Firefighters battled a blaze Thursday morning at the famed Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan, where many of the best golfers in the world have played in the past century.
At about 10 a.m., flames licked the roof of the private clubhouse as black smoke billowed. The fire quickly spread, engulfing much of the wooden structure.
Eventually, the roof collapsed, with one fire official calling it “almost a total loss.”
For Michiganders, the devastation is significant.
Oakland Hills is more than a posh private club for summer fun. It represents the aspirations of generations of Michiganders. It holds a place among some of America’s greatest golf courses.
Golf Digest ranks it at No. 21.
It has been a gathering place for weddings and other grand events.
Several fire departments responded after the blaze broke out in the attic. The white clubhouse, which was completed in 1922, had been adorned with irreplaceable golf tournament memorabilia and art going back a century.
Much of it likely will be lost in the fire or badly damaged.
Firefighters used their water hoses and ladders to attack the flames and contain the fire. By noon were still on the scene. Early reports indicate, however, the fire has destroyed much of the central part of the storied clubhouse.
The clubhouse was modeled after Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation home in Fairfax County, Virginia. The damaged parts are where the main dining room and a ballroom that the club used for its grandest events had been.
No injuries were reported.
In addition to golf, the club offers tennis, swimming, heated paddle courts and fitness.
The club bills itself as a place for “family fun” with “innovative and traditional events, celebrations, and programs” that offer club members “a variety of opportunities to relax and enjoy themselves at their ‘home away from home’ throughout the seasons.”
Oakland Hills’ history
Oakland Hills Country Club was founded in 1916 by Joseph Mack and Norval Hawkins, two Ford executives, at a meeting of 47 friends and associates at the Detroit Athletic Club.
They decided there would be 140 charter memberships at a cost of $250 apiece.
Walter Hagen, an 11-time major winner, was the club’s first head professional.
The club now includes two 18-hole courses designed by Donald Ross, the South Course, which is older, and the North Course.
Last year, Oakland Hills spent almost two years and $12 million restoring its South Course, which golfer Ben Hogan gave the nickname, the Monster, when, in 1951, he won the U.S. Open.
He said: “I’m glad I brought this course — this monster — to its knees.”
The restoration was part of the club’s effort to host a U.S. Open as early as 2028.
When Ross, a famous course designer first visited the property, he told Mack, “The Lord intended this for a golf course.” In his commentaries on golf architecture, he said, “I rarely find a piece of property so well-suited for a golf course.”
Since then, the club has hosted to 14 golf majors or United States Golf Association championships, including six U.S. Opens, two U.S. Senior Opens, a U.S. Women’s Amateur, two U.S. Men’s Amateurs and three PGA Championships.
The club has also has hosted the 1922 Western Open, the 1964 Carling World Open, and the 35th Ryder Cup, in 2004.
In January, the club was awarded the U.S. Women’s Open in 2031 and 2042.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Historic Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan caught fire