Doak rebuilds greens at Detroit club


Sean Dudley

Architect Tom Doak is leading a project to rebuild all the greens and tees at the historic Country Club of Detroit. The course was originally designed by legendary British architects Harry Colt and Hugh Alison.

Unlike previous cosmetic renovations at the 98 year old club, Doak's assignment is to uproot all 18 greens and tees and recreate them from the bottom up.

“We had an agronomy issue with our greens, and that was our number one issue we had to solve,” said Mark Petzing, the club's general manager. “The more we looked at it and researched it we came to the decision to core out our greens and redo them. There was no other practical alternative.”

“We have an old Colt & Alison course and Doak understands period specific architecture and we wanted to make sure when we did this that we bring it up to today's standards but put it back so it looks and feels like a historic course,” Petzing said.

Doak said the new greens will be his interpretation of the style of the originals. He is not redoing bunkers except on a few holes where bunkers were either repetitive or had no strategic value. “Usually when I get into these clubs I'm trying to make them look like old greens but in this case we don't have perfect information to make it look like the old greens even if we wanted to,” he said.

“The difference between this work and building your own golf course, when you build your own golf course you build anything you like and you just have to find 300 or 400 people that like it,” Doak said. “Here you've already got the 400 people (members) and if you change it totally a lot of them aren't going to like it”

While the main assignment is remaking greens and tees, Doak is redesigning and rebuilding the seventeenth hole, a 472-yard par five which will grow by 50 yards. The green had been reworked in previous renovations “It was a really short par five you could reach with a six iron and they built the green up in the air and it fell off the back so it would be hard to hold. Completely out of character with the rest of the course and it was all because of the length,” he said.

“The eighteenth tee was just to the left of the old green. We decided to move the green back to the right and move the tee about 25 yards to the left. We kept the eighteenth about the same length but we gained about 50 yards for the seventeenth and now we're putting in a green that hopefully will be more in character with the other greens.”

Some 200 of several thousand trees will also be removed. The club is also allowing the turf on the fairways to die off during the summer months and new turf will be seeded with the greens and tees in September. Petzing said if the weather cooperates the course should be ready for play next June.