PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida – PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, has just added another golf option to its already renowned game plan that already includes four, 18-hole courses.
The rampant grizzly bear that introduces Jack Nicklaus’ iconic 15-16-17-three-hole Bear Trap at The Champion, home of The Honda Classic, has just acquired a fine-feathered friend. As of July, a whimsical Florida pelican in full flight with the Ryder Cup trophy clutched in his webbed talons now introduces The Staple, the brand new and unique nine-hole, short course.
The Champion, The Palmer, The Fazio, and The Estates offer golfers four of the best tests in southern Florida. The Champion, of course, is the flagship. As former Honda Classic winner and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington has said, “Outside of the majors, the Champion is the best course we play on Tour.”
However, the philosophy behind The Staple, which is a beautifully manicured layout with exemplary but very rolling greens that Stimp around nine, decidedly has not been to test golfers. Maybe not even to quiz them! No score, no grade, no stress. All golfers pass at their own volition. As the PGA National press release stated, The Staple has been created in a “relaxed environment that allows for interesting slopes, funneling shots, and in some cases, difficult-to-reach shelves.”
The Staple has been designed to provide enjoyment and entertainment for everyone – but especially for novices, newer players, youngsters, friends, families, outings, and wedding celebrations. Without carts available, the short walk—definitely not spoiled — takes around 75 minutes on this approximately 800-yard configuration. And the suggestion is to walk with three or four irons and a putter.
The Staple is also perfect for those who want to work on their scoring irons from 50 to 140 yards. There are no tee markers anywhere on the course, but each hole has an Adirondack armchair positioned near the pelican logo that displays the hole’s number. The golfers can tee it up in that area wherever they see fit. Moreover, players have the options both of listening to music and of having beverages and food furnished.
“These two gentlemen partnered to create a masterpiece of fun, friendly golf that will appeal to golfers of all ages and skill levels, and we’re certain it will become a ‘staple’ of the golf experience at PGA National,” said Director of Golf Operations Jane Broderick, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony held July 1.
The “two gentlemen” are PGA National’s director of agronomy Jeremiah Lockhart, who has overseen major makeovers on the other four layouts, and the visionary Andy Staples, a golf course architect for 30 years, whose company Staples Golf Design in Scottsdale, Arizona, is known for its modern approach, as the company states, to “a paradigm-shifting approach for community golf integration.”
“I believe that this idea is something that is going to stick around and become a staple. I had nothing to do with that name, and I’m not sure that I am comfortable with it — yet. But I do think it’s a trend in golf I hope you all enjoy,” said Staples, with an aura of modesty and commitment. “I designed every green to have some form of an approach shot that you might encounter on a course. I hope you actually do not look for a flat space. I hope you hit off the sides of hills. You don’t necessarily have to think of this layout as just a par three. This layout encourages approach shots and bank shots, and each hole offers a challenge in its own right.”
Some of these challenges include hitting the tee shot from a bunker, bypassing a bunker in the middle of the green, avoiding the bunkers that are primarily off to the side of the greens, lofting high irons over water and/or marsh, and putting the slopes and the backdrops to coax the ball toward the hole.
The Staple is part of the $100M renovation of the hotel, restaurants, golf courses, activities, and amenities that Brookfield Asset Management of Toronto, who purchased PGA National for $218 in December of 2018, has been investing to revitalize and modernize the resort.
The Staple sits on the first and eighteenth hole of what used to be The Squire, one of the original PGA National layouts when the resort opened in 1981. Andy Staples has taken the other 16 holes and “reimagined” another short (about 5,850 yards), innovative 18 holes. Called The Match and scheduled to open around Labor Day, this layout is meant to encourage match play among teams and fourballs. The goal, as with The Staple, will be for golfers both to enjoy quicker play and to have fun on a lovely layout.
The Staple’s logo, like the imposing figure of Jack Nicklaus’s grizzly bear, perfectly reflects the architect’s intention. The Florida pelican, however, is a welcoming figure, who promises a flight of fancy, and his holding the Ryder Cup, representative of the 1983 event at PGA National, may promise that a young golfer’s fancy may later turn to thoughts of important competition.