Halloween Day this past fall I was lucky enough to be able to test my game on the courses at Oakland Hills. The Oakland Hills South Course has been home to 6 US Opens, 3 PGA Championships, 2 US Amateurs, and notably the 2004 Ryder Cup Matches. Arguably the best work of Donald Ross, the South Course at Oakland Hills is about to undergo some minor renovations from the Gil Hanse team. I was very thankful for the opportunity to play before the renovations and see the old layout.
When I stepped onto the first tee at the South Course the skies were overcast, but we were fortunate, because we had the place to ourselves. Imagine, we’re playing the course ranked No. 20 in the 2019-2020 Golf Digest Rankings and all the famous accolades, and we are the only ones on the property?! Such an incredible feeling of awe to be in that moment. Staring off into the distance, on the Donald Ross design, the course looked immaculate. Each fairway is seemingly lined with strategically distanced bunkers from the tees, to test your accuracy and control. Each green complex undulating with incredible slope and break. The design is incredible, and it was easily one of the most impressive architectural layouts I have been able to play.
I honestly believe that Hole 6 on the South Course is one of the best holes I have ever been able to play (photo below). The look from the tee just appears so intimidating, with such a small landing area in the fairway and all bunkers and trees in play. You can imagine why pros have so much trouble on this course, with thick rough and tight fairways, accuracy isn’t optional here.
The same day we were lucky enough to go across the street and play the North Course, which is also a Donald Ross design. With the big brother South Course right next door, it’s hard to compete with, but the North Course more than holds its own. I truly believe that if the North Course didn’t sit next to the famous South Course then it would be one of the better courses in the state of Michigan. The North Course still has a lot of the same features as the South, with tight, bunker-lined fairways, and undulating greens that are heavily guarded. We heard in the clubhouse a lot of members play the North a little more than South because it just isn’t as hard, and more of a user-friendly experience.
The day spent at Oakland Hills was one to remember. Being able to spend the day playing one of the classic PGA courses and have the place to ourselves was unforgettable. I am very interested to get back one day and see the new layout from Gil Hanse and his team. If you ever get the opportunity, don’t hesitate, Oakland Hills is a must!