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This year’s U.S. Open is being held at Erin Hills, a golf course in Wisconsin that is only 11 years old and was a complete disaster for its original owner.
In 2004, Bob Lang borrowed $11 million to build Erin Hills, with a dream of one day hosting a U.S. Open, according to a report on the Golf Channel. He would eventually pour another $15 million into the dream, including the inheritance of his three children, before eventually being forced to sell the course for $10.5 million in 2009 because he “nearly went broke” and “was out of money.”
After the initial investment, Erin Hills hosted the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. The United States Golf Association then recommended some minor changes that would improve the course and potentially make it U.S. Open-worthy.
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According to the report and Gary D’Amato of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Lang borrowed another $2 million at the time – “ten times as much as he needed” – and made more changes to the course. He also spent another $3 million to build a new clubhouse.
But maybe the craziest extravagance was Lang’s decision to buy up 150 acres of land surrounding the course.
“He’s buying these properties because he doesn’t like a farmhouse up there in the distance,” said Erin Hills architect Dan Fry.
According to Lang, he didn’t want golfers to ever see a house when they were playing Erin Hills.
“They had to be removed because, from my point of view, I wanted Erin Hills, when you played, you’d never see a house,” Lang told the Golf Channel. “That was my goal.”
According to the Golf Channel, the going rate for the land at that time was $6,500 an acre, which would have meant a total cost of approximately $975,000. Lang ended up paying an average of $37,000 per acre for a total bill just north of $5.5 million.
Lang eventually sold Erin Hills to billionaire Andy Ziegler for $10.5 million.