$4M Sharf clubhouse opens at Oakland University golf course

Photo by Dylan Duhlberg

In most instances, the weather waits for no one person or project. However, when it comes to the business of multimillionaire philanthropist and longtime friend of Oakland University, Stephan Sharf, the weather knows who calls the shots.

The Stephan Sharf clubhouse started development last October after five years of deliberation, designing and revising. Because of the mild winter Michigan experienced, the three-story building and surrounding grounds were completed on schedule.

The event of the season

“We left the weather up to Sharf and that’s always a good thing because he has very close connections,” Bill Rogers, OU’s golf and managing director, said.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony on June 22, wind and overcast skies threatened to keep everyone indoors, but Sharf would not allow it.

“We have to hold our hands up, so the storm will stop,” Sharf said while giving his speech before the ribbon-cutting. After his speech, not only did the ominous weather subside, but the temperature also dropped 13 degrees, cooling the crowd of 300 people.

Sharf and his partner, Patti Finnegan, donated $21 million last February — the largest donation Oakland has ever received from one donor. They also donated another $4 million for the creation of the clubhouse.

After speeches by Sharf, Rogers and Board of Trustees Chairperson Henry Baskin, Sharf guided his guests over to the front entrance where he cut the gold ribbon, helped Finnegan open the inaugural champagne and let everyone into the building. He then lead everyone through the golf store in the front of the building, to the very back section that houses the “Patti Finnegan Pub,” where he gave a ceremonial toast to the clubhouse and the university.

A country club this is not

The new structure stands on a small hill offering a 360 degree view of the golf course and surrounding area.

The interior has a rustic and classic look to it, but the clubhouse contains many technological advancements. In both the main bar and conference rooms, there are high definition televisions with cameras attached, hooked up to iPads so that visitors can make presentations effortlessly in between golf outings.

In the basement of the new clubhouse there is a wall-sized, real-swing golf video game. The game uses machine vision cameras to capture the players swing and the travel path of the ball, then rendering them in video via projector. The game was designed by About Golf Co. — a company famous for golf simulators — who lent their employee Ed Kanine to provide attendees instructions.

The golf course contacted local architecture design firm Niagara Murano to create the building. Lead designer Dave Barcyzs was on hand to talk to guests about the reasons for creating the building.

“We wanted this building to feel like it had always been here … we wanted to pay homage, to make sure we made a gesture towards Meadow Brook Hall,” Barcyzs said. “But at the same time, the university wanted it to be technologically up to date. This is a state of the art facility if you want to use it that way.

Adding to the greatness

Sharf arranged for valet parking, even including tips for the drivers. The event had three open bars, four tables of food and caterers serving hors devours to all the guests. One server even tracked down a guest who missed the last serving of chocolate cake, delivering him one specifically.

The clubhouse will offer food, but only sandwiches, salads and a few other selections. At $7 apiece, the price is made to be affordable for people to eat after golfing.

All displays for the event were meticulously crafted for the ceremony and added to the visually stunning atmosphere of the event. The clubhouse was meant to be aesthetically pleasing, Barcyzs said.

“If this building can help people understand the greatness of Oakland University then that’s what we want,” Barcyzs said. “With Steve Sharf, this is just another way to call attention to the university.”