BOCA RATON, Florida – Recently, I played the Old Course at Broken Sound, a Gene Bates, ASGCA, 2006 phenomenal redesign of Joe Lee’s original. Gene completely remodeled the Old Course from the ground up, rerouting it and adding over 10 acres of ponds, wetlands and drainage as required by the Boca Raton city government to become compliant with ecology regulations.
The Old Course at Broken Sound has been home to the PGA Tour Champions’ season opener for the past fourteen years (2007-2020). The layout is a secluded private 18 hole course designed as a classic golfer’s sanctuary. While the New Course rounds out Broken Sound’s 36 holes, touting a challenging championship course that offers a hard par or easy bogey for those that ply its links, the Old Course is reminiscent of courses in the sandhills around Pinehurst, North Carolina.
Gene Bates’ new design plays through a landscape of tree-lined fairways, stone bridges, wildlife, ponds and lagoons. The strategically located 75 bunkers around the course add to its aesthetic beauty and challenge. The Old Course’s style with its elevation, water, carries and sand fulfill the needs of even the ardent diehard golfer. The greens have been voted the “Best Greens” on the PGA Champions Tour by officials and players alike for the past fourteen years, a testament to the incredible work and consistency from the agronomic staff.
Broken Sound was only the second golf facility in the U.S. and 14th in the world to be GEO certified- the sustainability assurance of the international non-profit Golf Environment Organization. Broken Sound has also received Audubon Sanctuary Certification for both of their courses by using reclaimed water for the irrigation of the course and common areas, creating wildlife sanctuary areas around all the water features, establishing the first industrial composting project in Florida, installation of 22 beehives for pollination, and the introduction of fifteen bat houses as a natural method of insect control. They have a lot to be proud of at Broken Sound.
The Broken Sound Club was developed by the Arvida Corporation in the 70s where ASGCA member Joe Lee designed the original course. Mr. John Crean, CCM, General Manager & COO, is leading a team effort to improve the environmental effects and reducing the Club’s carbon-footprint, while at the same time continuing to meet the mission statement of promoting the club’s excellence and top-notch services.
The Old Course is somewhat unique in that it does not wind through the prototypical Florida housing development. No homes. The opening hole is a welcoming, backward S, par 5 where you need to aim at the fairway bunkers off the tee. There is a water hazard right about 150 yards out, and if you stay clear of it a birdie is possible. It does not take long for the course to show its teeth with a tough second hole. Right is better off the tee with an elevated green awaiting your second shot with OB left and water right. The par 3s, 3, 8 and 14 are requisite Florida with carries over water and in #3’s case, bunkers. The par 4, 4th and 5th holes are more birdie opportunities. The sixth is a long par five dogleg left with water on the elbow. Left off the tee is better because there are a plethora of hazards right. A good straight second shot will allow you a preferred wedge into the green.
Hole No. 7 is a classic risk-reward driveable par 4 with danger lurking with a huge waste bunker left, bunkers on both sides of the green and just a little water. One of the tougher holes on the course, the 420 yards, par 4, ninth is completely lined with water left and OB right, requiring a great drive accompanied by an even better approach shot into a raised green surrounded by four bunkers. Only the longest and straightest hitters will get on in two. Par is fantastic here.
The 10th is a super hole. The fairway is split by an oak tree on the right and a trio of palm trees. Avoid the water all the way down the right and the trees and it is an easy par four. After an easy par 4, 11th, one of the most difficult holes is the 209-yard par 3, 12th with a green perched above two large pot bunkers on the left. It is an easy bogie and a tough par. Another tough hole is the #2 handicap hole 13, a long par 4 that requires a straight and accurate drive to a receptive fairway, with a second shot over water to a peninsula green surrounded on three sides by water. Good luck! Beware of the trees on the par 4,15th. They are everywhere and then a downhill shot to a well-protected green will confound you even more. On the par 5, #16 you will have more tree trouble on the right but it is birdie time if you make 2 good shots. The slight dogleg left par 4,17th looks more intimidating than it is. Avoid the water hazard and it is ‘par’ty time. I could have played all day and avoided the par 5, 18th. You have got to see it to believe it. If you score well here, go buy a lottery ticket because luck is on your side.
All in all, the Old Course at Broken Sound is a great layout with 6900 yards of beautiful vegetation, superb conditioning and a mix of holes that would be hard to duplicate in south Florida.