Founded in 1897, the Country Club of Detroit had a course in play soon after its formation, thanks to the efforts of Bert Way, an English professional golfer – and former apprentice to Willie Dunn at Westward Ho! – who had emigrated to America the previous year to take up an appointment at Shinnecock Hills.
Harry Colt was commissioned to redesign the layout in 1912 and his partner Hugh Alison would return during his nine-year American stay to make further improvements in the late 1920s. Robert Trent Jones Sr. carried out a renovation in the early 1950s and Keith Foster rebuilt the bunkers in 2005 before Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design firm rebuilt all the greens in 2012, returning the course to its Colt/Alison roots.
The club has hosted the US Amateur twice. The first time was in 1915, with Robert A. Gardner winning for the second time, and the other occasion was in 1954, when Arnold Palmer claimed the Havemeyer Trophy after a narrow one-hole victory in the final. The course is also often used for an annual pro-am event called the Turning Point Invitational which raises money for Detroit schools.
Tom Doak commented as follows in his January 2020 newsletter:
“When Brian Slawnik did our greens renovation here a few years back, we worked around the existing bunker scheme, but the club finally decided they didn’t need every green surrounded by bunkers, and asked us to take a few more out!”
Terrific course and club that makes the most of a pretty flat property. The green complexes are the standout on this course. There are so many subtle breaks on these greens which forces the player to put a lot of thought into the placement of their approach shots in order to score. While the greens and bunkering are the standouts, there are a few holes that have excellent fairway bunker that rewards aggressive lines off of the tee to setup a favorable angle into the green (especially the 9th). The best stretches on the course are the closing stretches for both 9's with holes 7,8, & 9 standing out as the best sequence of holes on the course.
The Colt/Alison partnership made their mark mostly in the UK and a number of classics in Japan. When it comes to the United States, their success is much more limited, with Milwaukee CC and Kirtland CC being the stars in their American portfolio. I was really looking forward to my experience at the Country Club of Detroit, especially with greens reconstruction by Tom Doak in 2010.
I did enjoy the reachable par 5 9th hole which plays uphill to the clubhouse with impressive cross-bunkering. The routing is enjoyable despite the many straight holes, and a number of the green-sites are raised which allows for beautiful bunkering, especially on the par 3s.