Gil Hanse is progressing with a renovation of the South course at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, ahead of a planned reopening in July 2021.
The club held a news conference on Monday to discuss updates of the $12 million renovation that began in autumn 2019.
“The clubhouse essentially is pretty much the same but off to the east there is a golf course that has changed dramatically,” said head professional Steve Brady. “If you look out there, you can envision 100 years ago what Donald Ross and the membership at the time might have had in mind. Rolling terrain, trying to put golf holes where they’d be strategically placed and be extremely playable for the membership and hopefully down the road host major championships.
“In the last 100 years, we’ve done both. We have members that love to play and have hosted many major championships. That’s kind of the plan going forward.”
The club’s goal is to get the course back to looking more like its original Donald Ross design, which opened in 1918. Hanse says that the club’s motivations also include making the course tougher for the best players in the world in the hopes of hosting a major tournament, while making it more playable for the members.
Hanse and his crew have already removed 137 trees and 40 bunkers – though there has been the addition of many new and larger bunkers. His work has also included the widening of fairways.
“It’s not like this golf course was broken or there was any serious need for altering it,” said Hanse. “But what we proposed to the membership was a master plan – about how this golf course could be improved, upgraded both from an infrastructure standpoint and also looking at the evolution of the game, especially in the last 15-20 years and how technology has altered the way the highest level of golfers are playing the golf course.”
When complete, Hanse will have extended the course from 7,445 yards to almost 7,900, although for tournament play it will be around the 7,500-7,600 mark.
The project has seen the installation of a PrecisionAire system, which allows the grounds crew to quickly drain the greens after heavy rain events as well as allowing them to raise or lower the temperature of the greens based on the weather.
“It’s about growing the game of golf and having southeast Michigan, or the Midwest, be able to view golf up front and not having to jump on a plane and go cross country,” said Brady. “In the Midwest this will probably be the place to be, I’d say.”