Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

Oakland Hills begins $10 million makeover
By Jack Berry

Historic Oakland Hills Country Club will go into the new millennium with a $10 million interior.

The Birmingham, MI club closed after its New Year's Eve party and January will be spent moving furniture, fixtures and memorabilia and putting them in storage. Construction will begin in February and is expected to last 12-13 months.

"We hope to be back inside and running full bore by March 1, 2000," club manager Rick Bayliss said.

The interior of the building will be gutted and all of the wiring, plumbing, heating and cooling will be replaced as will the kitchens.

The majestic white-columned clubhouse, modeled after George Washington's Mount Vernon, opened in 1921 and cost $650,000. There have been a number of add-ons since and Bayliss said "with any large old building, as you begin to add on, your systems become add-ons also and just plain wear out.

"In effect, we're Roto-Rootering an 77-year-old structure," Bayliss said. "One of our primary objectives is to keep the integrity and historic value of the structure."

Oakland Hills members, faced for years with the problems inherent in an old structure, considered many remedies. One faction wanted to tear down the entire building and start over. However, the clubhouse is the most famous in Michigan golf and has been seen around the world as the club hosted six United States Opens, two PGA Championships, two United States Senior Opens, a Western Open and U.S. Women's Amateur.

And while $10 million is a bit more than the average remodeling job, the club can look forward to substantial revenue as it hosts the 2002 U.S. Amateur and the enormously profitable Ryder Cup in 2003 and the PGA Championship in 2008.

Bayliss said the club is working with Bloomfield Township officials to come up with a suitable temporary lukewarm facility for 1999. The golf shop and first tee areas will remain in full operation through the construction_they may be improved down the line and almost certainly before the Ryder Cup.

As for food service, Bayliss said "We're going to erect a tent and have a backyard barbecue all year."

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