I have said before that I truly enjoy playing a new course. Seeing the layout and the architect’s vision for the first time can be a treat. Just a couple of Fridays ago I received just such a treat. This new course, however, is not your normal course. It is also played under different rules from what most of us would consider normal.
The Match, PGA National Resort’s newest track in Palm Beach Gardens, is a new take on course design, layout and play. Like its name states, the course is meant for match play. Something most of us here seldom play.
A little over a year ago, the resort decided that it was time to do something with the Squire Course. Members and guests seldom played the course and its design had grown dated and in need of refreshing. In stepped architect Andy Staples with a fresh and brilliant idea.
The first and 18th holes, named The Staple, were to become a 9-hole modern par-3 course, complete with picnic tables, wooden rocking chairs, firepits, a café/bar area and more. The idea being to involve everyone in the family, golfer or non.
The remaining 16 holes would become 18 holes, the design of which inspired by some of the historic strategic holes from around the world. Staples vision was to free golfers of the traditional norms. Holes would have no stated par, nor were there to be sets of tees or set yardages.
Instead of the usual four or five sets of colored tees from which golfers would choose to play the course, there is a set of channel markers, one at each end of the teeing area. Yes, channel markers. Those of you who have a boat will appreciate the uniqueness of this brilliant idea.
Just as you must keep your boat between the channel markers on the river, you must choose your teeing ground between the pair on the hole. The distance between the two markers varies with the length of the hole, and can be as close as 60 yards to as far as 200.
There are seven different types of match play listed on the sheet handed to golfers when you check in. You can play any of those, or even make up your own game. Par does not exist. You play each hole with the lowest score winning the hole. You can even play using “Stapleford” rules with points being awarded based on the number of strokes taken to play the hole.
Play begins at the first hole with the player in the group with the highest handicap selecting where between the two markers the group will tee off. The first hole at The Match can play anywhere from 261 to 427 yards long depending on where the group puts their tee in the ground.
There are two ways to decide who selects the tee spot for each hole. One way is for the winner of the previous hole to have the “honor”. Another is to have the player who lost or had the highest score on the previous hole select.
In our group there was a gentleman who did not like hitting over water. Whenever he had the honor of selecting the tee spot, we would go as close to the water as possible or to the other side if the markers allowed. He played away from his weakness. Pretty smart.
Another in our group was very long off the tee and put us as far back as he could each time he chose. When we got to the shorter holes (under 200 yards), whoever had honor usually chose a yardage that fit with his favorite iron in the bag. Again, smart move for match play.
The course is well designed for match play with a few quirky traits that make for a fun round. Best of all, each hole can play completely different every time depending on where you tee off. The longest hole is the fifth, playing from a short 293 yards to as long as 512 yards.
There are eight holes that can play to over 400 yards and the shortest hole on the course may be played from only 81 yards. The longest hole from the front tees plays to just 274 yards. From the front of each tee, the course plays to 3,447 yards. From the back it plays to 5,841 yards. In between is a lot of fun and variety to keep you interested. We had a wonderful time and I would love to see Staples’ vision and idea grow.
For more information, visit www. pgaresort.com or call 800-863-2819.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. Contact him at - firstname.lastname@example.org.