With a name like PGA National Resort, it’s easy to assume the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. property is all about golf, but a $100 million transformation offers something for every member of the family.
What does a $100 million transformation look like? At PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., it’s a little bit of everything.
Joseph Fisher, Managing Director, says nothing was out of bounds.
“With this transformation, our goal was to disrupt the misconception of a one-dimensional golf resort with a 360-degree luxury travel experience,” Fisher says. “In creating this tropical paradise, every aspect of our redesign was thoughtfully planned for a modern and current take on Palm Beach Gardens from its inception. The key to this revitalization was finding a balance between world-class golf and imaginative dining, wellness and resort lifestyle.”
The two-year process included guest rooms and suites, common areas, dining, the spa, new Andy Staples-designed golf courses, the Banyan Buddies Kids Club, and meeting and event spaces. With so many options in the region, the work at PGA National’s goes a long way toward setting itself apart.
“Following our transformation, we now truly offer the best-of-the-best for any type of traveler,” Fisher says. “Whether it’s a family looking for a destination that all ages can enjoy, or a foodie seeking out top-notch culinary, or a golfer looking for the region’s best courses, we can help curate the ultimate getaway all within minutes of the destination’s top shopping, restaurants, beaches and more. There isn’t another resort in the area that can offer all of these amenities and conveniences.”
Remaining open during the process—and doing so through a global pandemic—presented its challenges, of course.
“Because the transformation was multi-phased, we had to ensure we were managing guest and member expectations carefully,” Fisher explains. “While both guests and members were excited for all the new food and beverage outlets, those opening dates shifted due to the known supply chain issues. Our team was able to offer alternative options for the time being, while also keeping the excitement of what was to come.”
The resort’s 360 guest rooms and private villas were designed by KTGY Simeone Deary Design Group for curated comfort with hand-selected custom furnishings that pay homage to the charm and elegance of 1960s Palm Beach chic, a theme that runs throughout the property. The rooms are a complete departure from its previous iteration—featuring wingback headboards, bed frames in dark brown and crème, accentuated with custom vintage black-and-white palm-leaf wallpaper, plush area rugs, and lacquered and caned case goods. All rooms offer an outdoor lounge.
KTGY Simeone Deary Design Group also updated the common areas, starting with an outdoor main entrance framed with a mirrored red door, vibrant red and white awnings, and lush greenery. The lobby boasts two grandiose chandeliers resembling upside-down palm leaves, complete with ’60s-inspired pocket seating and period furniture pieces that include a light cream semi-circle sofa paired with frayed ottomans and retro chairs in varying colors, patterns and designs from gold and pink to cheetah and burnt orange.
The focal point of the redesigned lobby is the bar, illuminated at its center by a massive replica of a banyan tree featuring more than 1,500 LED lights inspired by the legendary trees that reside within the city. The bar features a striking dark burgundy and black marbled counter set against vibrant pinks and greens.
Beginning in late 2021, the resort introduced six culinary concepts—including two signature restaurants helmed by award-winning chefs—all designed by ROHE Creative. With something for every member of the family, from high-end fine dining to a bright and whimsical ice cream shop, PGA National Resort is changing the game on dining in South Florida, allowing guests to be guided by their palate throughout the day.
The menus change seasonally to ensure the chefs are using the freshest ingredients and all dining establishments are open to the public, Fisher says.
“Each establishment has its own signature cocktails and food menus,” Fisher says. “Whether it be a dry aged cut from The Butcher’s Club, fried chicken from Honeybelle, assorted truffles from Sugarplume or a frozen ice cream treat from Big Drip, the dining options on property have something for everyone’s taste buds.”
Staffing has been an issue across the industry and country. PGA National is not immune to these concerns.
“The key to recruiting and retaining staff is creating a safe workspace,” Fisher explains. “You want to ensure that every team member’s day-to-day is as comfortable as possible and that comes down to putting together a talented and friendly team in a welcoming environment. Easier said than done, but it’s a focus across the board for us.”
Dining and accommodations are important, of course, but with PGA in your name, the resort certainly places an emphasis on golf.
Jane Broderick, Director of Golf at PGA National, says the property sees roughly 140,000 rounds annually across its courses, with peak season being between January and May. The property offers lessons through its David Leadbetter Golf Academy, Dave Pelz Scoring Game School, Full Process Golf, and a select few LPGA/PGA Professionals.
PGA National opened the dramatic and innovative new Andy Staples-designed “Match Course” in September 2021. The Match Course, which was built on the land of the resort’s former Squire Course, encourages “match” versus “stroke” play.
“Fun was the number one idea behind the Match,” Broderick says. “It is where the history of the sport [match play] is defining the future of the game. We allow groups larger than four to play together … we encourage match play formats of all kinds.
“Tee markers have been replaced with teeing areas where a maximum and minimum yardage is marked on each hole, allowing the players to determine where to play from,” she adds. “And the course is not rated, allowing for players to simply enjoy and have fun instead of working to grind out a score.”
Earlier in 2021, Staples converted the 1st and 18th holes of the Squire Course into the 9-hole Staple Course, which features fast-and-firm shot corridors, and difficult-to-reach shelves on dramatic, undulating greens. With hole distances ranging from 48 to 130 yards, The Staple is designed for fast-paced rounds while using just a putter and a few short irons.
“The Staple plays in a figure-eight pattern creating a natural gathering area in the middle which we have outfitted with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs to entice players to sit and stay a while,” Broderick says. “It has actually created an entirely new social space for events of all kinds.”
Maintaining this massive piece of land falls upon Director of Agronomy Jeremiah Lockhart, who has a dedicated Superintendent on each course. In addition to the Match and Staple, which are combined under one Superintendent, PGA National also offers the The Palmer, The Fazio, The Estate, and The Champion courses. The Champion hosts the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic each year.
“The biggest difference between day-to-day maintenance and hosting a major golf event is the time frame that we have to get our work done,” Lockhart explains. “Day-to-day we must manage in and around play, where for a major event we are afforded a window without players on the course to prepare.”
Lockhart says he strives to have roughly 20 staff per course, however, that fluctuates during the year and staffing has been a struggle across the industry.
“We are recruiting team members by working to increase our wages, provide scheduling that balances the needs of the operation and the team, offer a strong benefit package, and show gratitude through many small gestures during the year (food trucks offering free lunch, etc.),” he says.
Not all physical exertion takes place on the tees and fairways at PGA National. The resort also offers tennis, pickleball and POP tennis. Broderick says the property has seen the pickleball demand explode and PGA National is about to embark on an expansion of its existing pickleball and POP tennis court facilities.
“Our most successful initiative has been to offer free pickleball and POP tennis clinics to introduce the sports to our members and guests,” she says. “We also participate in Love Serves Autism, which is an annual charity event that helps spread the word of racquet sports while raising money for charity.”
The Fitness Center has a wide selection of equipment—both cardio and weights—and PGA National offers more than 40 aerobics classes weekly, ranging from water aerobics to boxing.
“We are able to conduct these classes both in the fitness center or by the pool, on the putting green or on the tee,” Broderick explains.
With a $100 million transformation in the rearview, one might think PGA National would rest on its laurels, but the resort-rich South Florida market dictates otherwise. According to Fisher, continued enhancements include a new gatehouse/arrival moment, a lazy river with its own food-and-beverage options, and new drop off and valet for the Members Club, among others. C+RB