Oakland Hills ready to host major championships once again
The South Course underwent a redesign that took over a year and a half
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (WILX) - When you think of golf in the state of Michigan, Oakland Hills Country Club should certainly come to mind.
It’s one of the state’s most historic golf courses, having hosted 17 major tournaments.
It’s been a while since the famous south course garnered national attention, but after a massive redesign, Michigan’s most famous 18 holes are ready to once again challenge the world’s best golfers.
“I think that everyone in the world knows what we’ve done here at Oakland Hills,” said OHCC Head Pro Steve Brady. “I’d say it’s stunning.”
But not since Padraig Harrington won the 2008 PGA Championship has the course been the stage for the world’s best.
“The world deserves to see Oakland Hills back on top, hosting major championships,” said Head Greenskeeper Phil Cuffare.
The course closed for close to a year and a half while legendary course architect Gil Hanse and his partner Jim Wagner flipped it upside-down.
“We watched the transformation as it went on,” said Club President Mike Dietz. “Gil Hanse and his team were great, letting us come out, and he had changes that he wanted to make to the course, and the board had to approve them, so we were out quite a bit, just looking at different things, and seeing the progress. It was really interesting and neat to watch.”
Some of those changes included the removal of bunkers and trees.
To bring majors back to the south course, those involved in its transformation wanted to restore it to what it looked like nearly a hundred years ago.
“We like to say Donald Ross placed the bunkers, we just put them back. The scale of the property and how he went fitting the landform into the property, we just put back what was always there and that’s the fun part. It’s kind of like an archeological dig. The landforms were still there, they didn’t move, over time the bunkers were lost, we just re-instituted them.”
18 months is a long time to not be able to play your favorite course, but that wait was worth it for the members.
“They knew what the end product was going to be,” said Brady. “Now that they’ve had a few months to play it, they all love it. They love the walk, they love the views of the club house, they love the views of the golf course from the clubhouse, so every member is just ecstatic about the way it turned out.”
“From a golf course perspective, to see the golf course now, to see it the way it was, 100 years ago, and to see from the golf course, the clubhouse, the way it looked 100 years ago, I’d say it’s truly stunning, it’s emotional for everyone on the staff, the membership, and for everyone that supported the whole process, It’s a big deal.”
As part of the redesign of the South Course at Oakland Hills, the goal of Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner was simple: bring the course back to its roots.
Their reference point was a 1929 brochure for the women’s us amateur tournament that included a hole-by-hole guide.
“That program was instrumental in a couple of holes for sure,” said club professional Steve Brady. “It gave us a look back in history, what the course looked like back then, so that helped the whole team quite a bit.”
In addition to removing sand traps, the club took out about 150 trees.
“It’s a big deal,” said Brady, ”because over time, the last 50, 60, 70 years trees were planted where from the golf course, you couldn’t see the clubhouse and now it’s an awesome view once you get out on holes 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, even leaving on 10, it’s a beautiful clubhouse, so why not show it off?”
It became a lot of work for the club’s grounds crew.
Head Groundskeeper Phil Cuffare thinks it was all worth it.
“I don’t like to think of it as grueling, my job is passion and love for the game of golf, so it really wasn’t grueling. It was fun, it was special, and extremely satisfying.”
The members and future major tournament players will reap the benefits, including playing on greens treated with PrecisionAire units.
Designed to heat, cool, and remove moisture from the greens, the club can basically manipulate mother nature.
“We’ve had every type of weather from a cool spring where we’re heating the greens, to a miserable spring/summer with record amounts of rainfall and we’re pulling moisture out of the greens, to when it went hot and humid, and we’re air conditioning the greens, and to watch how the turf gets affected by that and the precision air system is quite remarkable, and it’s an extremely beneficial tool to have for a guy in my position.”
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