A desire to develop a comprehensive plan that will remain consistent for years to come, as well as a need to resolve a specific issue on the golf course, prompted Great Oaks Country Club, Rochester Hills, Michigan, to develop its first master plan in over two decades. The club’s board turned to Chris Wilczynski, ASGCA (C.W. Golf Architecture), to develop and implement that plan.
“We had not had a comprehensive master plan done since the late 1990’s, or a major course renovation since 2004,” noted Great Oaks President Mark Vrana. “As a board we thought it was best to develop a comprehensive plan so that all decisions made by the club are moving toward a desired outcome and vision, rather than preferences changing from year to year.”
Located Oakland County, the 18-hole championship layout at Great Oaks is a residential-style golf course, with homes lining most of its perimeter. Designed in the early 1970’s by Bill Newcomb, the course has encountered challenges with drainage and an overall “sense of place.” “The goal of the master plan is to improve the drainage and to provide a unification of the style and character of the golf course,” Wilczynski said. “It has lost its style over the years, so we want to pull those elements back together.”
“The course sits in a flood plain and with the continual development in the area surrounding the course, erosion and flooding have become regular issues,” Wilczynski added. “Drainage is an important part of the plan, but this is a family-oriented club, and we want to improve the overall experience. We want to keep the facility relevant and exciting and provide a course that is enjoyable by golfers of all skill levels.”
The Master Plan at Great Oaks CC also calls for the removal of several of the course’s trees and a lengthening and shortening of the golf course. “We want to maintain a consistent plan moving forward year after year,” said Great Oaks Superintendent, Don Knop. “We want to get everyone on the same page and the drainage issue has to be fixed first and foremost.”
“We have carefully studied the drainage systems and have recommended that sections of the existing creeks that run throughout the course be opened or daylighted”. Portions of the creeks run through underground pipes. “We know that we can control flooding and enhance the environment with the removal of the pipes and the opening of the creeks,” Wilczynski said. “This will be a big endeavor but will pay huge dividends as it will result in a course that is playable more days of the golfing season.”
“I am most excited for the potential to improve and resolve our water management issues, which is one of the biggest concerns we deal with as a club,” Vrana said. “Having consistent playing conditions, and improving the playability, interest and aesthetics of the course will enhance our position within the marketplace and allow Great Oaks to be one of the premier Clubs in Michigan.”