Bloomfield Town A massive fire Thursday caused “extensive” damage to the Oakland Hills Country Club, according to Bloomfield Township Fire Chief John Leroy, complicating the future of an ornate and historic facility that once hosted major national golf tournaments.
Leroy said people at the club alerted firefighters to the smell of smoke at 9:17 a.m. Firefighters used thermal imaging cameras and drilled inspection holes in the ceiling to find flames in the attic. Leroy said it was hard to find the cause of the smell in such a large building. The club area is 110,000 square feet.
The sumptuous club was engulfed in the middle of the morning by a fire of astonishing size. The fire had lost some of its power by mid-afternoon, but by 6:20 p.m., it had grown again on the south end of the building, which is set to host more golf tournaments in the next decade.
“It’s a tough, tough day,” said Rick Palmer, president of the Oakland Hills Club. “It really is a devastating day for Oakland Hills, for the golf community, for our members, for our employees. There is so much history. But yes, no one was injured and everyone got off the premises.”
He described the rear of the building as “non-recoverable”.
Auckland Hills has a history dating back more than a century and is highly regarded in the golf industry.
The club is also a museum, of sorts, displaying photos, paintings, trophies, and other artifacts from the major leagues over the years. A trophy case near the front entrance displayed replicas of championship cups won by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan.
Both Palmer and LeRoy praised the firefighters for saving a large number of artifacts at the club.
“We had some mutual aid crews guiding where things were, because (the fire) was in the attic at the time,” Leroy said. “They were able to quickly get to locations they could get to, pull out those memorabilia and hand them to club members at the front door and back again.”
It is unclear how much damage was saved and how much damage was done to the club. Firefighters were using air stairs to spray the club’s roof, and much of the afternoon smoke billowed south for miles.
The multi-storey club houses a professional shop, dining rooms, changing rooms, banquet facilities, meeting rooms and many other amenities for a membership of about 750. Many members communicate there even when not playing golf, as throughout the winter it was a popular venue For weddings and receptions.
Pockets of active fire remained in the attic on both ends of the building, Leroy said during a press conference Thursday afternoon, adding that firefighters were only attacking the fire from the outside. He said he expected firefighters to continue fighting the blaze through Friday morning.
“We’re still pouring a massive amount of water on this,” he said. “At this point, we’re just going to have plenty of water available to get it out as best we can and as safely as possible.”
A fire official who gave an evening briefing said the building would likely need to be rebuilt.
It assisted more than six departments, including firefighters from Farmington Hills, Rochester Hills, Southfield and Franklin.
Determining the cause of the fire will take days, Leroy said.
Members said there had been recent construction in a courtyard. It is unclear if this is related to fire.
Clubhouse worth $2 million
The club is located on the south side of Maple between Telegraph and Lahser, and the building was valued at $1.179 million, or an estimated cash value of $2.36 million, according to government records. The Bloomfield Township Police Department closed that stretch of Maple and urged motorists to look for an alternative route.
Reaction to the fireIt spreads quickly through social media.
Longtime Oakland Hills member Greg Campy, coach of Oakland men’s basketball, summed it up: “It’s hard to talk when you cry.”
Oakland County Executive David Coulter said he was grateful that no one was infected.
“The devastating fire at the historic Oakland Hills Country Club today is a tragic loss for the 100-year-old home of golf greats from Sam Snead and Ben Hogan to Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer to Chi Chi Rodriguez and Tiger Woods,” Coulter said on Twitter Thursday, adding that he hopes for a “speedy recovery.” and rebuilding.”
The world of golf began to send condolences on the loss.
“Today, the Michigan Golf Association is saddened by the news of the club fire at the Oakland Hills Country Club,” said Chris Whitten, CEO and president of the Michigan Golf Association. “Auckland Hills is one of the original 14 clubs that founded the Greater Amman Municipality in 1919, so our relationship and history are important. The club is a true supporter of the game at all levels, both professional and amateur.
“The iconic club in itself is a treasure and contains some of the most important golf memorabilia anywhere in the world from historic championships and legendary competitors.
“Golfers everywhere, especially in Michigan, are sending our best wishes to Oakland Hills for a quick and important recovery.”
The United States Golf Association echoed the same sentiment.
“Our thoughts are with our friends in Auckland Hills,” John Bodenhammer, chief tournament officer for the USGA, which hosted 10 majors in Auckland Hills, said in a statement to The News. “We have reached out to their staff, and most importantly we are relieved to hear that no one was hurt.
“Together with many others in the golf community, we have special memories at this storied course, and we look forward to achieving more in the years to come. We will support the club wherever possible in this rebuilding process.”
Nicklaus, the legendary golfer who won the 1991 US Open in Auckland Hills, said, “The club is as much a part of the story as golf itself.”
Nicklaus told The News: “Oakland Hills is one of the famous golf clubs in America. In recent years I have been fortunate to visit Oakland Hills several times, and every opportunity to return to this club reminds me of their storied history and legacy. It is a sad day for membership, but also To the countless people, like me, who respect and appreciate Auckland Hills.
“They will be able to rebuild the club, but it will be difficult to replace the many memories lost today.”
The club has historical floors
Oakland Hills, which contains 36 holes including the most famous south course, opened in 1916, with the first showing of the current club opening in 1922. There have been major renovations to the lavish white colonnaded club over the years, including The most recent one was in 1999 at a cost of $16.25 million.
It has hosted six times in the United States, three PGA Championships and a Ryder Cup, among other major events.
The club’s south stadium recently underwent a major restoration, costing more than $12 million, with the hope of winning major trophies in the future. The restoration partially removed dozens of trees, allowing golfers to view the club from almost any point on the golf course. Members praised the views during last summer’s reopening and were mourning the views on Thursday.
Ron Dwyer of Troy was visiting his father who lives near the club and drove into Oakhills Drive on the club’s western border to get a closer look at the blazing fires.
“I grew up in the town across from the course and visited a few times, lunches, and tournaments like the Ryder Cup,” Dwyer said. “It’s a beautiful place, lots of history.”
club Recently awarded Opening two US rounds, in 2031 and 2042, by the USGA. She is also still on the USGA’s shortlist to be awarded the US Open again, for the first time since 1996.
It last hosted a professional major in 2008, with the PGA Championship. Hosted by American Amateurs in 2016.
South Oakland Hills was ranked 31st in Golf.com’s recent list of the 100 best golf courses in the country.
Club membership costs include upwards of $8,400 per year in fees and dues, and there is a minimum food and beverage fee of up to another $1,000 per year, according to membership documents. An initiation fee of $72,000 is due in some cases.
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