One of three 18-hole courses to be found at Firestone Country Club, the North is an engaging Robert Trent Jones Snr layout that debuted in 1969, ten years after the South course was unveiled. The more highly-rated South course garners all the plaudits as a tournament venue but many believe the North to be the best golfing layout at this 54-hole facility.
Author Daniel Wexler says this about the course in his book The American Private Golf Club Guide: “Rather overlooked is the North course, a 1969 Trent (Jones) creation located just across East Warner Road, along the shores of a large city reservoir.
Indeed, the North is a far more engaging layout, offering a number of interesting water holes, including the 534-yard 7th (which runs downhill to a waterside green) and the 201-yard 11th, as well as the 545-yatd 18th, a grand dogleg right which dares a huge diagonal carry of the tee.
The site of the 1976 American Golf Classic, the North is a very strong ‘second’ course indeed.”
What a juxtaposition between the much heralded and way overrated South Course and its next-door sibling the North Course.
The layout is infused with engaging shots and golfers have to discern the appropriate level of challenge they wish to handle.
RTJ, Sr., far too often replicated designs that became like McDonald's store fronts - the same template used time after time.
The North accentuates a far different motif. The Firestone Reservoir is an integral element int he playing of several holes and the wherewithal to know just how far down on the pedal of risk is central to one's possible success.
The routing is also far more elaborate -- unlike the back-and-forth tedious nature of the South layout.
Unfortunately, a number of RTJ, Sr. courses have lost much of their appeal through the course of time. In sum -- many have not aged well and the embracing of the classic period of architecture from the gifted young architects of today has become the clarion call for course creations.
The North has simply been ignored by far too many people who have been swept up in all the hype that the South receives. It's understandable given how the South has had consistent television exposure and is well known to golf audiences -- not in the States but globally.
I can remember when the American Golf Classic was played on the North in 1976 and I was amazed even then about the visuals and how it contrasted with the South.
I have long been a staunch believer that land is no less than 60% of the equation when a course is assessed.
The North smartly incorporates so much more on its overall skeleton. Jones was a big time proponent of the heroic style of architecture and the North has plenty of such moments. Some will opine there is too much insertion of the water penalty areas but I believe the involvement is central to the character of the course.
The closures on both nines is done smartly and when completing the round you do have the desire to want to play the layout again.
Any trek to Firestone that does not include a round on the North is clearly missing out on one's visit.
M. James Ward