DETROIT – Oakland Hills Country Club, charging back from a February 17 fire that resulted in a total loss of its clubhouse, is the latest golf club the USGA has deemed a cathedral of the game and selected as a reoccurring host of its championships over the next three decades.
The famous Bloomfield Hills club, which has previously hosted 11 USGA championships, including six U.S. Opens, as well as three PGA Championships and the Ryder Cup Matches on its South Course, has been selected as the host site of the 2034 and 2051 U.S. Open Championships as well as four additional USGA championships, the USGA and the club announced Monday at the Detroit Athletic Club.
The 2051 U.S. Open, while 29 years out, is a bow to history and the most famous championship ever played in Michigan. The 2051 U.S. Open will mark 100 years since Ben Hogan won in 1951 at Oakland Hills and dubbed the famous South Course “The Monster.”
The announcement was made about five weeks after the fire that resulted in a total loss of the nearly 100-year-old Oakland Hills clubhouse, and it was presented at the same athletic club where an initial meeting of 47 individuals was held in 1916 to form Oakland Hills.
The club, which has two Donald Ross-designed courses (recently restored and famed host South Course and the North Course), has made it clear in recent years that it wished to host more U.S. Opens as part of the club’s original vision to be an integral part in the history of golf in the United States.
In January, Oakland Hills was announced as the host of two U.S. Women’s Open Championships in 2031 and 2042.
The lineup of championships the club will host follows:
“This is a great day for Oakland Hills, and for golf in Michigan,” Rick Palmer, the club’s current president said at the press conference. “We can’t wait to add to our storied history.”
Palmer said the club is forging ahead with a plan to build a replica clubhouse over the next three years, and that members are engaged in the process and excited to host the USGA championships on a regular basis. He also said the hosting of the championships is the result of six years of commitment by the membership, which included having architect Gil Hanse lead a $12 million restoration project on the South Course to make it a more viable U.S. Open host.
“Today’s announcement is a testament to the work of a lot of people,” he said. “I kind of feel like the offensive lineman that recovered a fumble in the end zone and the referee blew the whistle and its hey, we won the game. There are so many people that made this moment possible.”
Taking part in the announcement was John Bodenhamer, USGA chief championships officer. He called Oakland Hills an iconic venue.
“Since its first U.S. Open in 1924, Oakland Hills has provided a supreme test for the game’s very best, and it will continue to do for professionals and amateurs alike in the coming years,” he said.
Steve Brady, the head golf professional at Oakland Hills and a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, said the membership is over the moon regarding the news in the wake of the fire.
“This is what we do, it’s in our mission statement and the membership loves volunteering and hosting major championships,” he said. “The club will come back from fire, from everything. There will be a new clubhouse, better than ever, and we will host championships on our great golf courses. There are more important things going on in the world right now, but today, for this club, this community, for golf in Michigan, it’s a wonderful thing.”
Palmer reported that while the clubhouse was deemed a total loss, some of the historic items and memorabilia stored in the clubhouse, were saved. He said the basement vault where more items were kept has been accessed and more items were discovered. He said the club had digitized many of the historic photos and that they will be replicated for the rebuild.
“Some things were lost and we are still working toward a list of what we lost and what we can restore,” he said.
The USGA said the fire did not impact the USGA’s decisions in regard to the championships because those decisions had previously been made.
Chris Whitten, executive director of the GAM, called Tuesday a very special day.
“I was especially proud that the Golf Association of Michigan could be part of it,” he said. “Thanks to our friends at Oakland Hills and the USGA for your partnership. Congrats to all involved in this important process. Michigan golfers, get ready to watch championship golf at its very best!”
FRONT PAGE PHOTO: From left, Gil Hanse, South course restoration lead architect, John Bodenhamer, USGA chief championships officer, Rick Palmer, Oakland Hills Country Club president, Andy North, 1985 U.S. Open winner at Oakland Hills and a club member.