The Erin Hills Golf Course has a history as bizarre as it is sad. In fact, it was born from the dream of an American entrepreneur, Robert Lang. Over the years, the man has amassed quite a fortune and now wants to use it to realize a grand plan: a golf course of his own. Too bad things are not going as planned.
How to realize a dream. Or maybe not
Lang is a versatile entrepreneur who owes his fortune to calendars and investments in real estate. As he reached the threshold of retirement, he decided to launch himself into an area he had always loved but from afar, namely golf.
We talked about this in the article devoted to the
most expensive golf courses in history
: It costs money to build a golf course . Even when you don’t have high demands, you have to budget at least 2 million. In most cases, the final expense is much higher. Yet, Lang decides to go through this alone.
In 2001, Lang bought a former farm somewhere in Wisconsin, not far from the town of Erin. He does this with the money he has saved over many years of work. After that, he hires Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten to design the golf course.
Three years of silence followed. Lang does not move a single stone, the land remains fallow. He is going through a difficult time, more than once wondering if it would not be better to sell everything and end this madness. Until the possible solution arrives: what if the field became a venue for the U.S. Open?
Salvation comes from the U.S.G.A. ?
The situation is critical and nothing is moving. Ron Whitten then proposes that Lang present the field as a possible location for the tournament, although it is unlikely that the U.S.G.A. would choose it for a Major tournament. For the group, the important thing is to move things along.
Ron Whitten manages to convince tournament director Mike Davis to visit the site, and in August 2004, the man keeps his word. Strange but true, Davis likes the site and Lang decides to get the project going. The day after the visit, Lang goes to the bank and asks for a loan to get the construction of the golf course started.
Meanwhile, Erin Hills becomes the official location for the 2008 Women’s Amateur Public Links. The golf course does not yet exist.
Lang is galvanized, betting everything he has to nominate the field as a location for the 2017 U.S. Open. In 2006, he finally gets the camp opened . Still not ready, criticism rains down from trade journals. No matter: in 2008, Erin Hills became the golf course of the 2011 U.S. Amateur. Everything seems to be turning in the right direction.
It seems, indeed.
From dream to obsession
Lang has decided that Erin Hills will host the U.S. Open, and there is nothing to change his mind. He takes out another loan and starts buying all the houses around the camp-he does not want any buildings visible from the holes. He also wants to make the golf course bigger and fix a number of problems that only he sees.
In 2009, Lang is going bankrupt: he must sell or he will not be able to repay the debts he is accumulating. Jim Reinhart, a member from U.S.G.A., helps him arrange the sale of what has become a black hole. Andy Ziegler and his wife Carlene seem interested in the purchase. The three close the deal and, on October 23, 2009, Lang sells for $10 million.
Between the purchase of the land, the work, and the purchase of the surrounding land, he spent about $25 million. The sale does not recover even half of his investment.
Robert Lang’s great dream ends here.