Oakland Hills' South Course getting makeover, closing from 2019-21

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Sam Burns of Shreveport, La., putts on the 11th green with the Oakland Hills Country Club clubhouse in the background prior to the 2016 U.S. Amateur.

"The Monster" is getting a face-lift.

Oakland Hills Country Club's legendary South Course will close in the fall of 2019 through the spring of 2021 as it undergoes a massive renovation, officials at the private Bloomfield Township club announced Friday in a letter to membership.

Club officials said members gave their "overwhelming approval" for the project.

“This renovation will create a South Course that our members will enjoy for the next 100 years,” the club's president, Bill Royce, said in a statement announcing the renovations.

Padraig Harrington wins the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills as Sergio Garcia looks on.

Among the changes coming to the South Course, which Ben Hogan famously dubbed "The Monster" after winning the 1951 U.S. Open:

►The green complexes will be rebuilt, including expansion to allow for more pin placements, while maintaining the signature undulations.

►Some of the bunkers will be replaced by more risk-reward options.

►Championship tees will be extended to 7,500 yards.

►Green subsurfaces will be improved to allow for better draining and a new irrigation system will be installed.

Club officials say the modifications, to be paid for by increased membership dues as is standard at country clubs, will improve conditions so much that the golf season can be extended on both sides of the schedule, spring and fall.

No doubt, Oakland Hills also has its eyes on future major championships, too. Its last marquee event was the 2016 U.S. Amateur. It hasn't hosted a professional major since the PGA Championship in 2008, and didn't make the cut for any upcoming PGA Championships (schedule set through 2023) or U.S. Opens (through 2024).

Oakland Hills, designed by legendary architect Donald Ross, has hosted six U.S Opens, three PGA Championships, the 2004 Ryder Cup, two U.S. Senior Opens, two U.S. Amateurs and the U.S. Women's Amateur. The country club, whose membership includes several area dignitaries including Mr. Tiger Al Kaline, was founded in 1916, between Telegraph and Lahser roads, on both sides of West Maple.

Its list of champions includes the likes of Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Padraig Harrington.

Oakland Hills leadership pushed for an $11-million makeover in 2016, while in the process of bidding on another U.S. Open, but membership voted it down. That proposal had the course being modified to restore it to its original look, a links-style layout, which would've meant removing many trees. This proposal doesn't including removing trees

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were briefly partners during the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills.

The club has hired golf architect Gil Hanse to oversee this project. Hanse's credits include 19 original course designs, all over the globe, including The Olympic Golf Course in Brazil and Trump International Golf Club in Dubai.

“Gil Hanse’s design will keep the Oakland Hills South Course among the most revered golf venues in the world," said Steve Brady, head golf professional.

"We could not be more excited about the future of championship golf at Oakland Hills."

Previous renovations took place prior to the 1951 U.S. Open (architect Robert Trent Jones) and prior to the 2008 PGA (Rees Jones).

Oakland Hills' North Course will remain open for play during the South's renovation.