PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Golf courses are living, evolving organisms. That means that they cannot be left alone for too long, lest they start to go wild around the edges.
That's why you've probably noticed the steady stream of headlines about courses undergoing renovations and restorations over the last few years.
The Palmer Course at PGA National Resort & Spa is the latest Florida layout to reopen after receiving its own touch-ups. Brandon Johnson, one of the principals of the late, great golfer's course design firm, led a team that preserved the resort's winding layout but renovated all 62 bunkers, replaced the fairways with Celebration Bermuda grass and the greens with TifEagle Bermuda grass.
Johnson also enlarged The Palmer's putting surfaces by more than half an acre in total, which means much greater variety of hole locations going forward. He also complicated the contours of the greens, which had been fairly flat before the project. Now, they have interesting knobs, tiers and swales that make for more intriguing approach shots and exacting putting without verging into the frustrating. There are also more fairway-length chipping areas by some greens. Donald Ross would approve of these new green complexes. So would Mr. Palmer.
The most striking green on the course is found at the longish par-3 tenth, a deep, three-level affair that will give players fits if they find themselves in the wrong section. Even though the green is not terribly wide, the day's hole location will also determine whether a fade or draw is called for on a given day. Strategic par threes are uncommon; Johnson and his team did well to fashion one here.
With The Palmer now up and running again, it joins The Champion, The Fazio and The Squire in having new-generation Bermuda greens, which don't require wintertime overseeding. This should save the PGA National maintenance staff both time and water resources, and the increased speed and firmness should appeal to members and resort guests alike.