Named for a majestic oak tree on the fifth hole, Oak Tree National was built in 1974 on 640 acres of countryside. Club founders Ernie Vossler and Joe Walser asked architect Pete Dye to design one of the most challenging courses in the country. Dye, whose work includes Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run, Harbour Town, Crooked Stick, Long Cove, Casa de Campo and TPC Sawgrass, says Oak Tree is the finest inland course he’s ever designed.
Only three years after it opened, Golf Digest ranked Oak Tree among its top 100 courses in the U.S.
When the 1988 PGA Championship was contested at Oak Tree, the course had a USGA Course Rating of 76.9, which at the time was the highest in the country. Given its design and the ever-present Oklahoma winds, the course remains a stiff challenge to even the world’s best golfers.
Dye returned to Oak Tree in 2008 to perform revisions to the layout. At the time, a group of investors led by Ed Evans bought the club from Don Mathis, who helped lead Oak Tree out of bankruptcy in 1994.
The recent renovation included all new fairways, irrigation, teeing grounds, bunkers and practice facilities, along with minor alterations to the green complexes. All of this was done to restore the course back to Dye’s original design intention.
This will be the second USGA championship conducted at the club. In 1984, Scott Verplank, a standout at nearby Oklahoma State University, won the U.S. Amateur, defeating Sam Randolph in the final. Verplank’s college coach, Mike Holder, served as his caddie.
Jeff Sluman won the 1988 PGA at Oak Tree and Jay Haas claimed the 2006 Senior PGA Championship.
Oak Tree is the home club of several prominent professional players, including Verplank, 1986 PGA champion Bob Tway, whose son, Kevin, won the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur, 1977 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Willie Wood and Gil Morgan. Verplank turns 50 on the eve of the 2014 U.S. Senior Open and will be eligible to compete. Tway, Wood and Morgan all played in last year’s Senior Open.