EDMOND — So, the folks at Oak Tree decided the golf course needed an overhaul. New grass. Different irrigation. Bigger bunkers. More bunkers, too. Eleven months, $6 million dollars and one name change later, Oak Tree National has opened for business. Most people couldn’t care less. Only a couple hundred folks, after all, are members at the course, and while Oak Tree isn’t super-exclusive or ultra-expensive compared to some country clubs, one of its memberships still costs more than most of us could manage. But on the day that the renovated course formally re-opened, we learned that there is a reason to care about these renovations at Oak Tree. A major reason. "It is certainly our goal to attract major events out here again,” lead investor Ed Evans said Wednesday. "I think it’s unlikely that you would see a regular annual tour stop out here. We’re more focused on something that would be every two to three years out here.” That means major tournaments such as the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship. Suddenly, talk of reshaped bunkers and contoured greens doesn’t seem so boring. Oak Tree hosted the PGA Championship in 1988. At the time, many believed that would be the first of many major tournaments hosted by the Edmond course. But there has yet to be another PGA Tour major there. Evans and Co. are working to change that. "We are actively talking to all of the golf bodies on a regular basis,” he said, referring to the USGA, the PGA of America and the PGA Tour, "and I hope in the next 90 to 120 days, we’d be able to announce the start of what we believe will be a long-term commitment to pro golf here.” What that could mean is anyone’s guess. Men’s event? Women’s event? Senior event? But as Evans indicated, Oak Tree is interested in major events, not regular tour stops. Good thing. Tour stops are a crap shoot. Some draw great fields with notable golfers — Tiger, Phil, Sergio — but just as many are headlined by no-names. Majors carry no such uncertainty. You know exactly what you’re getting — the best. Sure, majors only come around every few years, but that isn’t such a bad deal, either. There was a time when the Oklahoma City metro area could’ve supported a regular tour stop. But with the economy the way it is and the NBA now in the fold, the landscape has changed. Corporations that might otherwise back a tour stop already have money tied up in the NBA’s Thunder. Ditto for fans with disposable income. But with a major tournament, the financial strain would be eased. Business owners and ticket buyers would be more likely to pony up once every five years, especially if someone such as the talented Mr. Woods was going to be in the field. Can Oak Tree really draw one of the PGA Tour majors? That’s difficult to say. Oak Tree hosted the Senior PGA Championship in 2006 to rave reviews. The PGA of America called the course one of the most successful venues on which it had staged a tournament. Such praise got the attention of the USGA and the PGA Tour. During the past year, representatives from all three of those big-time golf organizations have visited Oak Tree. Presumably, they weren’t there to try the steak or visit the pro shop. That the PGA Tour, the USGA and the PGA of America thought highly enough of Oak Tree to dispatch their people to Edmond during the renovation speaks volumes about the course. Now, will Oak Tree be deemed worthy for one of the big-boy majors, the U.S. Open or the PGA Championship? Will it be good enough? Will it be tough enough? In recent years, that has really come to mean one thing — will it be long enough? "I can build a golf course that’s 15,000 yards long, and I guarantee you it will be hard,” Oak Tree touring pro David Edwards said, chuckling. "But that doesn’t mean anything.” Norman-based golf architect Tripp Davis said: "It’s not very difficult to design a golf course that’s hard. It’s not really difficult to design a golf course that’s easy. But to design a golf course that is both fun to play and challenges you in the right way ... Pete Dye is the best at it there was.” The renowned golf course architect designed Oak Tree in 1976. "We just kind of took what he had done and put it back,” Davis said. That should give Oak Tree a fighting chance when it comes to luring a major. Before the renovations, the course just wasn’t demanding enough for PGA Tour pros. Now, if you hit a bad shot, you’ll be punished for it as much as you’ll be rewarded for hitting a good shot. Oak Tree is a tough but fair test of golf, and that’s the kind of course that lures big-time tournaments. By the way, if you’re scoring at home, Oak Tree recently received a new slope rating. That measures a course’s difficulty, and the maximum score that a tract can receive is 155.0. Oak Tree’s score: 155.0 "This is a course designed to host major championships,” Davis said. Renovations on a golf course that only a select few will be able play seems minor, but with the folks at Oak Tree talking like they are, this overhaul is different. It is major. Jenni Carlson: 405-475-3314, firstname.lastname@example.org. Carlson can be heard Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. on KEBC 1340-AM.
It’s not very difficult to design a golf course that’s hard. It’s not really difficult to design a golf course that’s easy. But to design a golf course that is both fun to play and challenges you in the right way ... Pete Dye is the best at it there was.”
Golf architect Tripp Davis
On the new Oak Tree National
On the new Oak Tree National