Stay-and-Play has come to the private Akron, Ohio club that has tested the world’s top golf professionals for decades. While the “member for a day” notion isn’t new, it’s certainly a welcome addition for those of us who’ve admired such a storied property from outside the ropes.
Growing up in Northeast Ohio, I always took a certain local pride when the greatest golfers visited Firestone Country Club in Akron. This little slice of heaven in my neck of the woods always delivered and tested the best of the best.
Firestone has hosted the PGA Championship three times and is the current home of the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship. Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer of my lifetime, has won eight times (in 16 starts) at Firestone and orchestrated one of the greatest moments in golf history—”The Shot in the Dark”—during the NEC Invitational in August 2000.
While I delighted in knowing the eyes of the world were shining on my region whenever Firestone was In the spotlight, the experience of playing there was always out of my reach. Like most, I could look, but not touch.
But now, while Firestone remains an exclusive spot for those who love golf and the private-club experience, it’s being made accessible to anyone who has a desire to tread on the same turf as the greatest who’ve ever played. Stay-and-Play has come to the storied property.
Whether it’s for an overnight and a round of golf, a pair of rounds sandwiching the one-night stay, or an extended visit and rounds on all three courses, the Firestone staff can build the ideal visit. They’ll even work in trips to the Rock & Roll or Pro Football halls of fame in nearby Cleveland and Canton.
“If you want to play the same course as the best players in the world, you visit during the summer,” says Jay Walkinshaw, Firestone’s General Manager. “There’s no better time to test your game on one of the most legendary layouts in North America and its two equally fun and challenging counterparts. All golfers will enjoy our packages and everything Firestone has to offer.”
The dormitory-style club rooms each feature a view of Firestone’s layouts and pay homage to more than 50 years of incredible golf history. For a resort experience at Firestone, there are 57 golf villa rooms sprinkled throughout the property. Dining is available at three on-site establishments, including the clubhouse’s 1929 Grille & Legacy Pavilion and 55th Hole Bar, both of which offer open-air dining and golf course views.
I recently joined a handful of media members for a round of golf on the South Course and an overnight in the villas. Director of Golf Tommy Moore guided us from tee to green and showed off some impressive shotmaking.
Moore was also my partner for the nine-hole putting contest. Unfortunately, I didn’t carry my weight and we finished back in the pack—missing out on a coveted trophy.
Next up for grabs was a personalized flag for the golf writer who could come closest to matching Tiger’s legendary “shot in the dark” on No. 18.
Member Services Manager Dick Robbins, who has been at Firestone for 47 years and serves as an unofficial historian, knows everything about the club—including things we’d all like to know, but aren’t privy to. He told the story of how Tiger and Hal Sutton made a pact on No. 17 during the final round of the 2000 NEC, to finish the final hole no matter how dark it was getting.
Unable to see the flag despite the gallery’s best efforts to provide illumination with lighters and cell phones, Tiger relied on his instincts and stuck an 8-iron from 167 yards out to within kick-in distance. He won by 11 strokes!
We each tried our best to re-enact the amazing shot but, not surprisingly, were unable to duplicate the feat.
While the “member for a day” notion isn’t new, it’s certainly a welcome addition for those of us who’ve admired Firestone Country Club from outside the ropes. Question: Does your club offer something similar? If not, could you see adding something like this in the future?