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As Oakland Hills gets set for USGA events, new clubhouse takes shape

Portrait of Tony Paul Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Bloomfield Township — In the makeshift-but-still-very-nice members pavilion on the grounds of Oakland Hills Country Club, over in the southwest corner, there's a picture of the clubhouse to come.

Look beyond the rendering, through the windows, and you can start to see the clubhouse coming to life.

More than two years after a fire ripped through the stately and historic clubhouse, rendering it a total loss, officials from the club and the United States Golf Association pledged that they would rise from the ashes. And they're well under way, with the red steel frame constructed and the clubhouse on target to open sometime in 2026.

The News got a look at the construction progress during a media day Tuesday for the U.S. Junior Amateur, a USGA championship set to be played on Oakland Hills' North and South courses next month.

"You can see that the steel work is nearly complete and the frame of the building will provide a silhouette of the new clubhouse for all to see when they're here in July," Matt Dossey, general manager of Oakland Hills, told reporters Tuesday. "I've truly been amazed by the process to get where we are."

A look at the construction of the new clubhouse at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. The pavilion is located to the right.

Ground was broken on the new clubhouse in December, after months of insurance assessments, township approvals, and a final vote by the membership that approved plans set to cost around $100 million. That includes the new clubhouse and other significant upgrades to the property.

Of the approximately $100 million, nearly half will come from insurance, more than $40 million will be debt, and more than $15 million will be equity assessments. The membership approved the costs with 69% approval, with members of full status set to pay $60,000 or more.

The new clubhouse is set to be about 110,000 square feet. The old clubhouse, which hosted most of the best golfers ever, movers and shakers in Detroit, and even presidents from the time it was built in 1922, was about 90,000.

The old clubhouse was designed by famed architect C. Howard Crane, who also designed Detroit's Fox Theatre and the old Olympia Stadium. Dossey said Tuesday the goal of the new clubhouse is to uphold Crane's vision, while updating it with modern amenities.

"With a layout that will serve the club and our community for the next century," he said.

A look at the construction of the new clubhouse at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township.

The new clubhouse will have a two-level men's locker room, three kitchens, ballrooms, a bigger women's locker room, a cigar room, dining rooms, outdoor balconies, lounges, bars and more. There also will be significant infrastructure upgrades throughout the property, including an upgraded lifestyles building and maintenance facility.

A hall of history will showcase many club artifacts and championships trophies, most of which were salvaged by quick-acting firefighters and club staffers when the fire tore quickly through the old clubhouse Feb. 17, 2022.

There will be a new fitness facility, and, in the basement, golf bag storage space, culinary facilities, a caddie room and administrative offices. The parking lot, south of Maple and east of Telegraph, is getting an upgrade, too.

Construction crews were busy working on the site Tuesday, and that will mostly continue until the project is complete, but construction will cease during the U.S. Junior Amateur, July 22-27.

The U.S. Junior Amateur will be the first championship the club has hosted since the clubhouse fire. It was awarded the U.S. Junior Amateur and several other major championships, including two future U.S. Opens (2034 and 2051), shortly after the fire destroyed the old clubhouse. The club also will host the U.S. Women's Open in 2031 and 2042.

"In March of 2022, just one month after tragedy fell upon our club and membership, the USGA made the decision to stand beside us and announce the award for eight upcoming championships, national and international, to be hosted at Oakland Hills over the next three decades," Dossey said.

"What an incredible testament to our partnership."

The U.S. Junior Amateur also will be the first major championship to be contested at Oakland Hills since the massive restoration project of the famed South Course, or "The Monster," as Ben Hogan called it. Legendary golf-course architect Gil Hanse spent more than two years on the restoration, at a cost of more than $12 million to the club. Hanse's goal was to restore the course to the vision of original architect Donald Ross, which meant fewer trees, larger bunkers and expanding the already diabolical green complexes.

The South Course reopened in the summer of 2021, with Hanse touting how the tree removal allowed you to see the historic clubhouse from so many points all over the golf course. Seven months later, it went up in flames.

Oakland Hills has hosted 11 previous USGA championships, including six U.S. Opens, the first 100 years ago, when, in 1924, little-known Cyril Walker held off legend Bobby Jones by three strokes. The last USGA tournament at Oakland Hills was the 2016 U.S. Amateur, before the restoration.

The U.S. Junior Amateur is free for all fans, including parking, at Bloomfield Hills High School, where there will be a shuttle. There will be a field of 264 of the best juniors from all over the world, with 36 holes of stroke play scheduled for July 22-23 on the North and South courses, with the top 64 moving on to bracketed match play, all on the South Course, from July 24-27. The 36-hole championship match will be July 27.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

@tonypaul1984