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All Fazio, All the Time

Internal rivalries have divided some designing families--including, at times, Robert Trent Jones and sons--but the Fazios got their work done without incident. For Tommy, who as a boy played on the earth-moving equipment at Pinehurst when George and Tom were building the resort's No. 6 and who later worked for both his dad and uncle, it w as a professional coming of age. He got to fly solo, but he also had input from his dad and uncle, who both walked the site when he was still pushing dirt at Eagle Marsh. Tommy, 30, recalls that his dad's comments tended to be technical--about the degree of slope in a green, for instance. Tom's suggestions were more aesthetic, about how holes set up from the tees. "I was a sponge," Tommy says. The Fazio ethic is to avoid stepping on one another's toes. "It's okay to compete, but not at the cost of relationships," Tom states flatly. "Family is more important than business."

I was eager to sample the fruit of this family tree--not to mention the work of a few designers not named Fazio--but had to wait. I pulled off the Florida Turnpike into Port St. Lucie at exactly the same moment as a storm cloud gave forth. My afternoon round was out of the question: Within seconds, it was like driving through an automatic car wash. In self-defense, I pulled into the first available plaza and parked, quite by accident, beside a sign that said ale house. One wouldn't kill me, I thought, and it was lunchtime. Dashing through shin-deep puddles from the car, I wondered, Is there a golf course on Mount Ararat?

Given It's Sedate Pace, The Treasure Coast is better viewed at a walk than a gallop. Away from the interstates, and nonstop malls along Route 1, there are remnants of a long-gone Florida (which, contrary to popular belief, actually has a past). The chambers of commerce nickname, for instance, conjures a history of shipwrecks on local sandbars, most notably the grounding of ten Spanish galleons in 1715 that dumped an estimated fourteen million dollars worth of gold, silver and jewels. Most of the loot was recovered in 1961, but storms occasionally dredge up gold coins on the beaches near Fort Pierce.

The State, Of Course, Is Used To Epochal downpours, and it sops up rain like a bath towel. The morning after the torrent threatened to wash everyone away, there was little evidence of flooding at Eagle Marsh Golf Club, in Jensen Beach. The emphasis at this 6,904-yard newcomer is on marsh. Tommy Fazio sculpted some lovely holes through wetlands rich in bird life, but the residential and environmental priorities often didn't leave him much land for incidentals such as fairways.

As a result, Eagle Marsh has a daunting slope rating of 144 from the tips, with some intimidating forced carries, tight landing areas and a reliable two- to three-club wind. The plasticized yardage guide mounted on every cart is required reading.

Even with that information, number seven may be the most difficult par five in the area. A good drive down the middle is not an invitation to go for the green in two, and even the layup must be struck precisely to stay away from the treacherous intrusions of marsh and sand. The back nine has two par threes of 220 yards or more, and at eighteen, a 440-yard par four, it would be more humane to ask light hitters to donate a ball rather than force them to try to carry the marsh in front of the green. (Tommy has since designed a second, more accessible green site for players hitting from the red or white tees.) Altogether, though, Eagle Marsh is an enjoyable challenge, and the natural surroundings are wild and captivating. The birds, in fact, still think they own the joint--on three, I had to pull back from hitting my approach shot because a mother quail and umpteen toddlers decided to play through.


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