Welcome to this, the first edition of Check-In Florida... A new monthly series here on The World of Deej spotlighting the great hotels and resorts around The Sunshine State. From the cities to the beach with theme parks in between, once a month we'll check-in to the best accommodations that Florida has to offer. So without further ado...
Ask just about anyone with a passion for travel and they'll often identify childhood family vacations as the beginning of their adoration with wandering. For some, it was the annual trip to Cape Cod, a visit to the home of a favorite aunt, or maybe even an ill-fated road trip to Wally World, which planted the seed for a lifetime love of travel. In my family, these adventures often centered around trips to Atlanta, Disney World, and the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
For the better part of half a century, golf was the family business. My great-grandfather and grandfather were both accomplished professionals, and many of my first impressions with travel centered around trips to various tournaments throughout the country. One of which was the Senior PGA Championship, which was held every year at famed PGA National. A place we visited so often, that my grandmother once told my aunt that she didn't need directions for our journey, because her 9 year old nephew knew the way.
|The rooms overlooking the golf course...|
Fast forward 20+ years, and those directions led me to PGA National once again, but to a very different resort than the one I remembered. Some of that is due to the faulty memory of a 9 year old kid, but the majority is thanks to a $65 million renovation that the property has undergone over the last few years. A huge investment for one property, especially given the economic environment, but one that is primed to pay huge dividends.
|Ironwood Restaurant - My kind of dining room...|
Walking through the front door, one is greeted by everything that signifies a great resort: a spacious bright lobby, a sleek bar serving tasty libations, and a view to the pool which beckons all who come near it in the Florida heat. To my delight, there is free WiFi, so I scope out a comfortable spot to get in a little work, before heading to the golf shop for my tee time on one of the resort's five championship courses.
PGA National is first and foremost a golfing destination - the resort hosts The Honda Classic on Tour each year - and spread throughout the property are countless pieces of memorabilia which serve as a reminder of the resort's role in the game's history. As I walked down a corridor from the lobby to the golf shop, I stumbled upon a poster from the 1989 Senior PGA Championship. There amongst the signatures of all the competitors was that of my grandfather, a touching reminder of so many great memories at this resort.
|I probably looked a bit odd scanning these signatures...|
After 18 holes of mindbogglingly lousy golf on The Champion course, I pulled up a chair at the lobby's iBar, and drowned my sorrows in an ice cold Sam Adams. Since it was dinner time, I decided to give their burger a try - always a good test for the full menu - and after two bites the 3 double bogies I made to finish my round were long forgotten.
|Yeah, it tasted as good as it looks...|
Although golf is the centerpiece of PGA National, there is plenty for the non-golfer as well. The resort features a world class tennis facility, and a health club which offers numerous classes each day from yoga to ballet, all of which are complimentary for guests. There's even a croquet lawn, for anyone like me that's dreamed of dressing in all white while tossing around the word "wicket" in proper context.
|Seriously, a pool of water from the Dead Sea...|
Instead of floating around in European water, I opted to head back to the pool which had teased me upon my arrival. I am a huge fan of big comfortable lounges for hanging out pool side, and here I had row after row of them to choose from. It wasn't long before I started to question the decision to torture myself on the golf course, rather than spending the afternoon right here.
|Not a bad place to kill an afternoon...|
Exhausted from a full day of outdoor activity, it was time to head back to the room and crash. The final stage of the resort's massive renovation is a head to toe transformation of the guest rooms. When fully complete on October 1st of this year, the rooms will go from an "Old Florida" theme such as this....
To a comfortable, yet contemporary layout like this...
|The final product...|
After surveying a room which was under construction, I walked away with a high level of respect for the resort's ownership. Just about every day, a landmark resort announces a "renovation," but all they're really doing is exchanging some linens in the guest rooms, swapping out the lobby furniture, and changing the name of one of the restaurants. Not so at PGA National. Their renovation was a complete top to bottom overhaul of the property. From the lobby to the guest rooms to the golf courses, no portion of the facility was left untouched, solidifying PGA National's place as a world class golf destination that would rival any of the great resorts around the state of Florida.
It's not every day that one can reconnect with a destination that holds so much personal history. What was even more satisfying, however, was seeing PGA National's dedication to moving into the future. The resort has a rich history, but rather than sitting back and resting on their past, PGA National is marching into the future, ready to make cherished memories for the next generation.
Enjoy Your Stay
Special thanks to PGA National for hosting the Check-In Florida series. As always, all opinions are my own.