Bloomfield Township — A massive blaze Thursday ripped through the clubhouse at Oakland Hills Country Club, a historic golf facility that has hosted major golf championships and was positioned to host major tournaments in the coming decade.
The extent of damages wasn’t immediately known, but large flames engulfed most of the 110,000-square-foot clubhouse. The blaze was reported mid-morning and, by early afternoon, appeared to be contained.
There were no injuries, with a club official emailing members that “everyone got out OK.”
There had been recent construction on the clubhouse’s patio, members said.
The fire broke out Thursday morning, and dispatch quickly called for a bigger firefighting response.
The clubhouse is on the south side of Maple between Telegraph and Lahser. The Bloomfield Township Police Department said the road is closed and urged motorists to seek an alternate route.
Reaction to the blaze spread swiftly across social media.
Longtime Oakland Hills member Greg Kampe summed it up: “It’s hard to talk when you’re crying.”
Oakland County Executive David Coulter said he was thankful no one has been hurt.
“The devastating fire at the historic Oakland Hills Country Club today is such a tragic loss for the 100-year-old home to golfing greats from Sam Snead and Ben Hogan to Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer to Chi Chi Rodriguez and Tiger Woods,” Coulter tweeted Thursday, adding that he is hoping for “a speedy recovery and rebuild.”
The golf world started to send condolences on the loss:
“Today, the Golf Association of Michigan was saddened by the news of the clubhouse fire at Oakland Hills Country Club,” said Chris Whitten, executive director and president of the Golf Association of Michigan. “Oakland Hills is one of 14 original clubs that founded the GAM in 1919, so our relationship and history is significant. The club is a true supporter of the game at all levels, professional and amateur.
“The iconic clubhouse itself is a treasure and contains some of the most significant golf memorabilia anywhere in the world from historic championships and legendary competitors.
“Golfers everywhere, especially in Michigan, send our best wishes to Oakland Hills for a speedy and important restoration.”
And the United States Golf Association echoed that sentiment.
“Our thoughts are with our friends at Oakland Hills,” John Bodenhamer, chief championships officer for the USGA, which has hosted 10 majors at Oakland Hills, said in a statement to The News. “We have been in touch with their staff, and most importantly, are relieved to hear that no one was injured.
“Along with so many others in the golf community, we have special memories at this storied venue and look forward to making more in the coming years. We will support the club wherever possible in this rebuilding process.”
Oakland Hills Country Club has a long history
Oakland Hills, which has 36 holes including the most-famous South Course, opened in 1916, with the first rendition of the current clubhouse opening in 1922. There have been significant renovations to the white, stately clubhouse throughout the years, including the most-recent, in 1999, at a cost of $16.25 million.
It has hosted six U.S. Opens, three PGA championships and a Ryder Cup.
The club’s South Course recently underwent a significant restoration, at a cost of more than $12 million, in hopes of landing future big championships. The restoration, in part, removed dozens of trees, which allowed golfers to view the clubhouse from almost any point on the golf course.
The multi-story clubhouse features a pro shop, dining halls, locker rooms and many more amenities for the membership of about 750. Many of the members socialize there throughout the winter, and it was a popular venue for weddings and receptions.
The clubhouse also is a museum, of sorts, displaying photos and trophies from tournaments over the years. When you walk through the main doors of the clubhouse, you’re greeted by the trophy case, which displays replica trophies of tournaments won by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan.
The club recently was awarded two U.S. Women’s Opens, in 2031 and 2042. It also remains on the USGA’s short list to be awarded another U.S. Open, for the first time since 1996.
It last hosted a professional major in 2008, with the PGA Championship. It hosted the U.S. Amateur in 2016.
Oakland Hills’ South Course ranked 31st on Golf.com’s recent list of the nation’s top 100 golf courses.
Costs for members at the club include $8,400-plus per year in fees and dues, and there are food and beverage minimum charges of up to another $1,000 per year, according to membership documents. An initiation fee of $72,000 is due in some cases.