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60 Years Of Tee-rific Tradition!
In early 1955, some gentleman at Flint Golf Club began discussing the idea that there should be another private golf club in the Flint area since the demand for membership at the Flint Country Club was already greater than the facilities available. In late 1955/early 1956, a group of five gentleman met at Chuck Kelly's house in Flint to start the wheels in motion of building another private golf course and club. These five gentleman were Chuck Kelly, Homer Strahle, Bill Gregor, Ed Titus,Vic Ryden and attorney Bob MacDonald. Sixty-five stockholders, with an investment of $2500.00 each for a share of stock, became known as Warwick Realty. Warwick Realty was determined to attract as many members as possible to invest money in a golf course and development of land around such a course.
Various lands, parcels and existing golf courses were investigated. Vic Ryden approached Pete Sharp who was attempting to develop an area in Grand Blanc known as the Lenz farm; two houses were planned to be built on the north end of the property consisting of 320 acres.
Almost all of the sixty-five Warwick Realty stockholders, who had already invested $2500.00, purchased a lot for $300.00; this is how capital for this venture was developed. About the same time, they started selling memberships in the golf club for $1620.00 and most of the sixty-five stockholders bought a membership. Bud Aikman was the one who divided the property, which interesting to note, had not been plotted. It was then discovered that some individuals had chosen the same lot; so to be fair, a lottery was held to decide who received which property.
Next came the task of turning the "farm" into a playable golf course. James Gilmore Harrison, a golf course architect from Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, took on the job and within sixty days plans were laid out for the championship golf course now called Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club. Lauren Shook was hired as the Club Pro to oversee the building of the course, which started during the late summer of 1956. In June of 1957, the first foursome teed off on what is now the 10th hole. As Chuck Kelly remembers, "It may not have been one of the greatest courses, but, it was a golf course."
Clubhouse facilities were as sparse as some of the fairway grass that first spring. Included in the purchase of the property was a huge Tudor-type mansion stable. The mansion had been the home of Arnold Lenz, a Vice President of General Motors and General Manager of the Pontiac Motor Division. The basis of the old clubhouse was the Lenz mansion. The stable was remodeled to house the men's and women's locker rooms, the Pro Shop and the dining/entertaining area known as The Pine Room. Many of the events that originally started in the Pine Room are still included in the entertainment, social and golf schedules here today.
Unfortunately membership sales slowed down; as Chuck Kelly recalls, "We ran into difficulties." It was decided that something drastic had to be done so they contacted Waldo McKaught, who was the Public Relations Director at Buick. They told him the golf course was a community venture and thought he could influence some new members to join. Mr. McKaught was impressed and agreed to help. He built one of the first homes in the new subdivision. Waldo really did a good job, sending letters to prospective members and recruiting more than seventy new enthusiastic members. From then on, things began to happen. Waldo was elected to the Board of Directors and served as the first President of Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club for three years - 1957, 1958 and 1959.
During this time, Waldo, also known as the father of our Country Club, got the idea that Buick might be interested in sponsoring a PGA tournament at Warwick Hills. He approached Buick but they had no interest. However, they did say that Warwick could use the Buick name but we were not to approach any suppliers for advertisements in a program.
The PGA was looking for tournaments and tournament sites so a meeting was held with Dan Carter who was the Secretary of the PGA. In 1958, the first tournament was held at Warwick Hills. The purse was $52,000.00 at that time, the largest of any tournament in the country. Income was generated from sales of advertisements in a program and $1.00 per person admission. The idea was to make the tournament affordable to as many people as possible. Fortunately that strategy paid off as a lot of people came to see the PGA Professionals. The tournament was a success despite the negative publicity from the Detroit Free Press who reported that the tournament was being played in a "swamp near Flint".
During the tournament, Bruce Pollock remembers his apology to one of the PGA Professionals for the condition of the course. He was promptly told that for that kind of money, they would play right down Saginaw Street. Buick sponsored The Buick Open, which was hosted by Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club from 1959 to 1969.
After The Buick Open tournament in 1967 and into 1968, the course was completely rebuilt. Many of the holes were changed and tees were rebuilt, which were all originally flat on the ground. All this was accomplished for $180,000.00 which according to Joe Lee, our latest architect, would compare to about $1.5 million today.
The entire membership devoted many hours every year into making The Buick Open a success. Many other improvements were made which earned Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club the distinction of being one of the 100 greatest golf courses in the country.
In 1969 Buick cancelled the tournament at Warwick Hills. Without the revenue from The Buick Open and a low dues structure ($40.00 per month), it became apparent in 1971 that the Club needed to be "debt-free". A $2,000.00 assessment allowed Warwick Hills to pay off all indebtedness. In 1972, a major reorganization and a revision of the By-Laws made Warwick Hills a stock corporation. Each member was issued stock with a $3,500.00 guaranteed buy-back.
The burning of the first mortgage in 1972 was the result of the re-organization and was a proud moment for all members. Following this was a period of great growth; Golf memberships doubled and Recreational and Social memberships were introduced in 1976.
Click on the links below to learn more about Warwick Hills and The Buick Open History!
Remembering The Buick Open - My City Magazine