Turn-of-the-20th-century clubs dominate the list of U.S. Open venues: Shinnecock Hills (established in 1891), Pinehurst (1895), Oakmont (1903).
Then there’s Erin Hills. It wasn’t even a golf course when the calendar flipped to 2000. But don’t let the newness fool you. This infant already has undergone a lifetime’s worth of face-lifts.
“A lot of history,” said Jim Reinhart, a Milwaukee-area investment manager and key figure in the intriguing tale, “in a short period of time.”
Start in 2001 with a transaction. Developer and greeting-card magnate Bob Lang purchases a 437-acre Wisconsin cattle farm, later supplementing it with 215 more acres. The crumpled and contoured land,...