When I first moved to Port St. Lucie, back in the mid-1980s, the place was buzzing about St. Lucie West Country Club. Opening in 1988, it was one of the first up-scale clubs that the public could get onto without being a member.
The PGA of America purchased the club when it built the PGA Village in 1995 on the west side of I-95. The club name was first changed to "The Tradition." This name lasted all of a couple months before "PGA Country Club" became the name it holds today.
In the years after the PGA of America purchased the club, course conditions deteriorated. The small greens grew even smaller. Fairways and greens were over-run with weeds and other grasses not meant for the course. To put it nicely, the agronomy at the club was marginal at best.
In the fall of 2012 the PGA of America decided to renovate its private country club. The clubhouse would be updated. New paint, flooring and furniture, even new plates, glasses and more were brought in. Saying "good bye" to the 80s was probably the theme.
Next up was the course. The focus was on the playable areas. Getting the course cleaned up and looking good from tee to green was first and foremost. It took a while, but the greens were rebuilt and re-grassed. They are just over a year old at the moment and will only get better as they mature. Which is truly saying something as they are about perfect.
Now for the best part. Over the next month and change, the PGA Country Club is open to the public again. With the Dye and Ryder Courses at the PGA Village closed until the second week of August, there was a serious need to find tee times for the golfers who depend on the PGA of America's facility to play and hone their game.
For a limited time, you can enjoy the old St. Lucie West track without having to know a member or call in a favor. The course is in great shape. The fairways are firm and fast and those new greens are likely to make many courses jealous.
One recent trend in course renovation is where the areas around the perimeter of the holes are cleaned up and thinned out. Not having thick clumps of palmettos to gobble up slightly errant shots serves a pair of purposes. First, it speeds up play and, second, it makes for a less frustrating round for the average golfer.
Years ago, when I last played PGA Country Club, the greens were quite small, the fairways very narrow and the palmettos were plenty. Now the greens are a tad larger, the fairways are still narrow, but the palmettos and other scrub are missing. While this helps in most areas, there are still a few spots where I would have preferred the old look.
Some of the homes and adjoining tee or fairway areas that used to be hidden from view, now catch your attention. The entire area between the ninth green and tenth tee has been completely thinned. The palmettos that used to shield someone on the 10th tee from a wayward shot, as well as block the noise from groups on that tee opening beverages and bags of chips, from bothering those on the ninth green are gone. While I appreciate being able to find your ball much easier, I think it hurts the definition of the ninth hole.
In most other places, I welcomed the new look. I didn't hit the ball all that well, but I had chances to recover and save shots. That's something you would have not been able to do here just a year ago.
If you walk off the 18th green at this course with a lot of fairways and greens hit, you had a very solid ball-striking round. If you missed a fair share of fairways and greens, chances are you found some brutal bunkers and some plush rough to hit from.
PGA Country Club features five sets of tees playing from as short as 5,049-yards to as long as 6,901-yards. Water or wetland areas come into play on at least a dozen holes.
If you remember the Country Club from back in the day and have wanted to see just how it has evolved, now is your chance.
For more information or to make a tee time at PGA Country Club, call the pro shop at 772-340-1911 or visit www.pgavillage.com.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.