Indianwood Golf and Country Club has climbed from the depths to rise again to prominence as one of America's great country clubs.
Under the leadership of owner Stan Aldridge, Indianwood has climbed from the edge of non-existence in 1981 to the current magnificent facility which has hosted two U.S. Women's Open Championships and one U.S. Senior Open Championship.
For two decades the club was allowed to flounder and slide into disrepair. From the heights of its creation by designer Wilfred Reid in 1925 to the purchase in 1981 by Aldridge, Indianwood took a slow and long slide into oblivion.
The history of Indianwood begins in the 1800's with the original land owner, rank Blair, of Blair Farm who lost the property to Union Trust Bank during the depression. It was during the roaring 20's when Wilfred Reid, who designed a number of golf courses in Michigan along with The Olympic Club in San Francisco, took the piece of land and designed the historic course. The work began in 1925 and, according to historians, became one of the havens for the elite of Detroit to get away from the daily grind.
The original barns on the property were the basis for the clubhouse. Indianwood quickly grew with the installation of a landing field for airplanes in 1928, and was the host of the Michigan Open in the same year. George Von Elm became the first amateur to win the crown. Easter Sunday, however, brought bad news for Indianwood as a fire destroyed the main dining room and kitchen. Total damage - $25,000.
The spotlight of the golf world turned to the little village of Lake Orion in 1930 when the Western Golf Association brought the third largest tournament in the world (at that time) to Indianwood. The layout played to 6,806 yards.
A field of 150 players teed up for a prize of $1,795 which was divided among the top twenty players. The $500 winner's check went to Gene Sarazen. It was the only major event that year not won by Robert T. Jones, Jr. for which he was eligible.
The Western Open program described Indianwood in its early days: "Indianwood is a 'Country' club in every sense of the word, sufficiently far from the city to be completely divorced from its clamor yet near enough to be conveniently accessible by motor." The metropolis of Lake Orion at the time was so small that the area phone numbers, according to program advertisements, were two digits.
The clubhouse flourished during the decade as people ventured away from the big city. A brief caddie strike over wages brought Indianwood attention in the newspapers of the area. The club became so successful that officials raised green fees in 1938 - $1.00 on weekends and 75 cents on weekdays.
A major change in Indianwood came in 1942 when businessman Carl Ruebelman bought the club and converted it to a private facility with all the amenities. The dining room and bar room were open 365 days a year, including snowy winter months. Members had the opportunity to reserve the guest rooms in the clubhouse.
The Michigan PGA Championship returned to Indianwood in 1948 and 1949. Two big names in golf history - Horton Smith and Ed Furgol - claimed the championships on Reid's design. Smith, who served as president of the PGA of America during the early 50's brought much attention to the state and is one of the inductees into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
The 1960's and 70's saw Indianwood slowly slide into oblivion in Detroit-area golf circles. The passing of Mr. Reubelman and the circumstances following bounced the club around, resulting in neglect to the clubhouse and course.
The dynamic turnaround for the club came on February 20, 1981. Four writers were invited by golf consultant Jim Dewling to visit Indianwood and meet its new owner. As the reporters walked through the facility, one looked around and said, "Berlin 1945."
Indeed, it was a perfect description. Beams hung broken from ceilings. There were holes and warped sections in the floor. The look of a bombed-out building greeted the writers.
Aldridge has a better idea and told the writers of his goals. His intentions seemed ambitious, but the challenge ahead would be met quickly.
"I don't know much about golf," Aldridge said to the existing membership at the time, "but I pledge to make Indianwood the best country club there is for members." In retrospect, Aldridge has a soft spot for the historic club.
"Indianwood changed my life completely," he said, "I played a little golf when I was young and my uncles were members here when I was a child.We came here for dinners on Sundays and we have pictures of us here when I was eight-years-old.I bought a (production) plant in Lake Orion back in 1975 and I used to drive by, look at the place and remember what it once was."
"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 Indainwood 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 great pride for my family and the membership to be part of history like this. We are all proud of this grand old club."