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PGA National 'reimagining' its future

Andy Staples transforms the Florida resort’s Squire course into fun options — a 9-hole par-3 and a short 18-hole design. The additions balance PGA National’s golf options, which include the bearish Champion that hosts the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — PGA National Resort and Spa is undergoing a major change, one that will broaden the golf options for visitors to the long-time home of the Honda Classic.

The PGA Tour stop has been a regular at PGA National’s Champion course since 2007. Jack Nicklaus designed the layout, which many Tour players consider to be the most formidable of the current Florida Swing in large part because of the fearsome three-hole stretch [Nos. 15-16-17] known as The Bear Trap.

There is more going on at PGA National than this week’s tournament, though.

Andy Staples, founder of the Arizona-based Staples Golf Design, is putting the finishing touches on two courses that are being constructed over what was The Squire, an 18-hole, 6,750-yard design by George and Tom Fazio that opened in 1983. One of Staples’ works will be a nine-hole par-3 course that utilizes the space that was The Squire’s first and 18th holes. The remaining 16 holes are being transformed into a shorter 5,744-yard 18-hole course. Staples calls the dual project a “reimagining” rather than a renovation.

The Squire Reimagining — PGA National

"These courses will have new names and the complex will be completely re-branded,” said Staples, who hopes the courses will provide variety at PGA National, which, in addition to The Champion, also offers The Palmer, The Fazio and The Estates.

The nine-hole course is scheduled to open in April, the new 18-holer in August or September. The courses' names have not been announced. Staples was hired to do the project without a face-to-face meeting with any representatives of Brookfield Asset Management, the resort’s owner. Those preliminaries were all handled online.

“I had said, ‘You’ve got the difficult golf.’ You can get your brains beat out in playing The Champion, then come out here (to the nearby new courses) and actually like golf,” Staples said. “The greens (on the new courses) will be challenging, but they’ll be a completely different offering than the tough golf you get on the other courses.”

Andy Staples
Course architect Andy Staples, who is "reimagining" the 18-hole Squire course at PGA National Resort and Spa into a par-3 course and a 5,700-yard 18-hole course.

The par-3 course will have no set tee markers. One hole is designed to be played with a putter or with a rescue club chip. The real eye-catcher, though, will be the designated No. 5 hole. Players will be encouraged to tee off out of a bunker, and their 50-yard shot to the green is partially over water.

Greens will be regulation size with lots of pin positions available. Some of the pin locations will have a funnel effect.

“I don’t want to call them hole-in-one holes, but … “ Staples said.

Staples did promise that each green will have a difficult pin location as well. There will be no rough on either course and the 18-holer will have 25 bunkers, whereas a typical Florida course averages between 60 and 70. Carts will be available on the new 18-hole course, but the shorter course is walking only.

“I don’t care if they don’t wear shoes there,” Staples said. “It’s meant to be a casual round.”

The Squire, according to Staples, was known as “the wettest, slowest course” on the property.

“They’d put the members out there when all the other courses were filled,” he said, “but it was always a popular course because it was short, and more friendly to the average golfer.’’

So why the change?

Andy Staples — PGA National Par-3 Course
Course architect Andy Staples stands in a bunker that will also double as a teeing ground on the new par-3 course that Staples is designing at PGA National Resort and Spa.

“Our No. 1 goal was to make the owners successful and to help players find a golf course that they’ll want to play over and over again, and bring a friend," Staples said.

Brookfield Asset Management ownership was all for the concept. Staples was introduced to the project in 2019 and hired in October of that year. Construction began in March 2020, just as the pandemic was starting. The ensuing lack of play made construction much easier.

“That was an incredible blessing,” Staples said, “but it was also an indication that the people who own the place wouldn’t let something like that get in the way. They said it was a good time to do it, even though — at that point — we didn’t know what would happen to the golf market, if anyone would play golf at all much less the 30-40 percent more than are now playing.”

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