Erin Hills, the Milwaukee-area course that opened to acclaim in 2006 and will be the site of the 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship, is being sold to a local business executive who plans to operate the daily-fee facility as a walking-only course.
Andrew Ziegler, co-founder and CEO of institutional investment firm Artisan Partners Limited Partnership, could assume ownership of the course by Oct. 26. Ziegler is buying the course individually from Robert Lang, who developed the layout as its original owner. Lang will continue his ties with the course through a 10-year consulting deal. The purchase price was not announced. Ziegler told Golfweek it was “a private transaction.”
Ziegler, 52, is a former corporate attorney in Milwaukee who works in global equities management. A member of the Milwaukee Country Club, Ziegler said he “bought Erin Hills because I’m very interested in golf and because the golf course is wonderful and important to this area.”
Day-to-day operations of Erin Hills will be left to Kent Instefjord, the current director of golf, and to superintendent Zach Reineking. Ziegler will chair a reconstituted board of directors that will include Jim Reinhart, a former vice president of the U.S. Golf Association who was a minority partner of the golf course with Lang.
Before the acquisition, Ziegler had what he termed “a lot of discussion with the USGA.” At times, those meetings included USGA officials Jim Vernon, president; David Fay, executive director; Mike Davis, senior director of rules and competition; and Jim Hyler, chairman, championship committee. The discussions enabled both parties to familiarize themselves with the other and ensured an orderly transition as Erin Hills prepares for the 2011 U.S. Amateur. A formal proposal to hold the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills also is being considered by the USGA, though no decision or assurances have been granted with respect to that bid, Davis said.
Erin Hills occupies a 650-acre tract of kettle moraine 40 miles northwest of downtown Milwaukee. The architect team of Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry designed the links-inspired course with significant input by golf writer Ron Whitten. Erin Hills was the host course for the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and is ranked No. 6 on Golfweek’s Best You Can Play List for Wisconsin.
In the past year, the course underwent modification that reworked three greens, tweaked numerous fairway contours and added more than a dozen bunkers. According to Hurdzan, more renovations are planned for this fall, with a handful of bunkers slated for removal. Moreover, the par-5 10th hole will be shortened to a long par 4; that will entail removal of a blind, fallaway Biarritz green and its replacement by a new putting surface closer to the tee on a knoll.
Plans also call for Erin Hills to get a fully enclosed, modern maintenance facility. As part of Ziegler’s commitment to upgrading the conditioning of the golf course, Ziegler said that Erin Hills would be operated on a “walking-only” basis starting in 2010. Unlike most modern courses, Erin Hills was not outfitted with paved cart paths. By encouraging walking (through a caddie program and by allowing players to carry their own golf bags), course officials will be able to minimize the impact of cart traffic and allow the fescue turfgrass to flourish.
– Gene Yasuda contributed