Established in 1894, Portage Country Club is rich in tradition while embracing change to focus on the interests of the 21st century member.
Portage offers the finest facilities and service to our members for both their personal enjoyment and for their corporate and community meetings and events; true to the Portage heritage that shaped the great corporations, foundations, and organizations of the Akron area.
As we have for over a century, Portage is committed to providing an unparalleled club experience for our members, their families and guests.
Portage Country Club is one of a handful of clubs that is a hundred or more years old.
The growth of the Club paralleled the rise of the rubber industry in Akron, and it became the place for the athletic and social activities of the city’s most prominent families. Today, Portage Country Club is recognized as one of the country’s elite private clubs, a tribute to the success and prosperity of the City of Akron and a memorial to those who contributed to its evolution.
There were few golf courses in the world when golf was introduced to Akron in 1894 at the original site of the Portage Golf Club, a rural area then known as the “West Hill Residential District.” Charles C. Goodrich, son of company founder Dr. Benjamin F. Goodrich, and Charles G. Raymond, a young executive at BF Goodrich, persuaded Raymond's father-in-law, Colonel George T. Perkins, to allow them to lay out the golf course on their farm. C.C. Goodrich, C.G. Raymond and Bertram G. Work, friend and co-worker at Goodrich, were the founding members. They rented a structure known as the "Old John Brown House," once the home of the Harper's Ferry Abolitionist, and constructed a crude nine-hole golf course around it. The balls were handmade and the clubs, if not exactly primitive, were little more than tree limbs by today’s standards.
Equally primitive were the locker room facilities, located on the second story of a nearby stable. Despite such handicaps, interest and membership in the Club grew until, on January 5, 1905, it incorporated under the name, “The Portage Country Club Company.” According to The Official Golf Guide For 1900 by Joseph Newman the nine-hole course was "fairly good though somewhat short." The Club became affiliated with the United States Golf Association in 1904.
In 1905, with membership growing, the Club moved to its present location at the corner of Twin Oaks and Portage Path. Chicago architect Howard Shaw designed the clubhouse, and the formal opening was May 19, 1906. By 1917 sufficient acreage had been acquired to expand the course to 18 holes. William B. Langford, noted golf course architect was hired in 1918 and designed a new 18-hole golf course which made Portage Country Club one of the best and most complete clubs in the United States.
The original clubhouse was destroyed by fire on February 19, 1921. The main section of the building was gutted and all the furnishings ruined. The Akron architectural firm of Good and Wagner designed an enlarged clubhouse that was formally opened in May 1923. Since this time, major improvements and additions have occurred at the clubhouse and to the grounds, but the original appearance and atmosphere of the club have been painstakingly maintained. Property was acquired to further enhance the Club's family recreational activities of golf, racquet sports and swimming. By the Centennial Celebration in 1994, we had a renovated clubhouse with updated athletic amenities.
However, on January 30, 1999 another fire engulfed the clubhouse at Portage Country Club. It was a tragic scene: it seemed the entire roof was ablaze, much like the fire of 1921. Fortunately, none of the members or employees were seriously hurt. The fire devastated the top floor, and water damage from the valiant efforts of the Fire Department wreaked havoc throughout the first two floors. Fortunately, the golf Pro Shop and related areas were untouched by the fire, permitting a full, unfettered golf season.
Michael DiMaio & Associates of Akron in conjunction with WTW Architects in Cleveland were commissioned as architects for the rebuilding of the clubhouse. The staff of the Club re-christened the Recreation Complex as "Portage North" to serve as the temporary center of the Club's social activities. The club officially reopened on July 1, 2000.
Portage has had the unusual distinction of having world famous golf professionals on its staff. From 1899 to 1931, the professionals were Robert Bonar, George Cunningham, Harry W. Smith, Willie Still, and George Currie, all clubmakers and teaching pros. Colorful Al Espinosa served from 1931 to 1944. He was one of the leading competitive golfers of his day, serving on six Ryder Cup teams and qualifying 16 consecutive years for the National Open. He tied for the U.S. Open title in 1929 at fabled Winged Foot in New York, but lost to Bobby Jones in the playoff. Espinosa’s most memorable day at Portage was August 25, 1922, when he fired six birdies, an eagle, and two pars to post a 27 on what is now the front nine. One of Espinosa’s teaching assistants at Portage, Herman Keiser, won the famed Masters’ title at Augusta, Georgia in 1946.
The most famous Portage golf professional was Denny Shute, who served from 1945 until his retirement in 1972. Shute’s brilliant career began when he won the 1927 Ohio Amateur title. He won the British Open in 1933; scored back-to-back match play PGA Championship titles in 1936 and 1937; was a member of four Ryder Cup teams; and finished in the top ten in the U.S. Open six times, losing the title to Byron Nelson in a 1939 playoff. In 1957, the PGA enshrined Denny Shute in its Hall of Fame, a lasting tribute to his great career.
Cliff Cook served the Club as Head Professional from 1972 through 1983. Rod Johnston, a certified Master Professional, came to Portage in 1984 and retired in 2012. Larry Manski, having served as Rod's assistant since 2000, is currently our new Golf PGA Professional.
Although Portage has a proud history, an outstanding facility, and a superb staff, its greatness stems from its long-term success as a family club. Many present members are second, third and fourth generation members, who have literally enjoyed the Club from the cradle. They see Portage not only in the context of recreation and leisure, but also as a place where manners and character are molded.
Insistence on high standards for more than a century is the reason Portage has developed and maintained a membership of exceptional people. Perhaps more important than anything else is the Club’s belief that each member’s individual character ultimately determines the quality and character of the Club.