Pittsburgh is a sports town... all sports included!
When you think of Pittsburgh sports, you think of all the championships the city has celebrated: the Steelers’ Super Bowl triumphs, the Penguins’ hockey dominations, and, though it’s been a while, the Pirates’ five World Series championships. But Pittsburgh is a surprisingly vibrant golf city, despite the robust winters. Here are six reasons why golfers love Pittsburgh:
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The phenomenal hazards that are the ditches at Oakmont really stood out yesterday in the sunshine. Remember.... you don't need water to make a great hazard. Here's a few shots of 18, 12 (my favorite pic of the bunch), 7, 5, and 2. The more times I've been fortunate enough to play it the more I like it. In fact, I absolutely love it. I think the difficulty gets beat on so much that many people seem to forget that it's a highly playable golf course which is a ton of fun to play. It just so happens to be very challenging but it's not impossible as long as you have a decent game plan.... and if you told me that Oakmont was the best course in the world I would believe you! #oakmont #pittsburgh #golfcoursearchitecture #whyilovethisgame #snitchesgetditches
Oakmont Country Club, located just outside of Pittsburgh, is considered by many to be the quintessential US Open venue. Constructed in 1903 on a rolling patch of former farmland, Oakmont is one of the most beautiful and challenging golf courses in the country. Its mystique is forever linked to the nine legendary US Open battles it’s hosted, though it’s also been the venue of other majors, such as the US Women’s Open, US Amateur, and the PGA Championship.
One of the most famous rounds of golf of all-time occurred at Oakmont in 1973, as Johnny Miller fired an astounding final-round 63 to overtake Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and win his first major championship. The round is considered by many to be the greatest round ever played in the US Open, an argument made even more robust by the fact that only three other players broke 70 that day.
Oakmont is set to host its record 10th US Open in 2025.
As I mentioned in the introduction, Pittsburgh is an all-around great sports town. The Steelers have won six Super Bowls, including an epic run of four wins in six years from 1975-1980. The Penguins have hoisted the Stanley Cup five times, with back-to-back championship seasons in 1991-92 and 2016-17. Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux are two of the best scorers ever to play the game.
And, the glory days of Bill Mazeroski’s series-winning walk-off home run in 1960 and Roberto Clemente leading the 1971 Pirates to a championship are fondly remembered.
While Pittsburgh’s most famous course is private, there are many great public options for your average duffer. Quicksilver is a wonderful public course that’s played host to Senior and Nationwide Tour events. Mystic Rock is a gem from Pete Dye that can be incredibly hard from its championship tees, but offers a fun challenge from shorter tee boxes. And Olde Stonewall is consistently ranked in the nation’s top 50 public courses.
And that’s just a few examples of excellent courses from the dozens that surround the Pittsburgh area. You can play a different course each day for weeks and never get bored!
While your mental image of a classic Pittsburgh sports moment probably looks something like Jerome Bettis pounding through the Bears’ defensive line while snow pours down around him, the weather is actually quite golf-friendly. Brave as well as beginner golfers can be found on the links year-round as long as there’s not too much snow on the ground, and in general the extended summer months of March (average highs of 49 degrees) through October (average highs of 63 degrees) are temperate enough to play 18 holes most every day.
The Pittsburgh Courier was an African-American weekly newspaper published in Pittsburgh from 1907-1966. Robert Lee Vann served as publisher and editor from 1910 until his death in 1940. Vann was an avid golfer who advocated for people of color to be allowed onto the city’s great golf courses and encouraged black readers to take up the game.
In the 1930s, the paper exhaustively covered boxing champion Joe Louis, often noting his fondness for golf. This helped popularize the sport among its readers, and before long a traveling club of black golfers calling themselves the “Pittsburgh Duffers” began to integrate golf courses in Pittsburgh and beyond. It’s hard to imagine this happening without the encouragement of Vann and the Courier.
Pittsburgh can lay claim to several notable golfers. Jim Furyk, a US Open and Fedex Cup champion and the only player who’s ever broken 60 twice on the PGA Tour, was born and raised in the area, honing his game at several area courses under the tutelage of his golf-pro father and their push carts. Steve Wheatcroft is from nearby Indiana, PA and Rocco Mediate hails from the suburb of Greensburg.
But the most famous golfer of all is from Pittsburgh suburb Latrobe: Arnold Palmer. While he was always a fan favorite, he was especially loved by his hometown Pittsburgh crowds. He nearly won the 1962 US Open at Oakmont, losing in a playoff to Jack Nicklaus despite massive support from the gallery. Despite the loss, he remained hugely popular in Pittsburgh throughout his long golf career.