With eye on future majors, Oakland Hills' South Course closes Oct. 1 for massive upgrades
Details are starting to emerge about the upcoming massive renovation to historic Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township.
Members of the club voted this week to start the renovation of the famous South Course on Oct. 1, and also approved the installation of a high-tech PrecisionAire system, which will improve and maintain the quality of the course's greens.
The South Course will be closed from Oct. 1 into the 2021 golf season, as Oakland Hills works to improve the 103-year-old facility in hopes of landing future major golf championships. The North Course will remain open.
Oakland Hills has held numerous prestigious tournaments, including six U.S. Opens and a Ryder Cup, but it's hosted just one major in the last decade — the 2016 U.S. Amateur. Before that, it hosted the 2008 PGA Championship.
“We appreciate that the membership has approved all renovation plans for the South Course at Oakland Hills,” said Gil Hanse, founder of Pennsylvania-based Hanse Golf Course Design, which is in charge of the project. “We are now looking forward to beginning the project as we look to combine the best attributes of the original Donald Ross design, with the finest aspects of the course evolution that has occurred over the last 60-plus years. Our goal is to maximize the potential of this exceptional golfing landscape and this masterpiece of a golf course.”
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The main part of the renovation project for the South Course, which Ben Hogan famously nicknamed "The Monster" after winning the 1951 U.S. Open, is the greens. All 18 of them will be rebuilt, and fitted with PrecisionAire, which will allow groundskeepers to better dry, cool and heat the greens, depending on conditions. Drainage also will be improved, as will the green surfaces. The greens' traditional undulations will remain, and several greens will be expanded, to allow for additional hole locations.
“The PrecisionAire system will help fulfill our vision for a consistently great day-to-day member experience on the renovated South Course,” club president Tom Stacy said. “This long-term investment received enthusiastic support from the membership, validating our commitment to our vision.
"Oakland Hills South Course will be the first course in Michigan to have this type of technology, which courses like the Merion Golf Club, Bel-Air Country Club and TPC Sawgrass have added in recent years.”
Additional renovations include improved bunker conditions, including configuring some to increase some risk-reward options. New irrigation systems and pumps also will be installed, in an effort to extend peak playing conditions in the spring and the fall.
The South Course also will extend its championship tees so the course can play more than 7,500 yards. It played just less than 7,400 at the 2008 PGA Championship.
Oakland Hills long has been angling for another major championship, but it became clear improvements to the course needed to happen for those tournaments to return.
Oakland Hills majors
Here are the major tournaments played at Oakland Hills:
►1922 Western Open (winner: Mike Brady)
►1924 U.S. Open (Cyril Walker)
►1937 U.S. Open (Ralph Guldahl)
►1951 U.S. Open (Ben Hogan)
►1961 U.S. Open (Gene Littler)
►1972 PGA Championship (Gary Player)
►1979 PGA Championship (David Graham)
►1981 U.S. Senior Open (Arnold Palmer)
►1985 U.S. Open (Andy North)
►1991 U.S. Senior Open (Jack Nicklaus)
►1996 U.S. Open (Steve Jones)
►2002 U.S. Amateur (Ricky Barnes)
►2004 Ryder Cup (Team Europe)
►2008 PGA Championship (Padraig Harrington)
►2016 U.S. Amateur (Curtis Luck)