Having the honor and privilege of being one of the first to play a new or renovated course is a special treat. Throw in the setting of a world-class resort and you have the makings of a wonderful day. This was my Friday.
Ownership of PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens changed a short time ago. The new owner isn't afraid to make a further investment in the resort, renovating rooms, restaurants and even the award-winning golf courses.
Home to the PGA Tour's Honda Classic each March, PGA National's best known track is the Champion. The Champ is just one of five courses on the property, with the Haig being the oldest.
The Haig, designed as a tribute to five-time PGA Champion Walter Hagan, was the first course opened at the resort, seeing its first golfers 32 years ago. In April, the course was closed and Tom Fazio II was brought in to completely renovate and modernize the noted shot-maker's layout that his uncle and great uncle had originally crafted.
The new course is officially reopened and now proudly carries the name "The Fazio," A tribute to the multi-generational golf course design family.
"We think the appealing aspects of The Fazio are the reconfigured greens, tee boxes and bunkering, achieving that ideal balance where single-digit golfers will be fully challenged, while higher handicaps will have a layout for a day of enjoyable resort golf," said Mr. Fazio II.
"I remember when my uncles built this course. They had me out here picking up sticks. My daughter worked here with me this summer, but she got to use our GPS equipment, not pick up sticks," he said.
New greens are usually an interesting lot. They tend to need time to grow in and establish. The greens complexes at The Fazio are close to perfect already. The greens feature more undulations than before, as well as the smoothest rolling surface I've had the pleasure of putting on in some time. My putts rolled quite true and I made more putts than normal during my round. It seems as if I could read the line, there was a very good chance the ball was going to be close.
The bunkers were reworked and drainage was improved to assist in drainage. Over years, bunkers tend to grow smaller and lose their definition. Mr. Fazio II used the new bunkers and their design to frame the greens and fairways.
The tee boxes were also redesigned. Instead of the old, traditional oval tee boxes, Tom went with rectangular tees. The look helps the golfer line up his shot without even paying attention to it.
In addition, more tees were built. In what may be the reverse of today's golf course design trends, Tom made the course shorter. To assist the tee it forward campaign, a set of more- forward tees was built, shortening the course by some 400 yards.
To challenge low- handicap players, he also added more than 200 yards to the layout and repositioned the fairway bunkers to prevent players of any ability from simply bombing the ball off the tee without fear.
The course now has five sets of tees and plays from 5,100 to 750 yards. The slope rating from the back tees is a hefty 139, with a rating of 74.5, which is pretty stout and enough to challenge everyone. The course eases up on you if you move up a set or two. Pick the right set of tees for your game and you will certainly have an enjoyable, yet challenging round.
The Fazio starts off with a par-5 that requires a daring second shot if you plan to make an eagle. The first par-3 comes at the fifth. Playing just 160 yards from the tips, this downhill par-3 uses bunkering and water to protect it. The PGA of America's office complex sits behind the green.
At the seventh you will find what may be the prettiest par-3 at the resort. This 215-yard hole is framed with trees shedding their leaves in the early fall, providing a beautiful palette of color.
The closing holes feature a short, risk-reward, par-4 with water down the entire right side; the longest par-3 on the golf course; a difficult par-5 and finishes with the longest par-4 on the course.
I don't know who set the pin on 18, but we certainly had the "Sunday" pin placement for our round. The green at 18 is guarded by a large, deep bunker and water. From your approach shot, you can take in the entire resort, with its beautiful pool, lodging and dining sitting well behind the green.
To set up your round at The Fazio or for additional information on PGA National Resort and Spa, call them at (800) 533-9386 of visit www.pgaresort.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.