For $450,000, Golf Bliss and CEO Buddies

Augusta National? Eh. Pinehurst Resort? It's OK. Oakmont -- the course where the U.S. Open golf championship kicks off today? It's all Tiger's. Hard as it may be to believe, a new club carved out of a toxic wasteland in Jersey City trumps them all.

When New York's tycoons and titans want to play golf, Liberty National is where they go — or at least, where they want to go. But with a maximum membership of just 300, the ultraluxe club overlooking the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty probably won't have room for all of them.

At a cost of $150 million, the budget for the 1-year-old course dreamed up by former Reebok CEO Paul Fireman and his son, Dan Fireman, surpasses the price tags of courses built by casino mogul Steve Wynn outside Las Vegas and Donald Trump in Los Angeles. Golf Digest senior editor Ron Whitten said the course was one of the most expensive in American golf history.

And, it shows. Click here to see photos.

The designers hope the game doesn't end on the green. When Liberty National's add-ons are complete in 2009, including residential towers, a rooftop ecolounge, a gourmet restaurant and a luxury hotel, Dan Fireman, CEO of course-builder Willowbend Development, envisions a golf experience like no other.

"We live in a different paradigm where people can play golf and do things that never existed," he said during a break between rounds on a steamy June afternoon. "What we've tried to create is a lifestyle."

That lifestyle, of course, doesn't come cheap. A Liberty National membership costs an initial $450,000, with annual dues of $25,000. Despite, or more likely because of, the fees that dwarf those of almost every course in the country, Liberty National has attracted high-profile members including presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, real estate mogul David Simon, Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone and the NFL's New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Fireman hinted that the club's roster included many more household names. But when Liberty National's golfers fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars, along with access to the course, they also get anonymity if they want it.

"It's something that we keep very private," Fireman said of the club's membership list. "A lot of people who are members are presidents of public companies and they really don't want to have the negative connotation of, 'What are you doing squandering all this money on a golf club?'"

Golf Bliss Between the Corner Office and the Kids

What do members get for all that money? According to Fireman, they get the ability to play a world-class a stone's throw away from their corner offices. All have access to Liberty National cars that can take them from the concrete jungle of Manhattan to a private boat docked at a nearby port. From there, it's just 10 minutes to golfing bliss.

Because while the club's members have piles of money, most don't have much time.

"A lot of these people are victims to their calendar," Fireman said. "I think what they truly appreciate about this is it gives them the ability to relax. People like the idea that they can come here, play nine holes after work, then go back and see their kids."

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