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|The Dye course at the PGA Golf Club is now 7,200 yards from the back tees. (Tim McDonald/GolfPublisher.com)|
PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. has upgraded its three golf courses - the Dye, Ryder and Wanamaker - and expanded its pro shop. The facility's Pete Dye design got the biggest makeover, now boasting Champion Ultra Dwarf greens and a cleaner look.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - You sometimes have to wonder what would happen if someone gave Pete Dye a big, crazy piece of land and an unlimited budget and told him to do whatever the hell he felt like.
What would that golf course look like? Would there be as many fainting spells as curses?
Fortunately for those of us who actually play Dye's courses, most of the time practicality tugs artistic imagination back to earth. Not that I don't enjoy playing some of Dye's wilder designs; in fact, they have been some of my most memorable golf experiences.
Having toned down the course several years ago - even the pros at the PGA Learning Center had complained about pace of play - this was more of a "historical restoration" as opposed to a traditional renovation, according to PGA officials.
Those who played the course before say it now looks cleaner and crisper, the colors more defined.
They kept the essential Dye characteristics the master injected into the layout while improving other aspects, making it prettier and more playable.
They added 450 trees - even though it is advertised as "links-like" - and landscaping. They also installed Champion Ultra Dwarf on all 18 greens, put paspallum grass on tee boxes, added new irrigation and a coquina base along the cart paths to reduce dust, replaced sand in greenside bunkers and cleared "vista portals." They also added some length: The course now tips out at 7,200 yards.
Some of the landscaping was intended to shield golfers from the homes that surround much of the course. No. 1 for example, now has an "open-bowl" effect that enhances the view of the 100-acre "Big Mamu" wetland.
Also, in an effort to be one of the more environmentally-friendly golf courses in the area, officials came up with a drainage plan in which the old, self-contained marsh drains into a sump pump, which is then recycled back onto the playing area when needed.
The goal was not to turn it into a typical bland and tame resort-style course. The result is an excellent golf course that can be a blast to play, if you know what you're getting into.
"The first time you play it, play conservatively," said Chuck Balchunas, a regular. "A lot of people, the first time they play it, they hate it. It's a course that grows on you. It's not a course for coming out and banging the ball. As far as testing your game, this one is probably the hardest of the three."
Much of the difficulty comes from a typical Dye trait: He likes to throw a scare into you when you're standing on the tee box. Much of it is illusion. On several holes, Nos. 1 and 7 especially, you look out at an ocean of bunkers with your driver limp in your hands.
In fact, the landing areas are fairly generous here, if you still have the nerve to use your driver.
"To me, this course is more eye-threatening than it is threatening," Balchunas said. "Seems like everything is in your way. You stand on the tee and there's 15 things to look at. "
The course picks up movement the closer you get to the greens, in the form of dips and swales, hillocks and mounds, together with some deep, grass-topped bunkers. The greens themselves are smallish and undulating.
Green fees at the Dye course are $89-$99 with $49 twilight rates, all including cart. For that, you get a top-notch Dye experience without the traditional whipping he likes to inflict on mid- or high-handicappers.
It's even playable from the back for long hitters, with a slope rating of 133. The conditioning is excellent and fairways and greens are both lush, even if the greens are a little slow.
The PGA has expanded the golf shop at the facility and made improvements to all three courses, the Dye, Ryder and Wanamaker. All three are public courses.
Ladies shouldn't be scared off. Golf for Women magazine lauded the Dye course as one of top-50 courses for women.
The facility also has the 35-acre PGA Learning Center golf park and the PGA Historical Center. The PGA Golf Club serves as a home for the 28,000 PGA Professionals.
The Hilton Garden Inn at PGA Village/Port St. Lucie offers golfers a convenient and upscale hotel option when playing PGA Golf Club, working on their swing at the PGA Learning Center or even taking in a New York Mets Spring Training baseball game nearby. Click here for reservations.
Lodging options at PGA Village also include one-, two- and three-bedroom villas and town homes.
November 2, 2007
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
The term hidden gem is used a lot when talking about golf courses. But in the case of Laughlin Ranch Golf Club, it's more. A whole lot more. This one's like striking gold. Laughlin Ranch, located about 90 minutes south of Las Vegas, is a David Druzisky design that weaves its way over and around desert landscaping. The par-72 course features dramatic elevation changes, more than 70 bunkers and just enough water features to whet (or wet) the appetite.
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