There is a ton of competition out there for golf resorts in Florida. In order to separate yourself from the competition, you need to offer quality, value and a unique experience. While many resorts claim it, few can deliver. Many can offer the traveling golfer quality and a unique experience, but at a price. Many can offer great value, but the playing conditions are usually disappointing.
PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Florida is one of those few resorts that can deliver value without compromising on quality. Owned by the PGA of America, PGA Village is ranked as one of Golf Digest’s “75 Best Golf Resorts”. With 54 holes of golf designed by Tom Fazio and Pete Dye, superb playing conditions, a state of the art 35 acre practice facility and the PGA Museum of Golf, PGA Village fulfills the previously mentioned “unique experience” criteria.
I moved to Florida in 1997, just after Tom Fazio had completed the original North and South courses at PGA Village. A few years later, Pete Dye added the third course. In 2006 all three courses underwent a redesign, and the North and South courses were renamed Ryder and Wanamaker. The Ryder course is named after Samuel Ryder, who founded the Ryder Cup matches. Rodman Wanamaker organized the first group of golf professionals that led to the formation of the PGA in 1916.
Despite having lived in Florida for over 15 years, I had never been to PGA Village until this past October. I drove past it many times while heading south on I95, and this is a pattern that I came to learn was all too common for golfers. PGA Village was simply overlooked by many when searching for golf resorts in Florida. As a result, the facility suffered from declining morale and sub-standard playing conditions. Late in 2012 the PGA took a hard look at the property and decided to make some changes. A new management team was brought in, along with a new attitude, and they have turned the place around in a dramatic way.
My visit to PGA Village included rounds on the Ryder and Wanamaker courses, along with a practice session at the PGA Center for Learning and some time on the amazing SAM Putt Lab with PGA Golf Technology Specialist Mark Drenga. After breakfast with GM Jimmy Terry and Head Superintendant Dick Gray to get more familiar with the property, my buddy Dave and I went out on the Ryder course. Fazio designed this course to be generous off the tee, while still being challenging for all abilities. The greens are fast and smooth with just enough slope to keep you on your toes.
The Wanamaker course continues where the Ryder course leaves off by adding length, making the fairways a bit tighter and punishing stray shots in deeper and larger bunkers. This course is consistently ranked in the top 25 public courses in the state. It is a classic Florida layout with wetlands and vegetation coming into play more frequently than the Ryder course. Again, the playing conditions were ideal with fast, smooth rolling greens and dramatic white sand bunkers that test your courage on almost every shot.
I didn’t get to play the Pete Dye course, but I was able to ride around several holes and get a good feel for the layout. It is a classic Dye design with dramatic mounds, steep face bunkers and plenty of nasty surprises for errant shots. More of a link style course, the greens are in great shape and roll true like the other courses. As with most Pete Dye courses, don’t miss on the short side! While there is plenty of water and waste areas around the course, Dye always gives you a bail out area. If I was to recommend an order in which to play the three courses during your stay, I would go with the Ryder, Dye then Wanamaker.
In the afternoon we stopped by the 35 acre PGA Center for Learning. This amazing practice and teaching facility has a huge circular practice range with chipping and putting greens scattered all over the place, different types of practice bunkers, a three hole discovery course for new players and a staff of PGA Professionals. The learning center boasts one of the most technologically advanced facilities in the nation. They have a ForeGolf Sirgul 180 Simulator, TrackMan Launch Monitor, Sam Putt Lab, Dynamic Balance System, V1 Pro, LinxTracker and more to assist the pros. There is also a world class golf fitness and performance center and a fully stocked club fitting and repair center.
To round out the experience at PGA Village is the 8000 square foot PGA Professional Hall of Fame and PGA Museum of Golf that houses one of the most complete and diverse golf libraries in existence. Be sure to make some time on your trip to check it out. In fact, to get your trip started I would suggest everyone spend a half day at the museum and library, then head over to the practice facility and work off the rust or get a quick lesson and play the 6 hole PGA Short Course. The next two or three days can be spent playing the big courses. I believe this itinerary will give golfers more than just a resort golf experience, but some historical perspective as well and a way to easy into the trip in a more relaxing way.
Located two hours down the turnpike from Orlando and only 45 minutes from West Palm Beach, PGA Village is perfectly located for both north and south Florida golfers seeking a place to get away. There are plenty of amenities and restaurants in the area, and choices for accommodations are also diverse. Stay and play packages can be booked right on their website. With a central location, great playing conditions, wonderful facilities, courses from two legendary designers and unique attractions like the PGA Museum and Learning Center, PGA Village should be on everyone’s Florida golf resort short list.