Playoff Payoff

The Barclays professional golf tournament returns to New Jersey's 95-year-old Plainfield Country Club.

As part of its renovation, the Plainfield course (seen here from the 9th fairway rising toward the clubhouse) is having many of its challenging original features restored.
LC Lambrecht/Courtesy of Plainfield Country Club.

Golfers love to brag about their game—and the courses they play on. This month, the members of Plainfield Country Club get their turn to boast.

From August 23 through 28, the 95-year-old club in Edison will host the 125 best players from the 2011 PGA Tour at the Barclays, the first leg in the four-tournament playoff for the FedExCup, worth a cool $10 million to the winner. For Plainfield Country Club, it’s the first important professional championship since the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open.

Clubs pursue such events for the exposure and the prestige. “The tournament is televised in more than 220 countries,” says Peter Mele, the executive director of the Barclays. “There are so few clubs that get to host these events. It’s really prideful.”

There are also financial benefits—both direct (net proceeds, perhaps as high as $1 million, will go to local charities) and indirect (the likelihood of increased corporate outings and new member enrollment).
To lure the Barclays, the club threw the book at the problem—or, more specifically, they wrote a book, 60 pages in all, with details on area hotel rooms; parking; private-plane access; police, fire and hospital resources; and more.

Once given the go-ahead, Plainfield had two years to get ready for its close-up—no easy feat. A decade-long renovation of the course—originally designed by Scottish legend Donald Ross—already was underway. Approximately 1,500 trees that weren’t in the initial layout were removed; greens and fairways were restored to their original designs; and bunkers that were covered over during the Great Depression and World War II to save on maintenance costs were uncovered or re-created using old photos and maps. For the tournament, the work was on a tight schedule, and a few new elements were added, with several holes lengthened and the closing hole redesigned.

Next comes preparation for the tournament itself. It takes about 42 days to build the bleachers, hospitality tents, skyboxes and other structures for a PGA Tour event, and about half that time to take it down. That’s two months of Bobcats and cranes banging around the normally bucolic getaway. Approximately 1,800 volunteers must be signed up and deployed—hole monitors and walking scorers, standard-bearers and courtesy-car drivers. The course will be closed to members for at least nine days—a considerable sacrifice given the Northeast’s short golf season.

Still, the members are pleased. “Hosting the Barclays rebrands us to a certain extent,” says Paul Zoidis, a PCC member since 1990 and first vice chair for the Barclays. “We’ve always been a top golf course, but we’ve been a quiet golf course. This will change that. We’ll have a bigger public image.”

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