Sports

Venerable Golf Clubs Embrace Fun to Draw More Members

Broderick said converting the Fazio course to two, more-relaxed courses was driven by the club’s new owners, Brookfield Asset Management, which paid $233 million for the club in 2018. “We’re unbuttoning the top button of our golf shirt, and we’re relaxing the rules,” she said. “We want people to have fun.”

Firestone Country Club in Ohio, a private club that was originally the company club for the tire manufacturer of the same name, has long been known for being a strong test of golf. It has hosted decades worth of PGA Tour events, most recently the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational as well as the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship. Tiger Woods has won eight PGA Tour events at Firestone.

Yet, more recently, the club has opened up to limited stay-and-play options.

“We always had three really good golf courses,” said Jay Walkinshaw, the club’s general manager. “As the club and the membership has evolved, we realized we had these 86 guest rooms on property and some excess capacity. That was when we started thinking about opening up Firestone.”

Opening it for semipublic play has brought in revenue without hurting member play. “It’s a destination for golf enthusiasts, and now we’re accessible to them,” he said

Even venerable Pinehurst in North Carolina, the host of four United States Opens in the next two decades, has loosened up. Its main attraction, Pinehurst No. 2, considered among the best Donald Ross-designed courses, remains a sought-after test of golf just as when Payne Stewart beat Phil Mickelson in the 1999 U.S. Open. But it now has the Cradle, a nine-hole course, with music piped in. What it is missing in history, the Cradle aims to make up in fun.

“There’s this theme at Pinehurst of going back to our history and tweaking it for the modern era, and the Cradle is a great example,” said Tom Pashley, president of Pinehurst. “Having music at the Cradle is lauded now, but it was a very difficult decision. It’s added to the relaxed atmosphere we wanted. It’s part of the charm now of playing the Cradle.”

Likewise, Pebble Beach Golf Links in California this year converted an underused par-3 course into the Hay, a short course designed by Tiger Woods with lengths that commemorate historical moments at Pebble, including a replica of the course’s seventh hole, the short par-3 surrounded by water.

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