Oakland Hills shows off $12 million course restoration; hope is strong to land major championship

Oakland Hills 2021
Posted at 7:49 PM, Jun 25, 2021

Oakland Hills spent $12 million restoring its famed South Course.

After members waited since 2019 to play the historic track, they know now it will open July 1.

The big unknown: When will Oakland Hills land a major?

We take you inside the vast changes at the historic course in the video above.

"I think what Oakland Hills means to the golfing world is something really special," said Oakland Hills director of agronomy Phil Cuffare. "To put it back on top would be really impressive."

The course restoration, led by architect Gil Hanse, took 21 months. The plans called for the removal of approximately 150 trees and many bunkers, although they've added sand to other bunkers and extended the size of every green. The vision was to take the course back to the original plans of Donald Ross, while also taking necessary steps to handle the world's best golfers of today.

"We have new greens. The course is beautiful. It's stunning. It's emotional for me because I've been here so long," Oakland Hills head professional Steve Brady said. "We're excited about it for sure."

Hopes are high this project, funded by members, will deliver the club another opportunity to host a major. The US Open has dates booked through 2027. The PGA Championship has an opening in 2023, but the USGA seems like the probable partner here. Oakland Hills leadership and members haven't been shy about the desire to host the US Open again.

"We have a great relationship with the USGA. They're very well aware of what's going on here. They decided to host major championships at iconic venues, which we are," Brady added when asked directly about the conversations with the USGA. "It's a beautiful place. It'd be great for the state. It'd be great for southeast Michigan. It'd be fantastic for the club, so yeah, I'd love to have one here."

Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Ben Hogan all won at Oakland Hills. Nicklaus and Player have told WXYZ in recent years they believe the club deserves to host a major again soon.

"I grew up my whole life watching Oakland Hills on TV, and all the major championships. To be in charge of this is overwhelming," Cuffare said. He oversaw the team that led the physical makeover with Hanse's plans.

The USGA loves fast greens, and the ability for courses to control the moisture during tournament play. The $12 million plans had top-of-the-line technology installed in 19 greens, including the practice green, on the South course. Cuffare's team can cool and heat the greens.

"We can suck moisture out, blow air in, or we have the ability to heat and cool as needed," Cuffare said. "Virtually, the greens will always remain playable."

During a rain storm, they're confident they can have the course playable in tournament conditions. Walking the course with the Oakland Hills team during a consistent downpour, their confidence firmly held up.

Oakland Hills recently hosted the US Amateur in 2002 and 2016. They worked with the PGA of America, holding the 2008 PGA Championship and the 2004 Ryder Cup at the South Course. The last US Open at Oakland was in 1996.