Indianwood Golf and Country Club – Truly a Golfers Golf Club
Indianwood is the mastermind of Mr. Frank Blair. Mr. Blair was president of Union Trust and was responsible for the creation of what was originally the Union Trust Building and is now the Guardian Building, one of Detroit’s greatest architectural gems. In the roaring 1920s, Mr. Blair and his cronies at the St. Clair Country Club decided to turn his country farm in Lake Orion into an 18-hole championship golf club with a housing development across the street on Indianwood Lake. Given Mr. Blair’s stature in Detroit society, Indianwood would be one of the best golf clubs in the country, and the residential development would be very exclusively reserved for Detroit’s elite. He even went as far as building a landing strip so the movers and shakers of the auto world could arrive quickly and avoid the train ride that was the standard means of transport to Lake Orion at the time (remember Lake Orion was considered “Up North” in the 1920s). Mr. Blair hired golf professional and architect Wilfred Reid to design this championship course, and Mr. Reid partnered with his associate William Connellan to handle the construction duties. Mr. Blair was clear on the intent of this new club – it is to be one of the best in the country no matter the cost. Mr. Reid set out to design an 18-hole course that would be a challenge for all the top professional golfers of the time. Indianwood opened rave reviews from the golfing world in 1925. The master creation of golf course architect Wilfried Reed is still, to this day, one of the best golf courses in the United States.
Indianwood did not have to look far for a clubhouse as the original barns on the property were well suited for this purpose; remember, we are talking about Frank Blair. The barns are not just normal wooden farm buildings. They were all cinderblock over built rock-solid buildings that are still present today. The upstairs of the horse barn and the then-new addition to the cattle barn was even turned into boarding rooms to accommodate overnight stays. The chicken coup was, of course, the new “Men’s” locker room.
Indianwood did not have to wait long to be the center of the golf world, as the 1930 Western Open was slated to come to Lake Orion. All the top professional golfers in the world would make the trek to compete in what was the 4th major at the time. The reviews did not disappoint, and Indianwood’s prominence as a top golf club was cemented. Gene Sarazen won the $500 prize for first place over Tommy Armour, Walter Hagen, Al Watrous, and runner-up Al Espinosa.
The dark days of the Depression were hard on Indianwood as Mr. Blair lost Indianwood to creditors. In the 1940’s Carl Ruebelman, a local Lake Orion businessman, purchased the club and brought it back to prosperity. Mr. Ruebelman spent a considerable amount of money renovating the clubhouse and even refurbished the boarding rooms to make Indianwood a year-round country club. The Michigan PGA returned to Indianwood in 1948 and 1949, with Horton Smith (Michigan Golf Hall of Fame inductee) winning in ’48 and Ed Furgol taking top billing in ’49.
In 1981 Stan Aldridge purchased Indianwood and proceeded to take on a huge restoration of not only the clubhouse but the course as well. The clubhouse got a complete renovation with new oak paneling, a tower, antique stained-glass windows, and a new brick vernier. The original pro shop was converted into the cart barn, the then pro shop was converted into a banquet room, and the maintenance building that was the original maintenance barn for the Blair farm was now the pro shop. Mr. Aldridge did not stop there, a new 30,000sf addition was designed and included historic rooms from the Horse Barracks at Windsor Castle and a 16th-century Belgian Chateau. Interestingly the architect that was hired to design the clubhouse addition, Bill Zmistowski, is the grandson of Wilfred Reid.
Work continued on the golf course, and a new irrigation system was installed, bunkers were completely renovated, and some new tees were added. Famed golfer Jerry Pate and golf course architect Bob Cupp were hired to construct the New Course across the street on land that Mr. Aldridge assembled. The New Course opened in 1988 and was Golf Digest runner-up in the Best New Privet Course of the Year Award. Indianwood now has two great golf courses.
When Mr. Aldridge purchased the club, he aspired to take Indianwood back to the original intent of Mr. Blair. Mr. Aldridge secured the 1989 US Women’s Open, and major professional golf was back at Indianwood. The Championship set a new attendance record for women’s golf, and the club was praised by all the players and gained national notoriety. The Championship was won by Betsy King, who shot 4 strokes below runner-up Nancy Lopez. Given the success of the Championship, Indianwood was awarded the 1994 US Women’s Open. This time the winner was Patty Sheehan, winning her second Open. Betsy Kind ended up tied for 6th place. Most recently, Indianwood played host to the US Senior Open in 2012, won by Roger Chapman in dramatic down-the-stretch fashion winning by two strokes over Fred Funk, Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, and Cory Pavin.
Today the Aldridge family is still dedicated to ensuring Indainwood is one of the top golf clubs in the country.
Other Tournaments of Note:
- 1927 Michigan PGA
- 1928 Michigan Open
- 1948 Michigan PGA
- 1949 Michigan PGA
- 1951 Michigan PGA
- 1952 Michigan Open
- 1956 Michigan Open
- 1982-1991 Michigan PGA
- 1987 US Open Qualifier
- 1990 US Women’s Open Qualifier
“We have a clipping from the 1930’s that stated Indianwood had been ranked as one of the top 10 clubs in America. We’re not sure who ranked them, but the greatness has always been at Indianwood. We became caretakers with the job of restoring the club to its original state and bringing back its prestige.”
Most golf course owners would sit back and bring in others to do the job. Aldridge, however, is a man who puts himself into a job with everything he has. After turning around a number of companies, Indianwood became the center of his attention. Ironically, the architect that Aldridge hired for the renovation was Bill Zmistowski, the great grandson of Wilfred Reid (Indianwood’s original architect).
The club renovation became an Aldridge family project. Sue, Stan’s wife, who is an interior decorator was very involved in the renovation. Much of the exterior beauty of Indianwood comes from the eye of Sue Aldridge.
Daughter Kelley also played a major role in the development and progress of Indianwood. This graduate from Michigan State in Construction Management was the construction superintendent of the 30,000 square foot clubhouse and locker room addition completed in early 1989. The clubhouse was truly Kelley’s project. Her work with the beautiful stained glass (brought to Lake Orion from Europe) and the intricacies of each segment of the addition only brightens the spotlight shining on the club.
Sons Kirk and Kevin have also been involved at Indianwood. Both have spent time on bulldozers on the new course and have helped manage the day-to-day operations of the club. Kimberly the middle child has been actively involved at Canterbury Village, another of Aldridge’s projects.
The two youngest members of the family also have spent time at the club. Katie worked on the U.S. Women’s Open in 1994 and son Keith spent many summers helping at the club while away from playing collegiate hockey at Lake Superior State University in Northern Michigan.
The tradition at Indianwood will be carried on by the Aldridge family in the 20th century. Keith has taken over the day to day operations, Kelly will be the 2012 US Senior Open Tournament Director and Kevin with his golf course construction background will be updating the “OLD” course, changes that the USGA has recommended for the championship.
“We became caretakers of a unique and unrecognized piece of history. We wanted to make Indianwood more appealing so people could see it for what it was originally and is now again. There is a great pride for my family and the membership to be part of history like this. We are all proud of this grand old club.”