The smile on Jane Broderick’s face is a crystal ball into the future of PGA National Resort & Spa in South Florida.
“Our motto is ‘changing the game again,’” said Broderick, the resort’s director of golf operations for the past 35 years. “We’re not only changing the game with some of our new offerings, but changing the entire property and transforming it into something beyond someone’s imagination.”
Brookfield Asset Management, the Toronto-based investment company that in 2018 acquired the 2,000-plus acre resort—a landmark destination in Palm Beach Gardens, FL—is breathing new life into a property that had grown a bit stale over the years.
PGA National—originally built by legendary South Florida developer E. Llwyd Ecclestone Jr in 1980—has a storied history that includes hosting the Ryder Cup (1983), PGA Championship (1987) and Senior PGA Championship (1982-2000). “But we can’t rest on our laurels. We have to be doing things to take (the resort) forward,” he said.
That’s particularly true in South Florida’s luxury resort market, where the historic Breakers resort on nearby Palm Beach annually spends millions of dollars on upgrades, renovations and new amenities; and The Boca Raton (formerly the Boca Raton Resort & Club) has new ownership that is pouring millions of dollars into a major transformation project complete with a water park.
Brookfield has renovated PGA National’s 339 guest rooms and suites and created a more guest-friendly environment. The past July, the resort opened The Staple, a par-3, nine-hole course on what was once the first and 18th holes of the Squire, one of the resort’s five golf courses.
With The Staple architect Andy Staples created what might be the world’s most informal golf course. No hole is more than 160 yards long; players are guided to the next hole by the directions of Adirondack chairs; and there are no formal tee markers. If a player wants to only chip and putt around the greens, that’s fine. If he or she wants to play as far back as possible, that’s fine, too. Staples designed the course (walking only) with just enough nuances for golfers of every skill level.
The Staple’s figure-eight configuration has crossing holes at Nos. 2 – 3 and Nos. 7 – 8, with outdoor seating, with fire pits and a café/bar area.
The Staple, Broderick said, “Partners up with the vision of the property the ownership currently has. And it’s only going to get better. We’re seeing tons of families play it. The kids are having a blast, which is what we want. It’s a great way to practice your short game and it’s a course for beginners.”
All of that is above ground. Perhaps the best example of the new ownership’s commitment to PGA National’s future is below ground. Consider that prior to the Staple, the old Squire course had only two drains in the first and 18th holes. Now, according to Broderick, those now have a total of 66 drains.
The Squire’s remaining holes –2 through 17–are scheduled to open Sept. 10 as the new 18-hole Match Course, another Staples design that in a way, will be a larger version of The Staple. The Match will have no pars, no tee boxes, and no minimum or maximum yardages.
“A completely different spin–just go play,” said Broderick. “No one who has ever played the Squire will recognize they are on the same holes.”
The Match also will have a new drainage system as part of its connection to The Staple.
“We’ve taken the least-used, poorest draining golf course (Squire) and turned it into two amazing golf properties,’’ Broderick said. “And we have replaced 30-year-old irrigation systems on the Palmer and Fazio courses. The investment in the infrastructure has been phenomenal.”
The courses (and room renovations) aren’t the only changes in the works for PGA National. A new dining concept—called Birdies—is expected to open by year’s end. The renovated pro shop will be ready in November and a renovation to the Members Club is planned for next year. Also, the Honda Classic in February 2022 will kick off the PGA Tour’s annual Florida Swing on PGA National’s Jack Nicklaus-designed Champion Course.
“It’s a rebirth of an amazing property,” said Broderick. “We have better bones than most facilities. To see this property actually go to its full potential—we are on our way there—is exciting.”