It was ten to eight the morning and a thin fog clung to the pine trees and obscured the clubhouse clock tower at the PGA Golf Club at the Reserve, in Port St. Lucie, Florida. By the bag drop, it was strangely quiet except for the squawk of a crane somewhere out in the mist. The really odd part, though, was the visitors' parking lot. While an attendant hauled my clubs out of the trunk, I looked out at the acres of asphalt and saw three cars.
Heaven. My last day in St. Lucie was forecast to be clear-skied and hot, there were thirty-six really good holes out there, the damp fairways and greens as yet unmarked by cart or cleat, and I had the place pretty much to myself. Still, it seemed just a little bit weird that such an acclaimed club as the Reserve would be so deserted. Had the St. Lucie nuclear plant melted down?At the arrival kiosk, the assistant pro who crossed my name off the mostly blank tee sheet could not explain the phenomenon. "It's slow today for some reason," he said, shrugging. "You can go straight out if you like."
The single greatest joy of off-season golf is the opportunity to play great courses without the first tee looking like the queue to Space Mountain--and that's the way it is pretty much year-round along what local chambers of commerce call the Treasure Coast. Even in peak season, the area is a calm eddy away from the main flow of tourists who blow past on Interstate 95 and the Florida Turnpike, hell-bent for the condo-clogged beaches of South Florida or the theme parks of Orlando. In between, the streets, beaches, hotels and golf courses around Stuart and Port St. Lucie are noticeably less congested.
Golf, in fact, is the real treasure on this coast--the PGA Golf Club at the Reserve alone puts this region on the golfing map, and within a half-hour radius, there is an impressive inventory of courses that players can mix and match for thirty-six-hole days.
Little known even among course-architecture buffs is the fact that Port St. Lucie is the only place in the universe with designs by four different Fazios. The Reserve's thirty-six holes come from the fertile imagination of Tom Fazio, and across I-95 is the challenging Country Club at St. Lucie West, designed by his older brother, Jim. Nearby, the late George Fazio--uncle and mentor to Tom and Jim--drafted his last course, with Jim (the Legacy), and Jim's son Tommy designed his first (Eagle Marsh) minutes away.
This bit of golf minutiae is so obscure that the Fazios hadn't realized it themselves until asked the obvious question: Why Port St. Lucie?"Never occurred to me that we were all there," Tom Fazio says, chuckling over the phone from his office in Hendersonville, North Carolina. "But it makes sense. It was home for a long time." That would have been from the late 1960s to 1990, after Tom, Jim and Uncle George moved what was then a joint family business from Philadelphia to Jupiter, the southern border of the Treasure Coast. Both Jim and Tom still maintain offices in Jupiter, even though Jim does much of his work in Europe and Tom has moved to the Carolina mountains. Tommy, who works site to site, is completing his second course in Miami.