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Pate's perspective: Sizing up Firestone Country Club

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Jerry Pate knows golf. He's got eight wins on the PGA Tour, including the 1976 U.S. Open, and he's an accomplished course designer. Throughout the season, he'll be stopping by Devil Ball to offer an inside-the-ropes look at the week's upcoming course. Today: Firestone Country Club, site of this week's Bridgestone Invitational.

Firestone Country Club was originally designed by Bert Way in 1928 and opened as a gift from Harvey Firestone to his tire company employees. That original course, built as a place for recreation and mental rejuvenation, has long been lost. In 1959 Robert Trent Jones completely redesigned the golf course in preparation for the 1960 PGA Championship. After the addition of significant length and dozens of hazards, the course became a stern and grinding test of championship golf.

A par 70 with only two par fives, the course is known for its relentless march of long, difficult par fours. The course has twelve par fours, seven of them being over 450 yards. The holes are almost entirely routed either north or south and have very little left or right movement. The fairways are all tree-lined and narrow. The par fours demand solid ball-striking with the driver and middle irons. The course is an extremely difficult physical test, yet it requires little creativity, imagination, or decision-making.

Interestingly, the course known for its demanding long par fours finishes with a stretch of four holes comprised of a par three, a five, a short par four, and a signature long par four. It is this finish that provides most of the drama and excitement on the course. The par three fifteenth, the par five sixteenth, and the short par four seventeenth provide opportunity for a closing scoring run. The eighteenth is more indicative of the course and demands the player seeking victory to execute two very precise shots to successfully close out the tournament. Look for the players who take advantage of the penultimate holes at Firestone to be atop the leader board on Sunday.

Jerry Pate has been designing golf courses for more than 30 years. His portfolio of work includes Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi, site of the 1999 United States Women's Open; Trump National Golf Club Colts Neck (formerly known as Shadow Isle) in New Jersey; Kiva Dunes on the Alabama Gulf Coast; and Rancho La Quinta Country Club in California. See more of his work at www.jerrypategolfdesign.com.

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