PGA National Resort & Spa

Golfing at its Best

Charles Greenfield is a Miami-based travel writer who has contributed to Travel & Leisure and regional magazines/ newspapers. He also is Cultural Arts Contributor to Artsbeat on WLRN 91.3 FM, South Florida’s NPR affiliate, a producer for WLRN Ch. 17’s Artstreet, and writes on classical and jazz musicians for the Miami Herald.

A little over an hour from Miami in Palm Beach Gardens just off Florida’s Turnpike and I-95 lies the newly revitalized $65-million PGA National Resort & Spa. Home of the PGA TOUR Honda Classic since 2007, the resort and spa has been designated by Golf World Magazine in their 2010 rankings as among the top 50 golf resorts nation-wide.

The AAA 4-Diamond resort has recently refurbished its 379 rooms with marble and granite bathrooms, 42-inch LG flat-screens, lush red carpeting accented by Asian maple wood furnishings, private balconies, high-speed internet access, and pet-friendly rooms.

The Champion

“PGA National Resort & Spa blends a new atmosphere of contemporary luxury with our grand history as one of the world’s greatest golf resorts.” said VP and Managing Director Joel Paige.

And the legacy confirms the praise: the 25th Ryder Cup Match in 1983; almost two decades of Senior PGA Championships won by Arnold Palmer (’84), Gary Player (’86,’88,’90), Jack Nicklaus (’91), Lee Trevino (’92, ‘94), and Raymond Floyd (’95); and this year’s Honda Classic with Colombian golfer Camilo Villegas posting an amazing -13 under par on The Champion course, highlighted by the “Bear Trap,” the super-difficult last three holes, nearly always buffeted by nasty quotients of wind, water and sand.

The Palmer

The resort has four other courses: The Palmer, newly renovated, undulating and demanding; The Haig, the oldest and least watery; The Squire, short, exacting and bordering a wilderness reserve; and The Estates, with wider fairways and generous greens for the high handicapper. I played the Palmer and Champion with management and Matt and Juan, instructors for the resort’s world-famous David Leadbetter Golf Academy. Leadbetter, “Father of the Modern Golf Swing,” has retooled super-pros like Ernie Els (2008 Honda Classic champion), Phil Mickelson, and Vijay Singh. Golfers can also improve their chipping and putting short game at the adjoining Dave Pelz Scoring Game School. (There is even a state-of-the-art, club-fitting facility for guests with TrackMan launch monitors to analyze your ball flight.)

Matt and Juan on The Champion

Mercifully, during my threesome, Matt and Juan gave soothing encouragement to my flubs and mis-hits while praising the occasional well-struck drive and a spectacular but lucky 80-foot birdie chip into the hole on the Champion 9th. On the “Bear Trap” par-three 17th I used a 4 iron to reach 160 yards due to a 15-knot headwind, menacing lateral sand trap, and tiny waterside green. Despite a fine drive on the 556-yard 18th I fell into the treacherous left-side bunkers before closing my strenuous but exciting round.

To soothe the muscles it was off to The Spa and a quick soak in “The Waters of the World,” two outdoor pools with imported salt from Israel’s Dead Sea and Salies de Bearn in the French Pyrenées. Inside, the 40,000 square foot facility houses 32 treatment rooms, boutique, full-service salon and café. Gülnur from Istanbul performed a very refreshing deep cleansing and purifying facial with natural marine products. In addition to Swedish, aromatherapy, shiatsu, hot stone, Thai, Reiki, and tandem massage, the Spa provides exotic tropical treatments like a star fruit sugar glow for dry skin, Hawaiian noni gel for sunburn, a bio-active seaweed wrap, and Moor Mud therapy.

The PGA’s new owners have taken former tired food and beverage venues and transformed them into attractive, hip locales. The lobby iBar exudes sports bar appeal with multi-screens, but dark woods and ecru bar stools make a strong appeal to a more sophisticated martini drinker as well as the 19th-hole beer stop. Adjacent, in their signature restaurant Ironwood Grille, Kenny Gilbert leads a double life as both executive chef and contestant on Bravo’s Emmy Award-winning series “Top Chef”. With 17 years in the industry he has cooked at New York’s James Beard House and at 23 became the youngest African American to run the AAA Five-Diamond Ritz-Carlton dining room on Amelia Island. For dinner, Chef Kenny prepares tantalizing appetizers like chili garlic & sun dried tomato calamari with parmesan polenta, hearty certified-Angus beef and Maine lobster, and an imaginative Moroccan spiced red snapper with braised red lentils.

Off-resort activities might include a quick 20-minute run to Jupiter to visit the bright red 105-foot Jupiter Inlet lighthouse (1860), a half-day fishing trip on Mystic Rose with Captain Jay York out of the inlet at Square Grouper Bar docks, or head south to nearby Juno Beach to the Loggerhead Marine Center for turtle rescue, rehabilitation and education.

For value-rich Summer Escape and Play packages through Oct. 15th, visit

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