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!”
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.
Interesting review -- both good and bad points. It would have been helpful if the reviewer explained why he does not like the work of RTJ Sr, but he leaves us to imagine that something is amiss with the course. The reviewer tells us the course is flat and unimpressive at one point and then later the routing is enjoyable. Not sure why the club chose to build on flat land, but perhaps that is all that is in the area and Colt/Allison did the best they could with the limited amount of terrain to play with. In addition, the reviewer first says "...the same flat visuals far too often with very similar bunkering throughout the property." and later says "... a number of the green-sites are raised which allows for beautiful bunkering,". I would assume it would be either boring bunkers or beautiful bunkers, but not both. I would like to play the course to determine the truth, but that is unlikely to happen.
Since my first response to this review two years ago, the reviewer has removed his comments regarding the bunkering, the relatively flat routing, and the Robert Trent Jones, Sr. renovation. Not sure anything has changed at the course in two years, but the review is much tamer than it was previously.