Looking Back: Backlash against golf course creation

Bridget Janis, Managing Editor

The Board of Trustees passed a proposal for Oakland University to develop a golf course, on June 4, 1998.

The course, R & S Golf Course, was causing a lot of disagreement among the community. While some people were excited for the new addition, a lot of people were unhappy with this decision.

The golf course blueprint was planned to be overlapping the research location in the campus woods used by the science classes.

OU Administration and the biology and physics departments were arguing over the environmental impacts and how much it would disturb the wildlife.

At the time, three professors’ research and about 350 students each year depended on the location planned for the golf course. Lynn Schaefer, then vice president for finance and administration, was aware of the impact the construction would have and worked to minimize any problems.

“There is ongoing public discussion with interest parties involved in this project,” Schaefer said. “We are working with various constituencies to improve nature trails throughout campus so one should expect greater access to natural area.”

Zach Love, a pre-med sophomore at the time, started a petition in his residence hall. Many people talked about how they thought education should come before sports. Before students signed the contract, Love made sure they understood the content.

“The people who signed this petition had heard about the golf course and weren’t happy about it,” Love said. “There wasn’t a single rejection.”

The Board of Trustees met later to approve a second golf course. Some felt the addition of the second course was not necessary. Upon meeting, they were greeted by over 200 community members who were unhappy with the golf course’s construction. There were multiple topics the committee needed to discuss, but the golf course was the main purpose of the meeting.

The Board of Trustees was trying to approve the OU Katke-Cousins Golf Course, and R & S Sharf Golf Course under the Land Use and Development Guidelines.

“If they make this land a golf course, they will lose money,” Jennifer Juszkiewicz, a biology sophomore, said then. “This is the specific reason I came to OU. I wanted to walk to my studies. My friends at U-M and MSU have to go off-site. That means they need a car.”

Stephan Sharf, a former trustee, believed a second golf course would be a great financial investment. Sharf and his wife donated $2 million from their life insurance policy to be put toward the golf course.

Due to students’ research projects being at the same location, OU and Sharf had the course designers reposition the 10th and 12th hole. This was OU trying to compromise between keeping the golf course and keeping students happy.

About 20,137 feet of nature trails were overlapping with the blueprints. OU’s plan was to work with the leftover 19,128 feet to create more informal and safe pathways, and generate a total of 30,031 feet of trails.

The golf course did end up being made, the designers made as many compromises as possible to please everyone.