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Time Travelers

"Renovation" and "restoration" are easily confused terms, but in a recent twenty-four-hour span we were reminded that they aren't synonymous. The Champion at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, host of the 1983 Ryder Cup, was a bear even before Jack Nicklaus redesigned the original Tom and George Fazio layout in 1990. This time, Nicklaus Design focused on creating a twenty-first-century facility. The $4.1 million improvement campaign saw all the bunkers refilled with beaming white sand, while the redesigned greens were regrassed with TifEagle and the tees and fairways with TifSport. A few traps were added to further TifFen, er, toughen a layout that slopes out at 147, but the new state-of-the-art irrigation system and revised drainage setup will equally influence how the course plays. For now, that's as firm as marble, making Champion's tabletop greens even harder to hold. You'll need to be a bunker artist to get around this thoroughly modern millstone.

Two hours north, in quaint Lake Wales, Brian Silva moved time in the opposite direction. Mountain Lake's storied 1916 Seth Raynor design, traversing unusually rolling terrain on one of the state's highest points, had devolved over the years due to the usual culprits of time, laxity and well-meaning greens committees. Combining his deep knowledge of Raynor's hole-template portfolio, old photographs and his interpretative skills, Silva has excavated a gem. Restoring the joyride greens to their fantastical best and each of Raynor's signature flat-bottomed, steep-faced bunkers to its original position and character, the architect has brought this collection of traditional holes like the Alps, Redan, Biarritz and Punchbowl into full relief.

Why, though, should you care about this private club?Because resident and nonresident memberships are being considered (the former is linked to home ownership), and the magnificent thirty-six-room Colony House (recently given its own $6 million refurbishment) can be used for business retreats. Given the throwback setting, a plan to reintroduce such cure-alls as Donald Ross's Bunker Be Gone or Walter Hagen's Wonderful Yip Remedy, perhaps?
—Evan Rothman

For tee times on the Champion at PGA National Resort & Spa, call 561-627-2000 or visit pga-resorts.com. For Mountain Lake information, call 863-676-5900 or visit mountainlakecc.com.


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