Firestone Country Club North Course Review

50 Words or Less

The Firestone Country Club North Course offers a great contrast to the South Course.  Loads of variety off the tee.  Beautiful.  Challenging in a different way than the South.

Introduction

When it comes to championship pedigree, Firestone’s South Course can’t be beat [review HERE].  However, ask the club’s members which layout is their favorite and, more often than not, they’ll say it’s the North Course.  Their reasons are as varied as the course itself, ranging from the beauty to the demand for creative shot making.  Regardless of which Firestone course you name your favorite, playing the North Course is an essential part of any Firestone visit.

Practice Facilities

The practice facilities at Firestone Country Club are excellent.  In one contiguous area, you’ll find a large putting green, enormous driving range, and a short game area.  The putting green is large enough to accommodate numerous golfers and to practice lag putts.  The driving range has a large swath of turf as well as grass hitting areas.  There are five target greens to keep your warm up focused.  A one-minute cart ride under a tunnel gets you to the first tee of the North Course.

Additionally, Firestone has a nine-hole putting course that’s illuminated at night.  Unlike the putting courses at other destinations, this one is actually a wonderful way to prepare for the round.  It’s also a great place to simply hang out in the evening with a beverage.

Customer Service & Amenities

Firestone’s long, storied history is one of the things that separates it from other destinations.  What brings that history to life are the many employees who have been at Firestone for multiple decades.  Whether it’s your bartender or your caddy, it’s easy to find someone who will share priceless stories.

Whether they’ve been at Firestone for thirty years or thirty minutes, the staff is uniformly committed to making the guest experience great.  Everyone we encountered on our visit was friendly, outgoing, and willing to go out of their way to meet our needs.  I also want to strongly recommend taking a caddy, specifically Terry, Chris, or Quin, who were essential to our rounds.

On a less warm but still important note, the carts at Firestone have some of the best GPS systems I’ve encountered.  The color touchscreens show a flyover of the hole as you pull up, then a satellite view.  As you approach the green, a Golf Logix green map appears, something I’ve never seen before.  If you’re playing without a caddy, this will save you strokes.

Lodging

You may have assumed that Firestone Country Club was available only to members, but their courses are open to anyone through Stay & Play packages.  There are two options for lodging: the Villas and the Club Rooms.

The Villas are located around the property, often with stellar views of the course.  Each Villa contains several individual rooms and a common room upstairs (above).  The common rooms have a TV, pool table, poker table, as well as a kitchen.  Firestone will even cater private meals to your group in your common room.  Additionally, the common rooms open to large, elevated decks.  The Villas are perfect for groups that want a private place to hang out pre and post round.

As good as the Villas are, my preference is for the Club Rooms.  These rooms are located on the second story of the clubhouse, inside the men’s locker room.  This gives you unlimited access to the fitness center and the locker room bar.  Spending the night in the Firestone locker room makes you feel like a kid locked inside a toy store, especially with the limited number of rooms.  The vibes you get hanging out with other golf junkies in the locker room bar are simply exquisite.

No matter which option you choose, Firestone’s staff goes all-out to make your stay comfortable and memorable.  They offer shuttles to the airport and can arrange any additional activity you may want, such as a trip to the Football Hall of Fame in nearby Canton.  They’re also opening a Big Shot Golf at the Firestone Nine (their public course) so you can swing, eat, and drink late into the night.

Dining

The food at Firestone is outstanding, among the best I’ve had at any golf destination.  With three distinct dining locations, it’s reasonable to argue that there’s even more variety in the food than there is in the golf.

On the clubhouse’s second story, you’ll find the 55th Hole Bar.  As the name suggests, this is a great place to relax post-round.  Among its best features are the rocking chairs on the balcony that let you watch golfers come up the 9th hole of the South Course.

You’re likely to eat the majority of your meals at the 1929 Grille and Legacy Pavillion.  This indoor/outdoor restaurant has staples like club sandwiches and hamburgers, but they also have more unusual options like a meatball loaf parmesan sandwich.  I give that sandwich high marks, but you should save it for post-round.

Also, there’s the new dinner option – La Vetta Italian Chophouse.  The meal we ate there was truly exceptional.  Everything we had was memorable, but the show stopper was Firestone’s signature Crunchy Cream Pie.  Jack Nicklaus loves these so much that he has sent his private jet to pick them up.  After eating one, you’ll understand why.

Beauty & Scenery

The Firestone Country Club North Course mixes nine holes the play across the Firestone Reservoir with nine traditional parkland holes.  The routing blends them beautifully so that each hole has visual impact, and your eye is never bored.  Thicker tree lines give the parkland holes a more isolated feel than you get on the South Course, furthering the unique experience of each track.

Tee Shots

If you want to hit a wildly varied group of tee shots during your round, you will love the Firestone Country Club North Course.  There are doglegs in both directions that range from soft to severe.  You’ll drive it uphill and down.  Additionally, you’ll hit to fairways that are fairly flat and some that slope severely.  What you won’t do is feel bored off the tee.

In addition to navigating different shapes and elevations, you’ll have to contend with an array of hazards off the tee.  Most holes feature a fairway bunker, and their placement shows just how impactful a single trap can be.  Several holes also feature water on at least one side of the hole.  While the water should usually be out of play, most of know how magnetic this most penal hazard can be.  Finally, on the inland holes, the fairways are mostly tree lined.  Without deep local knowledge, you won’t know if the tree line is thick or thin until it’s too late.  Many spots in the woods are effectively a full stroke hazard.

Finally, there are four sets of tees at the North Course, and they’re spaced out perfectly.  Regardless of your length, you’ll have two reasonable choices.  The shorter set (White, if you’re above average in length) will let you hit a mix of clubs off the tee and give you short irons and wedges into the green after good drives.  If you stretch yourself to play the Blue tees, you’ll need to hit driver on almost every hole, and you’ll have more mid and long irons into the greens.  The Gold tees, at 7,125 yards, should be reserved for very long, highly skilled players.

Approach Shots

During my visit to Firestone, numerous people stated the North Course is the shotmaker’s course.  This starts with the tee shots and the doglegging fairways.  It continues into the green.  The putting surfaces are average to above average in size, but they tend to be more oblong than round.  This entices players to bend shots into pin positions on the edges of greens.

One way in which the North Course balances its difficulty is with lighter rough than the South Course.  It’s average in thickness throughout, and it’s easy to play out of.  Jumper lies add an element of unpredictability, but the rough is not the course’s primary defense.

In addition to being a shotmakers course, this is a thinker’s course.  There are a lot of strategic decisions to be made during a round here, and bad choices can lead to big numbers.  With an abundance of water and thick tree lines, the North Course stands poised to pack your card with penalty strokes.  While the flags may be calling your name, keep in mind that they’re often luring you toward hazards.

Greens & Surrounds

Assuming your approach doesn’t make a splash, your biggest concern around the greens are the bunkers.  Every green has at least one, but most have two or three.  More than their number, they’re troubling in their size.  However, as you can see above, they are not very deep.  With few exceptions, you can almost putt out of them, making them less intimidating for poor sand players.

Outside of the sand, the greens are surrounded by medium thick rough.  There are no tightly mowed chipping areas to contend with except on the holes with run-ups.  Several of the greens are elevated sharply above the fairway, but generally the surrounds are mild in their undulation.  Assuming you don’t short side yourself, getting up and down is not a terribly difficult feat at the North Course.

The greens at the North Course are, overall, flatter than those at the South or Fazio [review HERE] courses.  There are a handful of tiers and ridges, but you don’t need to worry about sneaky subtle breaks throwing your putt offline.  As expected, the greens were quick and smooth, allowing plenty of chances to make putts.

North Course or South Course?

Playing both the North and South courses at Firestone allows for an interesting discussion of difficulty.

The South Course is relentless.  It’s long, often uphill, the greens are small, and the rough is thick.  There are no free lunches.  However, there are very few stroke hazards and almost unlimited recovery opportunities.

On the North Course, the water and thick tree lines can turn one bad swing into an automatic bogey or worse.  The regular threat of hazards forces you to think your way around the course evaluating risk and reward.  On the other hand, the course is much shorter and the greens are larger and more inviting.

There is no right or wrong answer about which you prefer.  Having both at one club is a tremendous asset, and the ability to play both will make you a better, more versatile golfer.

Favorite Holes

#14 – Par 4 – 441 Yards

One of the longest par 4s on the North Course challenges every aspect of your game.  Off the tee, you need to carry a series of bunkers, ideally shaping a draw around the dogleg left.  The fairway run sharply downhill, which can add distance to a perfect drive.  However, the closer you get to the end of the fairway, the more uphill your approach is.  This elevated green has some of the more severe breaks on the course, funneling everything back toward the fairway.

#2 – Par 4 – 387 Yards

This is one of the most unusual par 4s I’ve encountered.  The first section of the fairway is wide, but it’s flanked by water on both sides.  If you want to hit a full driver, you’re aiming at a very thin sliver of fairway that’s crowded next to a large bunker.  Your approach shot is played to a thin, elevated green fronted by bunkers.

#11 – Par 3 – 201 Yards

This long one-shotter plays downhill but is all carry over water.  The green is very thin from front to back, making every pin placement difficult.  A pin on the right is particularly devious as it brings two bunkers into play and the prospect of going sand-to-sand.

Conclusion

Variety is the spice of life, and it’s an essential ingredient to a great golf trip.  The North Course at Firestone offers a stark contrast from the South Course, though it’s quite challenging in its own right.  Make sure to play both on your visit, and enjoy the endless debates about which was your favorite.

Visit Firestone Country Club HERE

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Matt Saternus

Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Plugged In Golf. He's worked in nearly every job in the golf industry from club fitting to instruction to writing and speaking. Matt lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

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2 Comments

  1. Donald Dubyak

    Are used to be a member at Firestone. I always preferred the south course because I’m not a fan of forced carries. The north course is a great golf course also though. High handicap golfers will get beat up on either of those courses the north or the south for different reasons.

  2. I have only played the South Course back in 1967 right after aTounament. They had not yet cut the rough. It was about 6 inches. I barely missed the fairway on the first hole and had to have help with finding my golf ball. I swallowed my pride and beat the hell out of my pitching wedge to get back to the most beautiful fairway I ever saw. I realized the challenge ahead of me and stayed out of the rough the rest of the way around. Only played nine holes and shot a 41. I would have loved to played another nine but had to get back to work.

    If you plan on playing the South Course, practice your putting and remember to leave your ego at home.

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