STILLWATER — When Karsten Creek opened up just west of Stillwater in 1994, the sprawling golf course was named the “Best New Public Golf Course” by Golf Digest.
The course, designed by Tom Fazio, would go on to receive a five-star rating four years later by the publication and hosted several national championships.
But since that opening day on May 9, 1994, the course hasn’t been touched.
The clubhouse was completed in 2001 with a $4.5 million price tag and a training facility exclusively for OSU golfers was added in 1997, but as the golf course quickly approaches its 30th anniversary, not much change has occurred.
This week, OSU announced a $120 million donation from the T. Boone Pickens Foundation, including $63.7 million committed to student scholarships, $25 million to the OSU Human Performance Innovation Complex and roughly $31 million to Karsten Creek for extensive renovations, which could go as high as $35 million.
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“Once again, one cannot overstate his impact on our university,” OSU president Kayse Shrum said of Pickens.
The connection between Pickens and the OSU golf programs runs deep. He held a close friendship with former OSU golf coach and athletic director Mike Holder, who raised the money for Karsten Creek decades ago.
Pickens’ childhood home was moved to the course, and his gravesite is several feet away from the modest house.
Now, the school is taking extensive efforts to modernize the course. Holder politely declined to discuss the plans with the Tulsa World until they were finalized.
Karsten Creek is expected to close in October, and the renovations are expected to last between 12-18 months. Details are still being finalized, but general ideas are in place.
“Karsten Creek was already one of the best courses in the country, but I think what we’re doing is just going to make it even better,” OSU women’s golf coach Greg Robertson said. “That’s the whole goal behind it.”
The course is widely considered one of the best public golf courses in the country, so why renovate?
“Everything about the course is still in its original state,” Robertson said. “We haven’t upgraded anything in terms of cart paths, in terms of the irrigation system, so all of that stuff was going to have to get done, no matter what, because it was long past due.”
During OSU’s unveiling of its projected $325 million athletic vision plan in late February, the Karsten Creek renovations were one of a handful of other projects the school set out to complete.
“Golf courses, greens and things like that have a shelf life,” men’s golf coach Alan Bratton said during the announcement. “So, it’s time to make some upgrades and tweak some things to continue to be a leader.”
A heating and cooling system is expected to be put under the greens, allowing the course to control the temperature. It’s a complex system but would allow for the greens to remain at ideal temperatures throughout the year. A similar system was implemented at Southern Hills in 2019.
Andrew Green, the president and principal architect of A.H. Green Design/Green Golf & Turf, Inc., currently is helping with the reconfiguration of the course, per his website. Green was listed as the No. 3 renovation expert in 2018, according to Golf Digest.
Now considered a shorter course, several holes are expected to be reconfigured, and greens could be raised in areas, too.
The practice areas currently aren’t expected to be touched, allowing both men’s and women’s programs to continue using the space during renovations. When it comes to playing courses, the teams will use various spaces around Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Edmond and the Stillwater Country Club during the renovation.
From a bigger picture, the recruiting impact the renovations will have are monumental.
“That’s the hope,” Robertson said. “I guess it’s kind of two parts to having a course like this and a practice facility and set up that we do is that No. 1, you hope that it helps the current team in terms of getting ready for tournaments and being prepared when we go on the road, but also the other thing is to help with recruiting.”