Not surprisingly, the Firestone Country Club, through the major golf tournaments it hosts, has benefited the entire community of Akron, a manufacturing city that could hardly be called a garden spot.
"I'll tell you one thing," says husky George Brittain, the Akron Chamber of Commerce's very emphatic vice-president. "In trying to bring new industry and new people into this city, we work hard on selling our plusses. The Golf Classic and the World Series of Golf are two very important ones. Having a golf course as good as Firestone's has made those two events possible."
If Firestone is vocally proud of its country club success, other firms are far more reticent, presumably because they have not made their courses pay off with such obvious dividends.
"Our courses are only in the East," says a spokesman for IBM, which owns country clubs in Long Island, Poughkeepsie and Johnson City, N.Y. and Toronto. "I'm sure our West Coast employees don't want to hear about the eastern clubs."
Bethlehem Steel is even more modest about its company course, offering a brisk "no comment." Nor does Springs Cotton Mills care to publicize its four courses in South Carolina, the cotton business being what it is these days.
Chemicals are bullish, however, so Du Pont—which probably operates the most lavish country club setup of all—discusses its facilities with pride. The Du Pont Country Club is in Rockland, Del., some four miles from company head-quarters in Wilmington. It offers two 18-hole courses, one nine-hole course, 16 quick-drying tennis courts, six alleys for lawn bowling, indoor and outdoor shuffleboard courts and a $2,720,000, pale-rose, Georgian clubhouse. This impressive structure contains, among other things, three restaurants, a ballroom big enough to handle 900 waltzing Du Pont employees and locker rooms designed to accommodate 2,176 men and 544 women. Du Pont's investment in this club and another smaller one in nearby Newark, Del. is $4,250,000. The clubs' annual budget is in excess of $1,000,000.
If these figures are staggering, so is the size of the membership. The total is just under 10,000, of whom 4,500 are signed up for the full, all-privileges membership. The cost to each member for being able to revel in this sporting paradise is $10.40 a month for men, $6.50 for women and $2.60 for children.
"We like to keep Rockland lighted up like Madison Square Garden," says club president Bob Weaver, an office manager in Du Pont's textile fibers department. "With a lot of dances and dinners we can come close to breaking even. Last year we cleared $1,400."
"The fact that the club has such a large membership," says a Du Pont company official, "indicates clearly that it fills a need that is not met by municipal or county facilities."
Not many of the corporate clubs can fill the need on such a large and luxurious scale. As maintenance costs have risen, several such courses, like the Texaco Country Club in Houston, have gone on a semipublic basis, in which non-members can play the course simply by paying a modest greens fee.