Course Reviews/Travel

Sentry World PDF Print E-mail




By: Jason Bruno


Sentry World, located in the central Wisconsin town of Stevens Point has long

been known as the state's first true golf destination. This area, commonly referred

to as the "Gateway to the North Woods" is the link between the rolling farmlands

of the Badger state and the lake country to the north. The vision for this grand

daily fee parkland layout originated with the late (and former Sentry Insurance

Chairman) John Joanis. Joanis hired Robert Trent Jones Jr to design this midwest

beauty that opened to rave reviews back in June, 1982.






It was Joanis and RTJ II's collaboration that led to the creation of the Par 3

signature sixteenth known as the "Flower Hole".




After a damaging wind storm destroyed numerous trees on the 200+ acre property

over a decade ago, Sentry contacted RTJ II Design to come back and evaluate what

was needed to restore Sentry World to it's former glory. The firm summoned its young

and talented design associate (and native Badger) Jay Blasi to make the assessment.


Blasi informed the leadership at Sentry that the storm actually was beneficial to the

course and suggested the removal of a thousand additional trees (thus allowing for

open corridors, angles for more strategic play and improved air flow & sunlight

exposure for healthier turf). Also, upon further discovery, Blasi learned there was

a serious need to replace the outdated irrigation system, drainage, bunkers, and

many of the green complexes. Finally, in 2012 new Sentry chairman Pete McPartland

came on the scene with passionate energy and big picture vision to implement the

plan that was previously outlined.



There was really only one hurdle to leap for McPartland to bring it all to fruition -

RTJ Design was the company commissioned to do the renovation, but Blasi was no

longer part of their stable, he had left and started his own firm (Jay Blasi Design).

Blasi was McPartland's choice to oversee and implement the major improvements

to the course. To make a long story short, McPartland made it happen, Blasi would

be his point guard on the renovation as the Project Architect (along with RTJ II

designer Bruce Charlton). To spend an hour with Pete McPartland is to realize that

this is a person, and a leader of the highest order (a lunch meeting with Jay and

Pete is not just a treat, it's an honor).





Blasi and the RTJ staff quickly got to work, Jay himself spent the better part of

28 straight weeks on the property. The removal of trees opened up site lines,

vistas and enhanced the strategy elements for better players - thus, also allowing

for more enjoyment for all ability levels. Also, several hole routings were changed

or modified - utilizing some parcels of land that were previously untouched. For

those playing the forward tees, the distance was reduced to 4696 yards to increase

enjoyment. The challenge for those who aspire to conquer the sternest of tests

(from the back tees) was incresed to 7145 yards. The new expansive driving range

no longer faces the early morning sunrise glare of the east, and accommodates a

greater number of enthusiastic linksters.






The renovation completely closed the course for two years, in the fall of 2014

the facility re-opened for a preview. But it wasn't just the course that re-opened,

McPartland and the Sentry Company went a giant step further, they decided to

created an entire mega complex, devoted to golf, tennis, outstanding local cuisine,

and the best reception facility in the area for weddings, banquets and corporate

meetings. A jewel that would serve not only as a company asset but also as a

community treasure.






PJ's restaurant serves up the local flavor. Anything with cheese in Wisconsin

is a big hit, as well as the native fresh catch. Jay Blasi's go to comfort food

when in town is the tomato soup and grilled cheese. I chose the soup as well,

along with cheese curds and salmon tacos. For just getting off the plane and

driving 2 1/2 hours from Milwaukee (we were in town to also cover the U.S

Open and visit Sand Valley) - this was the perfect pre-round experience.

Delicious is an inadequate description of how outstanding the food is here

(outstanding service as well).







A Sentry World staple - Farmhouse Ale Cheese Curds








The staff were setting up for a large reception during our visit, this is one of

several halls equipped to handle any special occasion at Sentry World.







Make sure you get a good warm up, Sentry World starts off with a challenging

424 yard dogleg left par 4 (blue tees).







One of the new designs at Sentry World is the 473 yard par 4 second. Easily

the bully of the front 9, Blasi used part of the old eleventh to craft this hole

that offers great flexibility for tournament play (it can play as a 598 yard par 5

for professionals). A long accurate approach shot is required here, the green

offers a fair amount of back to front slope.






Any sign of significant elevation change is absent at Sentry World, but harmonious

natural surroundings like this "infinity green" at the par 3 - third is an early indicator

of how special the experience at Sentry World will be. Once a vacant pocket in the woods,

this lakeside parcel is now the setting for the shortest hole on the property. At 151

yards from the tips, it's the perfect chance to catch your breath after the challenge

of the opening holes.






The 299 yard fourth is a fabulous example of a risk reward drivable par 4.

Avoid Blasi's subliminal invite to go for the green and play less club to the

proper position on the right side of the fairway . . .






. . . here's the correct angle for an easy wedge. *Blasi took on his own

challenge and paid the tariff when his well-intentioned high draw fell just

short of clearing the hazard. I chose the less risky route, but taking the

"low hanging fruit" option doesn't require an apology after notching the

first circle on the card.







The par 3 seventh is the toughest of the one shotters at Sentry World (it played

211 yards during our visit) the slightly elevated shallow green requires the proper

club selection. Avoid any tucked pin location here and aim for the center of

this green, 3 is a great score here.







The 340 yard eighth is another example of variety at the new version of

Sentry World. This tight tree lined hole lends itself to precision over might.

The superb flash bunkering does a fabulous job of framing the landing areas

and defining depth. Simple beauty, nothing tricky here.






The re-designed 508 yard par 5 ninth gets my vote for the most fun hole on the

property. Using the original tee and green locations as well as the existing creek,

the design team crafted a fairway slot down the right side to encourage aggressive

play to this well guarded green. Although it's listed as a long par 4 for professionals,

I personally don't think it should be, the hole has a thirteenth at Augusta like essence -

it's beauty and temptation all neatly wrapped in one glorious setting . Hit two masterful

shots and you're likely rewarded, miss just slightly (as I did) and you'll be kicking

yourself for ruining a good opportunity to get healthy on the card. My immediate

thought after walking off that green was I want to play that hole again.






Another view of the ninth, this one from behind the green shows all the elements

of strategy, beauty and recovery.







Although the tenth offers back to back par 5's on the card, this is an entirely

different test than the ninth (playing 612 yards from the back tees), survival

is the theme here - par is a solid score on this monster dogleg right.






If there is a drivable par 4 on the course to take on - it's the new eleventh.

It Played 280 yards during our visit, and features a green that's now located in

front of the water (previously it was tucked further back and right of the hazard.

Longtime RTJ II designer and Sentry World co-project architect Bruce Charlton

gave his thoughts on the hole, "Creating the new eleventh really allowed us to

focus on increasing the fun factor". Pick the appropriate tee (who says you can't

move up a box to make the hole more of a risk reward challenge) and smash a

low bullet fade tee shot that leaves nothing more than a chip and putt to this

well undulated infinity green. This well crafted design gives you every chance

to put another circle on the card.







Perhaps the biggest change to the updated design at Sentry World is the 139

yard (161 yards from the tips) par 3 twelfth. Located in a previously unsullied

parcel on the property, the design team created a fantastic short par 3 on a

peninsula that requires your full attention - especially if the wind is blowing

(Blasi striped his mid-iron shot here that played much longer than the number

thanks to a stiff hurting breeze that came up just as we reached the tee). Don't

over club as I did here, plenty of room has been provided to the left for a viable

path to escape with par.







A view of the green complex at the par 5 fourteenth shows off the variable

patterns and heights of cut - brilliant work by Superintendent Matt Smith

and his grounds staff. *Look for our Q&A with Matt Smith coming soon in

our "Masters of the Moss" section.







The presentation of colors at the "Flower hole" can be distracting to the task

at hand, so take a few photos and enjoy the scenery on this one of a kind mid-

length (168 yard) par 3 that was inspired by RTJ's visit to Holland's Tulip festival

just before getting started on the original design 35 years ago. Blasi and I took

a few minutes to discuss the flora and all of its splendor, then settled back into

our match that was knotted up at All Square.







Ground level view of the hole gives you a better idea of just how much effort

the Agronomy/Landscape staff put in to create this iconic scene each spring.







The new seventeenth hole is much friendlier than the previous version

with more room off the tee and a short approach to a severely sloped

green that runs away from the player. This view from behind the green

is among the most serene at Sentry World.






The 18th tee, a 439 yard uphill right to left dogleg is a worthy finale.

Midwest conifers and evergreens guard the corner, while fairway bunkers

on the right catch any flared drives that fail to draw. Your two best are

required here to finish strong.






The back center pin sits just over a rise on a shelf, an uphill recovery from

short of the green allows for an aggressive shortgame play - miss this green

deep, and the round will likely end with a miscue.



Sentry World is a must play when traveling to the midwest. If you're planning

a Wisconsin golf vacation, put this re-imagined parkland Top 100 daily fee gem

on your list, and tell them who sent you . . .





For more info:



















Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge PDF Print E-mail


By Jason Bruno

Just about a month or so after the last putt dropped at the 2017 Arnold

Palmer Invitational, we returned to Bay Hill to experience what it's like

to be a guest at the club where Mr.Palmer called home every winter and

spring for nearly the last half century of his life.








We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational,

which was a celebration of "A Life well Played", and it was an honor to be on

hand to cover the event that won't soon be forgotten. It was a special week

dedicated to remembering Arnie.







On a beautiful spring morning in Orlando, the new statue of The King

forges an unforgettable symbol of an American icon that is missed by

all. The 13 foot effigy stands tall over the 1st tee in homage to the golf

legend that continues to inspire so many.








Palmer fell hard for the place when he first visited the club for an

exhibition match back in 1965 (photo above) and "began the quest to

make it his own". The quiet surroundings, abundant wildlife, and a golf

course that fit his eye was exactly what a 35 year old Palmer was looking

for. According to longtime assistant and friend Doc Giffin, "It appealed to

him because of the privacy, he thought he had found a nice, quiet, lovely

place (with a golf course)." In 1970, Bay Hill became his winter home,

and in 1979, the PGA Tour moved it's Central Florida stop permanently to

Bay Hill (which was originally designed by Dick Wilson in 1961).







To this day, remarkably, Bay Hill remains the serene place that Palmer

first laid eyes on over 50 years ago. Located on 270 acres along the Butler

chain of lakes between the ultra affluent communities of Windermere and

Dr.Phillips, the residences of Bay Hill itself are handsomely modest and

unassuming in a locale where gaudy gated mansions are the norm.

In fact, for many years, you could have driven through and seen the four

time Masters Champion coming out of his condo in the neighborhood to

take his dog for a stroll early in the a.m hours.


Despite all of the big time tourism development in the area over the last

45 years (Bay Hill is now bordered to the south by Walt Disney World and

to the east by Universal Studios), the place somehow has retained it's

quaint feel, so much so that when you turn west heading into the Bay Hill

neighborhood, it seems as if time has stood still and it's 1975.


The intimate charm of the lodge is felt from the moment you arrive. The staff

has a large role in that. It's almost as if Mr.Palmer has infused a micro-chip

of his own welcoming nature into every one of his personnel. While taking

notes during my stay, I constantly referred to it as the "A.P Effect".



As we learned, experiencing Bay Hill Club and Lodge as a guest is unique

to any other golf destination that we have featured. Yes, it has all of the

customary amenities that you'd expect at other well known world class golf

destinations. It is a private club for its members, but it also doubles as

a big time player in the golf resort industry, not in it's size, but in it's

stature. The seventy room lodge offers 3 restaurants, 3 bars, an aquatic

center, fitness center, spa, salon, Marina (bass fishing), tennis academy,

9,000 sq, ft of meeting space, and of course 27 holes of Arnold Palmer's

personal golf treasure. However, it's Mr.Palmer's culture and DNA that's

branded into the fiber of Bay Hill that makes it the gem that it is today. You

can't discuss a single element of the place without mentioning his influence

and presence here (even today some 9 months since his passing, and likely

for several decades to come). It's a really powerful positive energy that exists

here. It's old school manners, proper presentation and an abundance of kindness.








Little cool reminders like Mr.Palmer's "Umbrella" logo imprinted in the

sand ash tray give you an idea of just how well everything down to the

smallest detail is well thought out. The AP "Umbrella" logo is recognizable

worldwide, and perhaps has an even a greater significance to those here

and at Palmer's club in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.







If someone at the club bestows one of The King's signature pins to you

consider it an honor as I did when longtime lockeroom attendant Rick

Roberts was kind enough to pass a few on to me after spending some

time remembering his boss and friend that he still misses dearly. The

card table where Arnie and his group would gather each day is just about

a medium length birdie putt away from where Roberts' would serve up the

King's favorite - Ketel One. He introduced me to Arnie's close friend and

shootout partner Dick Ferris (who brought Palmer into the fold as a co-

owner of Pebble Beach along with Clint Eastwood and Peter Ueberroth

back in the summer '99).








Recently a $7 million renovation of the rooms was completed - resulting

in spacious and comfortable lodging, nothing ostentatious. The feeling

conjures up the vibe that you're staying in Arnie's spare room at Latrobe.

Photos from a "Life Well Played" don the walls of every room. In ours was

a black-n-white from the 1965 Ryder Cup Team deboarding at the airport

in England. (Unlike many resorts that rotate stock photos in their rooms,

every picture in every room at Bay Hill Lodge is a different moment in

Arnold Palmer's life - each selected by Mr.Palmer and his family).







The compulsion to pull the curtains away and observe the setting is too

much for any golfer to bear. What a great spot to spend a few days, now

it's time to grab the putter and wedge.







Another view from just outside the room - the practice putting area,

starters booth and 1st tee.








On your way to the Salon, Spa, Pool, Lounge, Cafe or Golf Academy

you traverse through this beautiful courtyard and gardens.







Mr.Palmer's personal table in the Bay Hill grill room. He would sit in the

chair closest to the door so he could see everyone in the room.






Palmer's Payne Stewart award is displayed in Bay Hill's grillroom




While on property I spoke with many of the key figures at the club

not only about Mr.Palmer, but also about the day to day operations

at Bay Hill. One of the great people in the industry to sit down with

is Roy Schindele who is the Director of Sales and Marketing.


LN How does the loss of Mr.Palmer impact the day to day operations at

the club, and how do you move forward as a staff considering how large

of a presence he was on a daily basis?


R.S: "The vibe here at the club comes from the staff that are so proud to have

worked with him (Mr.Palmer) directly - carrying on his legacy comes naturally.

That's indicative of the tenure of the people who have worked for him. We

have people that have been here 37 years, 34 years, 28 years and right on

down the line. Todd (Harris) our Tennis Pro has been here 46 years. If

anything we've stepped up our game and tightened things up a little bit to

his standards and wishes in a very unwavering way" Schindele said.

He continued, "The little things of respect and honor have been carried forward.

For example try walking down the hallway with your hat on, we're going to ask

you to take it off, because that is what Mr.Palmer would do. His philosophy

was consistency, customer service and if you take care of those two things,

the bottom line will take care of itself. It's just a step forward, not necessarily

a monetary decision but what's right for the guest or the member."







Dining in the grill room is another excellent experience. The full 180 degree

window view of the the practice areas and 1st tee set the mood for the day.

Sometimes the finest of details come in the pursuit of deliciousness, Schindele

gave us a minute example of one that you're sure to notice with your taste

buds. While in the grill room having breakfast before departing for home, I

made an observation about how spectacular the bacon was - so much so,

that I felt compelled to take this photo (above). The best way I could describe

the "Bay Hill Bacon" (as I now refer to it as) is not by it's texture or taste but

by what I would do for another serving. I'd make the 150 mile trek up the Florida

Turnpike from West Palm Beach just to get a another portion.

As it turns out, Schindele brought it up without me saying a word. "Our bacon

is never frozen from the time it's produced, to when it's delivered here, cooked,

and put on your plate - because we found that (freezing it) it diminishes the taste.

It costs the club nearly triple of what most resorts pay, but again it's not a monetary

decision, it's about quality." Right then I thought "Arnie must have loved bacon as

much as his guests." Once again I jotted down "The A.P Effect".








While a guest, work on your game all you want, the staff will keep you

supplied with pyramids of range balls all day long.







Mr.Palmer's spot on the range is still set up each day in memory of where

he enjoyed spending so much of his time each day before heading out to play

in the daily "Shootout" match with his regulars. During the PGA Tour stop in

March his golf bag was also on display here on the far right side of the practice

tee. Quite often he'd be seen back out here in the evenings tinkering with a new

club or swing thought. Many like Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player

have said that no one ever loved the game of golf more than Arnold Palmer.









My last evening at the lodge I had the entire shortgame area to myself,

oh what it must be like to be a member. Being a guest is the next best








In the photo (above), look beyond the statue towards the lodge - you

can see PGA Tour Pro Dicky Pride working on his putting. He later would

tell me "That is definitely my testing spot," Pride said. "I use the windows

of the dining room as a mirror to check my setup."








Close friend of Arnold Palmer and golf legend himself Dow Finsterwald is

a member and resident at Bay Hill. We spent a few minutes watching the

1958 PGA Champion make putt after putt from 8 feet and all he could say

was "they're not going in the center of the cup." Still a competitor at 87

years old. On any given day, you can bump into a golf legend like Dow

at Bay Hill.









Superintendent Chris Flynn's Agronomy Team moves through each

golf hole with remarkable precision.









The main attraction at Bay Hill is always the golf course and it lived

up to expectations, challenging a young tour player and a middle aged

grinder with every club in the bag. We had a magnificent day on Arnie's

championship layout. The 184 yd par 3 seventh (pictured above).








The 460 yard par 4 eighth was sporting a tucked championship Sunday

pin (even though it was a Monday). It played as our seventeenth (we

started on the back nine), it's also where I missed an 10 footer for birdie

to keep the match alive. The young pro (Michael Kartrude) had closed

me out 2&1.








The 438 yard eleventh has danger written all over it. There are no shortage

of right to left approach shots on Arnie's signature course. Afterall it was

the King's natural shot shape. You can see the water level in this photo,

Florida was in serious drought conditions in late April. Now, not so much.








A view from beside the 221 yards back tee on the gorgeous seventeenth.

The blue tees where I played from were 177 yards.









The 458 yard par 4 eighteenth is easily one of the more memorable

finishing holes on the PGA Tour. It has been the scene of so many

victorious Tiger celebrations that were shared with Arnie. In 2016,

it was Jason Day who celebrated here with Mr.Palmer one last time.








One of the really cool items inside the clubhouse is this guitar that ZZ Top

gave Palmer as a gift.









This timeless black and white image from the Masters Par 3 contest shows

Arnie and Tiger Woods playing to a magnificent throng of patrons. It might

be my single favorite golf photo. It was a gift from former Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Ridge to Sam Saunders. Today it hangs in the clubhouse just

outside the grill room.









This wall of Palmer golf memories in the grill room is a reminder of what a

full life he led and those he shared it with.



To be at Bay Hill is a treat in itself. It's a Lodge, a private golf club and

resort all in one. To be a Stay n Play guest taps you into that whole

experience, but first and foremost it is Arnold Palmer's (winter) home

and will always remembered and honored as such. Mr.Palmer's family has

done an outstanding job of carrying it forward. The staff here are truly an

extension of him and his legacy. So when you arrive and check in at the lodge,

soak it all in - we did.

When I pulled out of Bay Hill and made the right hand turn onto Apopka-

Vineland road heading for home, I had this hard to describe feeling, it was

as if I had just exited one era in my rear view mirror, and entered into

another looking forward. I thought "Wow, that's powerful. It's a one of kind

intangible sensation you have while on the grounds. I stopped at a red light

a few miles down the road, took out my note pad and one last time jotted

down: "AP Effect".




If you ask me about a lasting vision that I take away from Bay Hill

each time I'm on property - it is this photo. It requires no explanation.

It simply makes me smile . . . #ArnieWould



For more info or to book your stay at Arnie's Place:













PGA Golf Club Part 2 - Wanamaker Course PDF Print E-mail



By Jason Bruno

Hazeltine banners were streaming outside the clubhouse at PGA Golf Club

(pictured above) during our visit to review Tom Fazio's Wanamaker course

located in Port St.Lucie, Florida. Part of the PGA of America's flagship

property at PGA Village, the Wanamaker is one of four Championship layouts

at PGA Golf Club. Named for Rodman Wanamaker - who inspired the birth of

the PGA of America in 1916 and the trophy of the PGA Champion each year

that also bears his name), the course routing rolls through a typical Florida

landscape that includes Slash Pines, scrub Palmetto Palms and greens that

have plenty of undulation to challenge scoring.



At PGA Golf Club, replicas of all four major championship trophies greet

you at the entry when you arrive - not a bad first impression. (Pictured

left to right): U.S Open trophy, PGA Wanamaker, Masters and the oldest

prize in professional sports - The Open Championship Claret Jug).






Among the tremendous recent improvements to PGA Golf Club spearheaded

by GM Jimmy Terry is this members terrace and dining area that overlooks

the 18th green of the Wanamaker Course. Certainly not a bad spot to enjoy a

post round meal and beverage. A perfect compliment to the Taplow Pub that

caters to resort guests and public play.







Most recently it was the Dye course that was renovated (see our review of

the Dye in our previous course feature), before that it was the Wanamaker

and now the Ryder course will be closed for its own renovation this summer.

All of these projects have been conducted under the leadership of Master

Superintendent (or as he prefers "Greenskeeper") Dick Gray - pictured above

with THE Ryder Cup which was on display for a few weeks earlier this Spring.

Gray was named named TurfNet Superintendent of the Year and is the subject

of a Q&A done for The Florida Green magazine by Yours Truly (that comes out

on May 12th).





When we visited PGA Village in April, South Florida was in the middle

of a drought, so the courses at PGA Golf Club were playing firm and fast,

almost links like - exactly as we prefer. Therefore, the 520 yd par 5 first

played shorter than usual, a welcoming start to the round on the Wanamaker,

a big tee shot leaves a chance to reach this hole in two.





The 165 yard par 3 sixth plays much tougher than it looks. It's downhill

with the prevailing breeze off the right and helping. The right bunker guards

a bail out away from the hazard, but good luck holding this green if you don't

shape it with left to right spin. As you can see everything slopes left and propels

the golf ball towards the hazard. Note the severe false front that rejects anything

that lands on the front edge. Choose the correct weapon, but tread lightly.






The par 5 seventh plays only 507 yards from the tournament tees. A

generous fairway leaves a decision whether to go for the aggressive

approach or lay up to wedge range. The only place to miss here is short,

everything is likely a big number.






The ninth fairway showed a bit of turf stress from the recent drought,

but the playability was right where you'd want it. Excuse this rant from

a 30 year turf guy: It's time that American golfers learn to appreciate

what they have known across the pond for over a century - green and

lush rarely equals really good playing conditions. Aesthetics should never

be the primary focus, they should always be secondary to sustainability

and maintaining proper firm and fast playing conditions . . .  or as Dick

Gray told me, "Dry and firm turf will always work for golf, wet and soft

never works."







The 362 yard tenth is a bit of a sleeper, a very tight fairway and undulated

green that is well guarded. Use proper course management and don't try to

over power this one, finesse golf is what's needed here.





The fifteenth at 337 yards is one of the more dramatic looking designs on

the Wanamaker, but it plays like an amber traffic light (that's too much caution

for such a WOW golf hole). For me it's Hybrid>>SW or 5 iron>>9 iron because

of the narrow twisty fairway that's situated between trees and water - UNLESS

you do as I do and move up a few tees here to make things a bit more interesting.

I play the middle tees here (287 yards to the center of the green - 271 to the

front pin position). Just pick a target and blast away. Plenty of risk/reward and

what's more fun than taking it on. I drove it into the right greenside bunker,

blasted out and two putted for par, but it was the challenge of the tee shot that

brought a thrill.


The PGA Tour moves the tees around everyday for the best players in the

world, so why do most amateurs always play the same tees for every round?

We urge you to think outside the box, challenge yourself and have fun changing

things up every now and then.





Heading home, the 442 yd finisher requires a precision tee shot between

trees on the left and sand/water on the right.



The Wannamaker is the course most often used by the club to host their

events for PGA Professionals, it tests all aspects of your game with plenty

of variety. If you visit this summer be sure to also check out the newly

renovated Dye course. The 54 hole complex at PGA Golf Club (72 holes if

you count *St.Lucie Trail) is the only one of its kind between the Palm

Beaches and Orlando (which stretches for over 150 miles).



Off to the side of the front lobby and gallery area is this small meeting

room for VIP guests and Ryder Cup Captains. My favorite part of the room

is this Bald Eagle Ryder Cup sculpture.








*On April 12th, PGA of America President Paul Levy disclosed the planned

sale of their St.Lucie Trail golf course (that is off property just east of I-95)

and the PGA Learning Center. We have yet to visit St.Lucie Trail, but have

really enjoyed all that the Learning Center has to offer. It will be hard to

imagine PGA Village without the Learning Center being part of its future.

For more info on the Wanamaker and PGA Golf Club:










Dye Course Restoration - PGA Golf Club PDF Print E-mail


By Jason Bruno


It's during this time of year when much of the U.S is dealing with frigid

Winter temperatures that we like to focus on the finest warm weather

destinations that offer world class hospitality and golf to our northern friends.


There's a big revitalization going on at the PGA of America's flagship golf

property - PGA Village in Port St.Lucie, Florida. Jimmy Terry, the club's

General Manager is leading the effort of a five year improvement plan

and it shows. During the season it's not uncommon for PGA Golf club to

host 600 rounds per day on its 72 holes of Championship Golf. When we

arrived on a gorgeous sun drenched January afternoon the club was playing

host to the annual PGA Senior-Junior Team Championship.

I have to admit it was our first time at PGA Village in many years, word had

reached me from my travel scribe brethren that the recently renovated Dye

Course was worthy of our attention. Since PGA Village is just an hour from

our home base in West Palm, it became front and center on our radar as we

learned of the Dye re-opening last fall. After an amazing lunch at the club's

Taplow Pub, it was off to our round on the Dye.




Taplow Pub at PGA Golf Club





The Dye course was the third championship layout built at PGA Golf Club,

opening in 2000 after the two Tom Fazio designs - Wanamaker and Ryder

(formerly known as the North and South courses). St.Lucie Trail rounds out

the stable of championship routings for the club (originally designed by Jim

Fazio, it has also undergone a similar facelift back in 2014). PGA Village is

obviously very involved in growing the game, and the 6-Hole Family Short

course is a great example of that. If tuning up your game is the focus, the

35 acre PGA learning center is one of the finest of its kind in the world.





PGA Learning Center features a massive sand bunker complex where

you can practice virtually any type of sand shot imaginable.





After 15 years the Dye layout had lost some of its luster, so an overhaul

was in order. Although Pete Dye gave his approval on the work, it was Head

Agronomist Dick Gray and staff that went to work restoring the links style

beauty. "All we did was restore the greens back to Pete's original intent, and

put new skin on them, Gray said."  "Then we just re-faced the bunkers." Gray

and his staff also uncovered bunkers that had become overgrown by bermuda

turf over the years. New Celebration turf in the fairways and Tif-eagle greens

restored to Dye's original dimensions have it looking and playing better than






As you can see from the photo above, it was a picture perfect January

day in South Florida for our spin around the Dye course. The par-5

seventh is very gettable, but the task becomes robust if your tee shot

finds this wicked combination of sand and turf that guards the right side

of the fairway. Not sure what it says about you if you fancy this bunker

compound, but I do . . . maybe it's because Pete Dye has a way of creating

demonic golf landscapes that are beautiful. Whatever the reason, I find

that the more I experience Pete's designs, the more affinity I gain for his

sinister work.




The tranquil setting at the Dye is a blend of some of the best natural Florida

surroundings - mature Slash and Loblolly Pines, wetlands, coquina waste

areas and of course clear blue skies. There are no hardscapes to be seen

(other than the halfway house snack bar between the ninth green and tenth

tees). The complex around the 11th green (shown above) offers more extreme

obstacles the further you get from the putting surface. Note the angled and

raised pot bunker that's circled by 6 ft of thick bermuda rough some 40 yards

from the pin. Is it Picasso, mad scientist or genius? Perhaps all three, but one

thing it's not - is ordinary.







Pete Dye gives the golfer a less intimidating visual from the tee here

than on many of his more famous layouts like Kiawah Ocean, Whistling

Straits and TPC Sawgrass, but just like those, hitting the correct side of

the fairway is paramount to having the best angle for each approach.


Spending the day on the updated Dye was a blast, conditions were

superb and the course provided more than it's fair share of challenges

(we used every club in the bag). Coming down the finishing holes at

gloaming is a sight and a day that we won't soon forget. We look forward

to our next visit to PGA Viillage, where later this spring we'll feature the

the rest of the links offerings here at PGA Golf Club.



For more info:















Visit Sebring - Citrus Golf Trail PDF Print E-mail



Recently we traveled to Sebring, Florida and it's neighboring communities

of Avon Park and Lake Placid to experience the Citrus Golf Trail. Located

in Highland County (nearly 90 miles south of Orlando proper), this rural

central Florida region is a bit of an unknown in national golf circles. In a

state that boasts well over 1,000 golf courses, there is bound to be hidden

gems. The Citrus Golf Trail is an eclectic blend of both modern and

classic course designs that will pique the interests of the die hard and

casual links lover. Highlands County offers less crowds and a more

laid back atmosphere than the tourism mecca of the I-4 corridor. We

sampled golf at five of the Trail's layouts: Harder Hall, Placid Lakes,

Pinecrest, Highland Ridge and Sun N' Lake.



The Inn on the Lakes was our home base for week, and is the perfect

lodging compliment to the local golf scene. Located in the heart of Sebring

right on Hwy 98, the Inn is THE spot in town to relax and recharge for

whatever type of vacation plans you have in store.




The Inn has 155 rooms providing an atmosphere of casual luxury.

The Chicanes restaurant and bar will impress with cuisine and

service that's on par with the best resorts, but with the charm of

a small town bed & breakfast. Hospitality isn't a slogan here, it's

a staple.





The view of little Lake Jackson from the terrace outside my room.

For more info:






Harder Hall golf club was our first stop. Dick Wilson was commissioned

to transform the course into a championship layout. 2016 marked the

61st playing of the Harder Hall Womens Invitational run by Amateur

legend Carol Semple Thompson. The 62nd edition of the event was

underway as of this writing. It remains one of the most prestigious

events in women's amateur golf, some notable past winners include:

Natalie Gulbis, Christie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Morgan Pressel and Brittany





The history runs deep at Harder Hall, check out this honor roll of

Mixed Team Champions from yesteryear.






If you have an affinity for classic works, Pinecrest an original 1926

Donald Ross design just might me the sleeper of the Citrus Golf Trail.

This Avon Park routing bobs and weaves through mature orange

groves and challenges even the best players with the Scotsman's

famous false front greens (that have just been re-grassed with ultra

dwarf tif-eagle bermuda) that rolled liked glass. The first ever televised

golf event was played here in 1959 and was covered by NBC. Slammin

Sam Snead, and Carey Middlecoff were among those competing at

Pinecrest that historical week. Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Grover Cleveland

and FDR were among the luminaries that played here back in the day.

GM Joe Staffieri met with our group and summed up the value here,

"Where else can you play a genuine classic Ross design for $30 ($38

right now in full season). This is the very definition of "Hidden Gem".





Highlands Ridge has 36 holes of golf designed by Steve Smyers

(South course) and the late great Dave Harman (North course)

who crafted Orange County National and the highly acclaimed

Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand. We played the North course which

opened in 2001 (earning many honors as one of North America's

best new designs), and impressed everyone in the group. At

7234 yards from the tips, this is a big ballpark and will test even

the biggest hitters.




If you're after some local dining specialties, the Cowpoke's Watering

Hole steakhouse on U.S Hwy 27 has it all. I highly recommend the

the seafood choices as well. A big thumbs up to the Whole Snapper.



Located in the city of Lake Placid, Placid Lakes Country Club recently

celebrated it's 50th year. A complete renovation of fairways, greens

and bunkers was finished in 2005.



Many would consider Sun 'N Lake as the pinnacle of Highlands County

golf, no arguement here. The 36 hole facility consists of Deer Run (built

in 1976) and Turtle Run which was added over two decades later in 1999.

Sun N' Lake is worthy of it's praise, and is the annual host of PGA Tour

Latin America Q school. Their vast and faithful membership is a testament

to the great job being done by Head Golf professional Jim Kurtzeborn and

his staff, the club is vibrant and playing conditions are superb.





Any visit to the area would be incomplete without visiting the world

famous Sebring International Raceway. The Chateau Elan hotel and

Convention Center sits beside the nation's oldest road racing track

that began it's storied history in 1952.

Chateau Elan features the Esperante restaurant and Hairpin lounge

that serves as a lodging and entertainment partner to the legendary

racetrack. Visitors who reserve a room for the "12 Hours of Sebring"

in March will have a vantage point to watch the races from the comfort

of their suites and hotel rooms. During our visit, BMW and Audi were

out testing their race cars, what an adrenaline rush it is just watching

the speed displayed on the 3.74 mile track . . . and yes, they have

golf packages available with your stay.



Florida golf of both the modern and classic variety is what the Citrus

Golf Trail is all about, and at a great value. Throw in some small town

charm and hospitality, an international sporting event at a world class

venue, and it all adds up to VISIT SEBRING. You'll be glad you did.












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