Firestone Country Club - The Ultimate Golf Experience
54 legendary holes of golf, luxurious overnight stays, and friendly and staff
By Art Stricklin
AKRON, Ohio - One of the enduring appeals of golf and golf travel is the chance to literally walk in the footprints of golf history.
Golfers can tee it up at the Home of Golf, the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, they can play the multiple course at the Home of American Golf, Pinehurst Golf Resort, or play the greatest meeting of Land and Sea at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
But an equally historic three-course track in Northeast Ohio, Firestone Country Club with more than 65 years of golf history is now particularly eager to show it off.
After seeing golf's greatest players from Snead to Palmer, Nicklaus to Woods, come here to Firestone, named after the car tire mogul who originally built the facility in 1929 for company recreation, it has always been an attraction for great golfers and avid fans.
Indeed both of the East and West Coast golf meccas have plenty of varied golf offerings and thrills, but no one can match the varied professional golf events and players who have played at Firestone.
Arnold Palmer's first professional tournament was the 1954 Rubber City Open where his first meager tournament check and thank you letter is still framed in the clubhouse locker room.
Since then pro golf has rolled on like a green grass assembly line here. Palmer would later win the Rubber City Invitational here and the PGA Championship came for the first time in 1960 on the famed South Course, which was redesigned by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., for the golf major.
The World Series of Golf was held here for 36 years along with the World Golf Invitational Bridgestone Invitational for 18 more. Now, the Senior Players Championship in the pro golf event is on tap with previous champions back for a new try at the famous course.
The par 70 South Course has hosted three PGA Championships along with most of the major golf events. The North Course, par 72, also designed by Jones, Sr., has hosted the American Golf Classic and the World Series of Golf and has been ranked as one of the top 100 modern courses in America.
The par 70 links style Fazio course was one of the first solo designs by Tom Fazio in 2001 and was recently updated by golf's architectural legend.
But after Dallas-based ClubCorp purchased the facility in 1981, it's steadily poured money into the three -course facility, built modern new lodges near the courses, all while showcasing the considerable golf history.
"We still consider ourselves a best kept secret," said general manager Jay Walkinshaw. "We have great golf and great tournaments, but we want to be as well visited as a golf destination like Pinehurst and Pebble Beach."
"We do have quite a collection of great courses open to the public," Director of Golf Thomas Moore added. "Some want to challenge themselves where the best have played on the South Course, others enjoy the length, beauty and challenge of the North Course while others enjoy the Fazio course.
"With caddies and carts available, we really have something for every golfer."
Among the most famous holes on the South Course is the 667-yard par 5 16th hole which Arnold Palmer nicknamed the Monster, who once made an eight here as did Lee Trevino. Others, like John Daly and Bubba Watson have tried to drive the green in two shots, but the monster has still stayed mainly unconquered.
Woods' most famous shot at Firestone came on the par 4 18th in 2000 when he came to the last hole in near total darkness after an extended rain delay. With a 10-shot lead over Hal Sutton, Woods took dead aim from 168 yards and knocked his ball to two feet of the cup. He was unable to see the result, but clearly heard the roar from the crowd.
Today, Moore will lead groups over to the 18th fairway near sunset to try their own shot in the dark. Then it's over to the lighted putting green, where there are drink holders on every hole.
The lodging at Firestone certainly carries on the history as well. There are three basic options. There are multi-story villas which line the fairways and back nine green of the North Course. There is also very cool clubhouse lodging upstairs in the large locker room.
Many of the rooms are dedicated to famous Firestone players. Palmer, Nicklaus, Nick Price and Gary Player and others, with a letter from each player on the wall of the room stating what Firestone has meant to them and their career.
While the lodging is hardly lavish, there is something very cool about staying in a Nicklaus room with a letter from the Golden Bear himself.
Of course, the clubhouse bar which doesn't close until midnight every night is a pretty good perk as well as is all the golf history which lines the walls.
"We have some groups who wouldn't even consider staying anywhere but the clubhouse, wouldn't think about it and then we have some who always stay in the villas," said Walkinshaw
There are approximately 45,000 rounds a year played here with 20,000 on the South as the headliner, 15,000 on the North and 10,000 on the Fazio.
The fourth course is the public Firestone 9, adjacent to the North Course, open to everyone. While the three resort courses close during the harsh Northeast Ohio winters, the public 9 stays open all year long.
For those who prefer a more modern, luxury touch, there are some new, modern villas on the lake, across the street from the clubhouse, which offer individual rooms and a large party room, complete with a kitchen, TV room, pool table and outdoor deck.
Again, variety and green grass history rule the day at Firestone.
If golf history isn't enough for you, there is also a memory lane-laden tour just 15 minutes away at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in nearby Canton. As any long suffering Cowboys, Steelers or Browns fan can relate to, seeing the past glory of your NFL favorites is a trip well worth taking at the media filled museum.
Back at Firestone, which is highlighted by the iconic 125 foot water tower in the shape of a globe, there are plenty of dining choices inside and out during the prime summer months. Of particular interest, is the clubhouse Bean soup which is good enough that Nicklaus once sent his pilot over to get a couple of gallons for a dinner he was hosting. There are several outdoor fire pits to toast your good fortune to being this close to so many historic events.
There is international access from the Cleveland Hopkins Airport, an hour away, along with a small Akron-Canton airport nearby and is drivable from much of the Midwest.
For more information on exploring the past, present and future tradition and golf history at Firestone, go to www.firestonecountryclub.com.
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Revised: 11/28/2021 - Article Viewed 3,489 Times
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About: Art Stricklin
Art Stricklin has covered every professional and most major amateur golf tournaments in the state of Texas. He has covered both the Byron Nelson and Colonial PGA Tour events for the last quarter century, plus the Texas and Houston Open more than a decade. He has covered every Champions Tour event in the state along with the Nationwide and LPGA Lone Star tournaments.
On the national scene, he has achieved the domestic grand slam, covering the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championships on multiple occasions along with the U.S. Amateur, the Tour Championship and dozens of other professional golf events.
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