“The Match Course” offers something new at PGA National

"The Match Course" by architect Andy Staples opened September 10 at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida..

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida — PGA National Resort, a world-class golf resort and home of the PGA Tour Honda Classic, has just opened its innovative Andy Staples design called “The Match Course.” What makes it innovative, according to the press release, is that we will all be able to “Say goodbye to your typical scorecards, tee markers, stroke play, and golf as you know it. And nobody will care what you shoot.”

Yes, that prediction would be innovative, to say the least.

The Match exhibits some of the most celebrated and recognized holes in golf history. Built on the land of the former Squire Course, which had become outdated since its 1981 inception, the new 18-hole layout is inspired by classic golf course design principles of the “template hole” concept. Andy Staples has created a unique golf experience and has paid tribute to the vision of legendary architect, C.B. Macdonald.

The Match Course is a throwback to a different era when winning a match against an opponent was the primary goal, thus the intention of The Match is for you and your playing partners to engage in some type of match play, be it best ball, foursomes, skins, Wolf, or whatever.

Macdonald, who designed in 1896 the first 18-hole golf course in the U.S., the Chicago Golf Club, realized from his studies in the British Isles that courses like St. Andrews, Prestwick, and North Berwick to name three, offered around 20 different “template” holes that he believed would be fun and playable for both the beginner and the expert, especially in the match-play format so popular at that time.

“The Match Course”, then, is a throwback to a different era when winning a match against an opponent was the primary goal. Thus, the intention of The Match is for you and your playing partners to engage in some type of match play, be it best ball, foursomes, skins, Wolf, or whatever.

Yes, again, in today’s golf realm, that would be unique, and fun.

The Match Course’s scorecard won’t reference par or have specific tee-markers. For example, the winner (or loser, if specified) of a previous hole will determine the spot from where the group will start the next hole on the “contiguous” tee boxes, thereby introducing a strategic element to the competition you won’t find anywhere else. The tee boxes are notated on the scorecard only by minimum and maximum distances between which the hole may be started. And if you’re on a bit of a time crunch, not to worry. House rules dictate that players who are “out of the hole” are expected to pick up, meaning you can count on a fast round at 3 hours or less.

“The Match Course” scorecard shows the range of playing distances for each hole, with the number at the left indicating the maximum distance and the number at the right showing the shortest distance for each hole.

The Match’s turfgrass will be cut to fairway height, placing an emphasis on the ground game often used on the famous courses of Scotland and Ireland. Creative approaches and strategic chipping areas also present multiple options for different shot trajectories around the greens. Penalty areas are minimal with fewer than 20 natural rough-hewn, irregular-edged bunkers throughout.

“Our concept for The Match Course was to design 18 holes where maximizing playability for all skill levels, fostering a faster pace of play as well as creating a unique golf experience where having nothing but fun and more fun, was paramount,” says Staples. “The new layout is also an exciting reflection of how most non-professionals enjoy the game at their respective home courses where winning the predetermined ‘match’ is the main goal without the stress of having to post a score.”

“We as architects spend a fair bit of time discussing how golfers should experience courses. One trend I hope to be out in front on is this idea of designing a course specifically for match play; a format many enjoy watching every couple years through the Ryder and Presidents Cups. As it stands today, there will be no par, the course will not be rated, stroke play will be forbidden (without using handcuffs). As I’ve become accustomed to saying in describing The Match, ‘My 6 beats your 7!’”

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The Match Course is welcoming golfers with a unique opportunity to gamble.

The Match Course joins the new nine-hole Andy Staples-designed “Staple Course” which opened for play on July 1 to rave reviews. (Read the story: New 9-Hole “Staple Course” Opens at PGA National https://newengland.golf/new-9-hole-staple-course-opens-at-pga-national/ Both are part of an ongoing $100 million capital revitalization touching every aspect of the celebrated property and join the resort’s four “traditional” 18-hole layouts: The Champion, The Palmer, The Fazio and The Estate courses.

“Both our new Match and Staple courses will be extremely attractive to ‘golf buddy’ groups visiting us at PGA National,” says Jane Broderick, director of golf. “They can play where the pros play annually during the Honda Classic on The Champion Course in the morning, testing their mettle on The Bear Trap, and then tee it up on our two brilliant Andy Staples-designed layouts in the afternoon and have an absolute blast.”

A golf lover’s dream location, PGA National Resort also features instruction at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, Dave Pelz Scoring Game School, and the world’s first science-based and statistical data-driven golf training center, Full Process Golf. PGA National Resort also offers state-of-the-art club fitting. The popular resort also offers an array of special golf-centric stay-and-play packages including rounds on both The Match and Staple courses.

Resort guests can also enjoy the high-tech 33,000-square-foot Sports & Racquet Club featuring a wide array of fitness activities and classes, including pickleball and tennis on the 18 Har-Tru tennis courts (11 lit for night play). Not to be missed in early 2022 is a visit to the completely reinvented Spa at PGA designed by VStarr Designs and offering the latest in soothing wellness treatments.


As a caddie, greenkeeper, and Ouimet Scholar from Marshfield Country Club on Boston’s South Shore, Leigh developed his love for the game at an early age. The BA from Amherst College and MA from Dartmouth prepared him for his 36-year career in education, most of it teaching Advanced Placement English and coaching varsity golf. In 1986, a sabbatical from teaching students to writing stories for “Golf World” magazine prepared him for his second career in golf journalism. Leigh is a low-handicap golfer who has won the Golf Writers Association of America’s championship seven times. He is currently a member of Southers Marsh Golf Club in Plymouth, MA, and PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL.

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