When is Bushwood not Bushwood? When it’s Grande Oaks. Confused? Don’t be. The fictitious Illinois golf club that features in Caddyshack - the ever-so-snobby Bushwood Country Club - is actually Grande Oaks Country Club in Florida.
Now privately owned, it was a ‘pay and play’ facility and went by the name of Rolling Hills when Hollywood rolled into town to film on location for 11 weeks in late 1979.
“It’s pretty cool to be the Caddyshack club,” club director Joseph Semmler tells bunkered. “If you’re serious about golf, there’s a good chance you’ve seen that movie so to be the club that’s actually in it is quite a novelty.”
As with most moments of inspiration, Rolling Hills/Grande Oaks got used almost by chance. The filmmakers wanted to shoot their golf scenes over the autumn and winter of 1979 but with the weather in the mid-west, where the film is set, being notoriously unpredictable at that time of year, they were forced to take production on the road. In the end, it came down to a straight choice between shooting in California or shooting in Florida.
Director Harold Ramis quickly ruled out the former, reportedly because he didn’t fancy the film studio based there to be breathing down his neck throughout production, and so he settled on Florida. The only problem with that, however, was that most of the courses there are lined by palm trees, which you wouldn’t get in the mid-west.
Fortunately, Grande Oaks was the exception. Although located in Fort Lauderdale, its fairways were lined with oak trees, not palm, allowing it to double-up nicely as a golf club from Illinois. Ramis liked it immediately, not least because it had a hotel sitting adjacent, where he could base his cast and crew.
That hotel - which became the scene of numerous wild parties during filming - is now a dorm for Nova Southeastern University, whilst the club itself is also rather different.
“We were taken over in 1999 by an entrepreneur called Wayne Huizenga, who renamed the property Grande Oaks Golf Club and pretty much completely transformed the place,” explains Hessler. “You struggle to see where the movie was actually filmed.
The club's new, modern clubhouse.
“Ray Floyd was brought in to redesign the course and a leading architecture firm - Garcia, Brenner & Stromberg - built our new clubhouse. What we now have is a private club that we consider a sanctuary for our members.”
In other words, a place where Judge Smails would fit in but Al Czervik not so much? “That’s a pretty accurate way of putting it,” laughs Semmler. Despite its facelift, Grande Oaks hasn’t totally forgotten its Hollywood heritage.
“We do sell some items from the movie,” adds Semmler. “We’ve got ‘naked lady’ tees, Carl Spackler hats, T-shirts, paintings and things like that.” Semmler also says it’s not uncommon to hear some of the most famous lines from the movie being quoted on the grounds.
“You do hear quite a lot of that,” he adds. “The ‘Cinderella Story’ speech comes out quite a bit but because of where we’re located - south Florida is prone to a lot of rain - we mostly tend to hear lines from the scene when the clergyman is enjoying the round of his life with Carl Spackler carrying his bag. There’s a moment in that scene when he asks Carl if they should go back in and Carl replies, ‘I don't think the heavy stuff‘s gonna come down for quite a while.’ I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard somebody say that.”
Just one final question: how often do they get asked if they have their gopher problem under control. “We get that quite a lot,” he laughs. “But I can categorically confirm that, no, we don’t have any issues with gophers.”
Caddyshack in bunkered
Our Caddyshack feature first appeared in issue 141 of bunkered (published: July 2015).