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Private Firestone Country Club more accessible than you might think

Firestone Country Club, where this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is being conducted in Akron, Ohio, may be an exclusive private club, but you don't necessarily have to be a Firestone member or guest of a member to play there.

That's because Firestone is a ClubCorp facility, which means that the approximatly 80,000 members of ClubCorp business and country clubs potentially have access to the 54-hole facility. Although access to the famed Championship South Course at Firestone is limited, the other two courses at Firestone – the North and West – have good pedigrees as well and would be worth the upgrade in membership to play.

To play Firestone and some of the other high profile clubs in the ClubCorp portfolio, members must upgrade to a Signature Gold membership. And until Sept. 6, members can do that merely by paying an additional $600 in annual dues. Currently, the upgrade includes two green fees to every club; you just pay the cart fees.

'The Signature Gold upgrade basically pays for itself,' says Firestone General Manager Mark Gore.

The Signature Gold membership allows ClubCorp members to play facilities located outside of a 75-mile radius of their home. Firestone also has luxury accommodations for out-of-town guests.

The course lineup at Firestone, of course, is stellar. The South, originally designed by Bert Way and reworked by Robert Trent Jones in 1960, is the longtime site of the World Series of Golf. It also hosted the 1975 PGA Championship won by Jack Nicklaus in a remarkable comeback, as well as the 2000 WGC-NEC Invitational when Tiger Woods played the last hole in the dark.

Firestone's North course is also an RTJ design, and it was the site of the 1976 American Golf Classic and the 1994 World Series of Golf. And the West course at Firestone, the newest of the three, was redesigned by 2001 by Tom Fazio and plays host to the Ohio Senior Open.