Rees-toration of Oakland Hills Update

Thanks to reader Noonan for this Jason Deegan story on the rees-storation of Oakland Hills, site of next year's PGA.

The $1.8 million renovation of the south course at Oakland Hills Country Club, famously dubbed “The Monster” by golf legend Ben Hogan after the 1951 U.S. Open, is nearing its completion.

Architect Rees Jones, hired by the Bloomfield Township club to protect par against the world's best players at the 2008 PGA Championship, has stretched the course more than 300 yards, repositioned fairway bunkers and narrowed fairways to fend off modern players who hit farther and more accurately than ever.

No, they just work out more than ever.

“This will be a significant story in the golf world for Oakland Hills to change,” said Ryan Cannon, the tournament director for the 2008 PGA Championship. “It is like being asked to improve upon the Mona Lisa.”

Well, let's just not say it's the first course to bastardize its architecture for a major championship event. Let's see, there was Oakland Hill in 19...oh.

The length of Oakland Hills ballooned to 7,446 yards from 7,099 yards with 15 new tees. At least 28 bunkers were repositioned or rebuilt and 14 more were added. Some fairway landing zones were shrunk to 22 yards wide. The par-5s at the No. 8 and No. 18 holes will play as par-4s for the tournament, giving the layout four par-4s of at least 490 yards. Only the par-3 third hole remains intact.

22 yards wide. Why not be the first uner 20?

Club officials worried about the course's integrity after seeing elite college players at the 2002 U.S. Amateur bomb tee shots over fairway bunkers and hit wedges to what used to be long, challenging par-4s.

“The members who have seen it so far are thrilled with it,” said Rick Bayliss Jr., Oakland Hills COO. “It is a major championship venue. Our resistance to scoring has always been the greens. With the lengthening, it is a knee-knocker now.”

The job was personal to Jones, who is based in Montclair, N.J. The storied career in golf architecture of his father, Robert Trent Jones Sr., was launched by his Oakland Hills remodeling work before the 1951 U.S. Open.

Ah here comes the quote to rub it in Bobby's face.

“This course meant the most to my father,” Jones said, and the chance to work on it was “the call I was waiting for my whole life,” he added.

“Oakland Hills is one of those wonderful rolling pieces of property where the holes fit like a glove,” said Jones, who has renovated seven U.S. Open courses and six PGA Championship sites. “When we made the changes, it was natural. If somebody blinked from 50 years ago to now, you wouldn't know we touched it.”

Jones said he tried to follow his father's blueprints. At the par-4 16th hole, the pond that has been the site of some of golf's historic moments was enlarged back toward the tee and tucked behind the green. The pond on the par-4 seventh also grew in size. A new tee can stretch the par-3 ninth to 257 yards if needed.

“I don't think it will ever be a monster again. These (pro golfers) are so good,” Jones said. “The game has changed. Oakland Hills is now right at the top of the list (of championship venues) with these advances.”

Well, for now anyway.