The history of The Olympic Club, site of the 2012 U.S. Open

By Shane Bacon | Blogger
Olympic Club is set to host its fifth U.S. Open this week. (Getty Images)

What: The Lakes Course at The Olympic Club

Where: San Francisco, California

Designers: Sam Whiting and Willie Watson

Length: 7,170 yards

Par: 70

Previous U.S. Opens:

1955 U.S. Open -- The Olympic Club is famous for the underdog winning the championship, and that started in 1955 when Jack Fleck famously beat Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff after both tied at 287. It was Fleck's only major championship win.

1966 U.S. Open -- The tradition continued in '66, when Billy Casper was able to take down the mighty Arnold Palmer in a playoff. It was Casper's second U.S. Open victory, and third and final major championship win.

1987 U.S. Open -- Scott Simpson defeated Tom Watson by one shot in regulation, making the streak of underdogs taking him the trophy at The Olympic Club a perfect three-for-three. Simpson would contend in another U.S. Open four years later, but fall to Payne Stewart in a playoff at Hazeltine National.

1998 U.S. Open -- Lee Janzen snagged his second U.S. Open win in six years with his triumph over Stewart, coming back from five shots down on Sunday to win his final major. Janzen's winning score at Olympic was even par, only the second time that decade that the winning score wasn't in red figures.

History of the club:

Our good friend Neil Sagabiel has the details on how The Olympic Club came to be.

Six months before Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th president of the United States, two German-born brothers, Arthur and Charles Nahl, and Ruben Lloyd formed what would become America's first athletic club. Students of the Turnverein, a German gymnastics program created by Friedrich Jahn, the Nahl brothers had built an exercise area in the backyard of their San Francisco home where young athletes gathered to work out.

In May 1860, they made it official and a name was chosen: The San Francisco Olympic Club, named for Mount Olympus in Greece, home to the first Olympic Games and its legendary Greek athletes. Arthur Nahl and two other men drew up a constitution and by-laws. Twenty-three men paid a $6 initiation fee and monthly dues of $2.50 to become charter members.

Three tidbits about the course:

1. The Olympic Club is one of those golf courses that can get really tough, really fast. Back in 1998, the 18th green caused some serious controversy in the second round when balls wouldn't stop rolling down the hill. The green has since been changed a few times, but if the USGA wants to make the greens nasty, this course definitely allows that.

2. The 8th hole at Olympic is brand new, a changed par-3 that will play 60 yards longer than it has in years past. The changes have forced the USGA to decide to tee off players on No.1 and No. 9, something unusual in previous championships.

3. The 16th hole will play 670 yards, the longest in U.S. Open history.

How the big names played the last time The Olympic Club held the U.S. Open:

Tiger Woods -- T-18

Phil Mickelson -- T-11

Lee Westwood -- T-8

Matt Kuchar -- T-15

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