71 layout.

“The intent was to take the course back to the way Scott and I and Bob remembered it back when they hosted the U.S. amateur in ’84,” Davis said. “That meant taking it back to smaller greens.

“What made Oak Tree very intimidating in the beginning was trying to hit shots into smaller greens, especially compared to today’s standards. With smaller greens it’s more difficult to get up-and-down to save par. Plus, you bring double-bogey into play on a lot of holes.”

The “Back to the Future” renovation project began when Davis, a former All-American at OU who played on the Sooners’ 1989 national championship team, spent extensive time with Verplank, Dobson and Willingham on No. 18, which will be No. 9 during the U.S. Senior Open when the front- and back-nine will flip-flop.

“Pete Dye courses can entice aggressive players to take chances but there are domino effects,” Davis said. “If you end up in that bunker it’s safer than hitting in the water, but it’s an extremely difficult bunker shot that can lead to bogeys.”

Nearly every change can be traced to Dye’s original design in the late 1970s.

A good example is No. 17, a 201-yard par 3. A wall that had been constructed in front of the green has been removed, replaced by the original giant beach bunker, one of 22 bunkers added during renovation.

“A consistent bunker style was the biggest change, but we also worked on every green,” Davis said. “Scott and I spent a lot of time on (No. 9) in particular to get it back to the way it was in ’84. Over the years that green became twice the size. It’s now small and narrow with little bitty shelves like it was originally.”

New bunkers also were added on a handful of fairways. Tway’s son, Kevin, who is on the PGA Tour, was used as a trial case for fairway bunkers on No. 1 in an attempt to prevent most players from blasting driver over the sand.

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