Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio, USA
Firestone Country Club
As we were in the area playing the Penn Ohio Golf Trail, we took an overnight diversion to Firestone.
Firestone is in Akron County and is very easy to factor in when playing the trail, although not part of it. Arriving we were shown to our room – when I say room, it was one a few in a separate building – there were a number of these building dotted around the estate and each housed good quality, large rooms all within a short walk of the main clubhouse.
Our room overlook the North Golf Courses. There are three 18 hole golf courses on site with building already underway to create a multi storey, Big Shots indoor fun driving range experience for all. Arrival day was our main drone filming day. Just as we finished filming the heavens opened – not just a gentle sprinkle but a torrent by the bucket load the water fell from the sky in a tropical rainstorm fashion.
Firestone golf as founded by Harvey Firestone of Firestone Tyres fame when he commissioned the park for employees. The South Course was complete in the same year. The Original Bert Way design was given a facelift by Robert Trent Jones in 1960 in readiness for the PGA Championship. RTJ added a further 50 bunkers and 2 lakes and extended the course yardage to 7,400 yard, just as it is today.
We only played the South Course.
The iconic water tower, which itself resembles a golf ball on a tee, poked its head above the prolific trees as an omnipresent icon for all in the area. In 1959 this 125 foot structure was completed – after the clubhouse was destroyed by fire. Holding 50,000 gallons of water, the tower was drained in the 1990’s – however, the structure remains to this day as an iconic landmark and a nice reminder for Firestones groundbreaking history when bring golf alive on television.
It was an early start which exaggerated the cool morning dew as the sun reluctantly rose and eventually broke through the haze clinging to the ground, hanging over from the previous days rain.
Despite this atmospheric mist biting at our ankles, nothing else could dampen our spirits as we set off down the 10th hole. It’s always a bit disconcerting when you start on the 10th, but fortunately, we had been able to do some filing the day before, so we’d got a good feel for the course layout.
Looking at the back of the score card, the course does look a bit ‘uppy downy’, but in reality when playing it, you really didn’t get that sense at all as the course guided you along its routing. Slight dog legs left or right came into play but otherwise the course was reasonably straight – of course that didn’t mean we played it straight!
As the sky blued up and the sun started to lend some heat the course came alive. Enhanced by the slight change in colour for the trees, this was fast becoming a course I could understand why it has such positive accolades.
Despite the wet ground underfoot, the greens rolled exceptionally well – and quick with just subtle, hard to read movements, they were in great condition.
This course had the type of bunkers others would aspire to – nice soft sand of such good, easy to play quality. An analogy that was shared by the fore caddy when questioned about the sand condition, he said, ‘the sand is less table salt and more Himalayan crystal salt’ Whichever way you look at it, the sand played consistently nicely.
The infamous16th hole, Firestones signature hole. With the equally iconic Arnold Palmer bridge which crossed over the dark water to the green. This par 5 measured 465/667 yards with a 12 handicap. With the approach shot having the stretch of water in play, there was no option than to just go for it, so we did – with mixed results. Steve stuck his approach next to the pin, I stuck mine in the water! Understanding now how this hole has been nicknamed ‘The Monster’ by Palmer himself and three time winner in 1957, 1962 and 1967.
As we reached our half way point, the water tower came back into sight, signifying an end, or in our case, half way round the game.
Playing 18, a small plaque reminds us of Tiger Woods ‘Shot in the Dark’ 167 yard 8 iron at 825pm… That superb shot straight at the pin and an easy tap in, brings him the win, 11 ahead of the rest of the field at the NEC Invitational.
The wide fairway theme continued into our second nine, wide fairways with trees embracing varying stages of autumn – large but not dense woodlands, the trees framed the fairways as if marking a landing strip.
The enthusiasm and knowledge of our fore caddy made the day special, he expertly divided his time between us, yet seemed to be on hand for each of us, despite the scatter gun approach of our differing playing abilities. A quality player in every way.
Hole three, a relatively easy par 4 of 323/442 yards carried a 15 handicap. With it came more water upon which slight ripples were starting to form. But over the water you must go to reach the green and this time I triumphed over Steve. An arch bridge traversed the expenses of water as the white fluffy clouds fringed with grey went shooting by. Even stood onto 4th tee, a glance backward give its own rewards for golfers to treasure with the reflective water, the bridge, the lush green course and trees and the blue and dotted white sky.
As if entering a fire station, the big bold numbers framed in red stood by each tee, simple – yet elegant. In contrast the almost black in colour of the wet tree trunks stood out against the vivid blue and greens of the course. A kaleidoscope of colour to tackle your senses.
Little history making stories bring Firestone alive, but more than that, it appeals to all golfers, old and new.
Firestone still lights the fire for many golfers and is set to continue to do so for many more years to come.
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