PGA National Resort & Spa’s new Fazio Course is proof positive the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., property is serious about being a world-class golf destination.
The Fazio — which debuted last November after a complete renovation by Tom Fazio II — spent its previous life as The Haig, PGA National’s original 18-hole course that opened in 1980. The Haig was George and Tom Fazio’s tribute to Walter Hagen, the five-time PGA champion. Fazio II, the third-generation family member to work on the course, has done his clan proud.
Fazio left his forebears’ par-72 routing intact, but he gave the course a classic feel by reconfiguring the tee boxes from circular to square while lengthening the layout to 7,050 yards to combat modern technology. He added player-friendly, 5,100-yard tees in accordance to the “Tee it Forward” initiative sponsored by the PGA of America and U.S. Golf Association. Fazio also fully reconfigured putting surfaces, tee boxes and bunkers so higher handicappers can enjoy a resort course that also sternly challenges single-digit players from the back tees.
The undulating greens have been enlarged by 70 percent and grassed with TifEagle. My playing partner David and I were impressed by how smooth, firm and fast the putting surfaces were. In retrospect, the greens might have been a tad too firm, as six of my well-struck, high approach shots hit near green fronts and rolled off the back. They’ll be perfect once the resort softens them slightly. Grass on tees and fairways was changed to Celebration Bermudagrass and the latest irrigation technology has been installed throughout, giving tee shots a firm, fast surface upon which to land and scoot.
Fazio’s renovation has greatly revitalized the layout, particularly around the green complexes. Shot values are now stronger, with more room for tougher pin locations that can be tucked behind the enlarged green-front bunkers.
We loved the Fazio, especially its brutally difficult and long finishing stretch — the 235-yard 16th, the 540-yard 17th and the 465-yard closer. No. 16 requires a tee-to-green carry over water, the winding approach up 17 must avoid water left and short of the green, and the 18th features tee-to-green water on the left. There’s also a pond some 30 yards behind the putting surface, which should never come into play unless an overclubbed, air-mailed approach flies the green, 10 yards of rear rough, a cart path and more rough.
OK, guilty as charged, and I can’t even blame that awful result on the firm green.
The Lowdown: PGA National Resort & Spa (Fazio Course)
PGA National Resort (Fazio Course), Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Rates: Winter, $225; Spring/Fall, $190; Summer, $140
Packages: Call 800-533-9386 or visit www.pgaresort.com