PGA National Resort & Spa

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The resort's The Champion Course
The resort’s The Champion Course

When it comes to golfing in Florida, there’s no lack of competition throughout the state at championship-grade golf courses constantly stepping up their game.

Last fall, we spent a weekend at the recently renovated PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens—known for its Championship Course and host to the PGA TOUR Honda Classic—and experienced its 90 holes of golf both on and off the green.

“For an athletic-type person or golf lover, PGA National Resort & Spa is really a sportsmen retreat like no other. I always call it heaven for golfers or the equivalent of Disney World for golf lovers,” says Karen Cantor, public relations manager, PGA National. “Ideally, once you arrive here you really don’t need to leave the property as it offers everything a traveler could need with plenty to do.”

the greens

“There is quite a nature element to this destination [Palm Beach], as well as the luxury element we’re known for. And even if you’re not a golf fan, just to ride around in a cart with a friend, you’ve got the most beautiful sites, just being out on the courses,” says Carli Smith, director of public relations and communications, Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s a variety of things to do from golf, beach—the typical things you would think of when you think of South Florida—but we also have the Florida Everglades within our destination.”

Just 20 minutes from Worth Avenue and glamorous Palm Beach, the 379-room, four-diamond PGA National Resort feels like a tucked-away retreat with everything you could possibly need at your fingertips: nine restaurants and lounges, 19 tennis courts, a 40,000-sq.-ft. European spa, outdoor mineral pools, and five tournament-ready golf courses that steal the show.

The courses, designed by golf masters Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, George and Tom Fazio, and Karl Litten, offer a variety of layouts and challenges, especially The Champion with its famous three holes forming the Bear Trap. During the $100 million renovation in 2012, The Haig course was updated and reinvented as The Fazio by Tom Fazio II, giving it a more modern layout and upping the total green by 70 percent.

While golf is highly celebrated here, there are other ways to see the greens, like cocktails al fresco at Bar 91 with a fire pit overlooking the courses. And for first-time golfers or those looking to improve, the resort offers two onsite golf schools.

“Some hidden gems that people don’t realize is you could come here to learn how to play golf from two different golf schools on site,” Cantor says. “So if you want to be active, we have it all, or if you want to just relax and recharge your batteries, we have that, too.”

We met up with a pro instructor at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy who also happens to teach many golf pros who pass through PGA National. It was our first time trying our hand at golf; the clinic was not only helpful for newbies, but our more experienced friends also learned a thing or two. The instructor went over everything from proper posture to grip and videotaped our swings, so we could see for ourselves how we were improving throughout the day (and how we could improve for the next time).

suite stay

During our stay, we settled into a deluxe jr. suite overlooking the spa pool and golf course. Our corner suite was spacious, yet cozy with a sofa, sitting area and terrace perfect for watching the golfers practicing on the course. Travelers who want to step things up a notch should opt for the PGA Suite, with three balconies, views of the Fazio driving range, and a billiard table in the living room, ideal for in-room entertaining. And if all this makes it sound like a boys’ retreat, think again. The two Spa Suites feature an in-room treatment area with a leather massage table and aren’t far from the spa itself: perfect for a girls’ golf & spa getaway.

With over 100 treatments, the destination spa is definitely a great way to spend the day and we took full advantage. Treatments are inspired by destinations around the globe, but the 75-minute Plush Papayatreatment we received was actually inspired by this tropical destination and included a deliciously smelling papaya-pineapple body scrub followed by a Swedish massage. After the treatment, we indulged in the “do nothing” resort life mentality and spent the afternoon lounging in the outdoor mineral pools with salts hailing from the Dead Sea and Pyrenees Mountains of France.

Rates start at $299 in high season and $199 in low season. ●