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What - and Where - is the Church Pews Bunker?

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Church Pews Bunker - Oakmont Country Club

The Church Pews bunker: Be afraid ... be very afraid ...

Photo by Christopher Hunt; used with permission
Question: What - and Where - is the Church Pews Bunker?
Answer: "Church Pews" is the name of a large bunker at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. The "Church Pews bunker" is one of more famous golf course hazards in the world of golf.

The Church Pews bunker sits between the third and fourth fairways at Oakmont and comes into play on both holes.

It is so-called because of its notable configuration. A very large bunker, the Church Pews' sandy expanse is broken up by a series of ridges - rows of grassy berms running straight across. It looks like outdoor seating. Or another way of putting it: like rows of church pews.

According to the June 2007 issue of Golf Digest, the Church Pews bunker did not exist in the original Oakmont layout but was in existence by the 1935 U.S. Open, when it had seven "pews" and was only four inches deep.

The Church Pews was extended to eight berms in 1973, and today has 12 berms. It is around 3.5 to 4 feet deep, and the "pews" are covered in shaggy fescue. The Church Pews bunker is 102 yards long. Its width is tapered, 18 yards wide at its narrow end and 43 yards at its wider end.

Each of the "pews" is approximately three feet high, according to Golf magazine, and there is about five yards of sand between each berm.

Getting into the Church Pews bunker means having a hard time getting out. Often the only play is to go out sideways rather than trying to advance the ball forward.

A smaller version of the Church Pews exists on Oakmont's back nine, alongside the No. 15 fairway. It is sometimes call the mini-Church Pews.

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