Fulfilling your Florida golf fantasy

18th hole at the beautiful Whitewater Golf Club
18th hole at the beautiful Whitewater Golf Club

Michael Blair of Ancaster Ontario blasts out of bunker on 18th hole at Whitewater Golf Club
Michael Blair of Ancaster Ontario blasts out of bunker on 18th hole at Whitewater Golf Club

The renovations at PGA Village and PGA National should please the most demanding player and the weekend hacker alike

Bruce DowbigginBy Bruce Dowbiggin
Columnist

People traveling south in the winter are always intent of getting plenty of sunshine and sand. Two of Florida’s premier golf facilities are just the ticket.

At Port St. Lucie’s renowned PGA Village and at the iconic PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, designers have been hard at work giving golfers the best sand experience this side of Palm Beach. Sand bunkers – the bane of many golfers’ games – have been reshaped, refined and refocused to meet the demands of the golf purist and weekend player alike.

Sand is often a personal issue. “The reason is because there is absolutely no decision made on a golf course that is more subjective than selecting sand for bunkers,” Jim Moore, director of the USGA Green Section’s Construction Education Program, told the Golf Course Industry website. “All golfers are absolutely crazy when it comes to bunkers. What one guy likes, the next guy hates.”

For that reason, the renovations at PGA Village and PGA National should please even the most demanding player – a surface so playable that even those with trap terror will find themselves lofting the ball easily onto the green.

The overhaul of the bunkers on the newly reopened Ryder Course was just one part of a $10-million multi-year property-wide investment. This includes improved drainage to keep the sand light and playable 17 years after the opening of the course. Among the standouts after the work is the Ryder’s cavernous pit bunker on No. 10, with a lip that yawns high above the golfer. Or the series of low-lying bunkers guarding the fairway on your drive for No. 4’s challenging par 5.

Ideal bunker sand is very clean, containing three percent or less of total silt, plus clay. That gives the PGA Village Ryder Course the pristine white look seen on its cousins at PGA Village, the Wanamaker and the Dye courses (which were renovated in 2015 and 2016).

If you want to brush up on your sand play, the practice facility at PGA Village has an extensive bunker area to prepare you for your round. Check with the pro shop about lessons on how to manage your sand play.

That same pristine look is also in evidence at the Palmer course at PGA National, whose Champion Course is the home of the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic this February. Upgraded by the Arnold Palmer Design Company – the firm behind the original 1984 design – the course reopened in November.

This includes work reshaping and refining all 62 of the course’s bunkers. A recent trip to the Palmer showed that while the fairways are generous and the greens large, a trip to the sand is still a challenging experience on the player-friendly layout. The course comes to a dramatic conclusion with the scenic No. 18 green, protected front, side and back right by strategically-placed bunkers.

Players should also make sure to arrive early for a warmup at the extensive practice facility, home of the Leadbetter Golf Academy. It’s second to none in Florida.

If you go:

  • PGA Village welcomes public players and stay-and-play guest. For rates and availability, consult pgavillage.com. Located just two hours from both Orlando and Miami/Fort Lauderdale airports.
  • PGA National Resort welcomes players staying at the resort. For rates and availability, consult pgaresort.com.

Columnist Bruce Dowbiggin career includes successful stints in television, radio, and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he is also the publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster.

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