Revamped Boca Raton Resort & Club ready to host modern golfers

By Ted Curtis, Contributor

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Slammin' Sam and the Silver Scot would hardly recognize the place.

Sure, ol' Sam Snead and Tommy Armour at least would find themselves at home in the Boca Raton Resort & Club's majestic and historic main resort building. After all, the two golf legends called the south Florida resorts their club headquarters, serving as consecutive directors of golf at Boca for more than two decades.

But what is this at the nearly 80-year-old resort? An opulent new spa? Some of the best new dining anywhere in the world?

And look at what wonderful things they did with the golf course.

Today, the Boca Resort has undergone a golf metamorphosis. For many years, the course - designed by William Flynn in 1926 - was the oft-forgotten stepchild of the resort, a spectacular example of Roaring '20s Addison Mizner architecture. Now, after a $6.5 million overhaul of its Resort Course by designer Gene Bates, golf is back at Boca.

Let's get one thing out of the way right now - the golf course at this hallmark resort of Florida's Pink City is short. The Resort Course plays just 6,253 yards from the back and 5,602 yards from the middle of the five teeing grounds. Before you criticize, consider the amazing course routing job done on this small piece of tres chic real estate, located just a few three woods away from the Intracoastal Waterway. One ranger - excuse us, here in Boca they are known as "players assistants" - quipped that building this course "was like trying to squeeze a football field onto a matchbook cover." Thanks to the considerable mounding, lush foliage and perfectly positioned palm trees along the sides of many holes, you hardly ever notice: With only a few exceptions, you cannot see even a piece of more than one fairway from the tee.

But that all does not mean you can just come out here drivers blazing, for this course is the Fred Couples of Florida golf - it's laid back and sneaky long.

The hidden length comes in the elevation changes throughout the golf course. Drives are played downhill into swales - so forget about the 75 extra yards of bounce that you get on the usual Florida resort course. Approach shots often are played back uphill to elevated putting surfaces.

Of course, these height changes will never be confused for a Carolina layout; the highest elevation at the Boca Resort course is 30 feet above sea level. Then again, that does make it one of the highest natural points in all of Boca Raton.

But for the golfer, the changes in elevation are of critical importance, for the player who fails to pay sufficient attention may find approach shots consistently falling perilously short. Take too little club on the approach to the par-4 third and you will not make it up the elevation to the 23-yard-deep putting surface and instead slam into a deep bunker in front of the green. Same goes for the par-4 11th hole, where bunkers and swales catch anything not played with enough club. And at the beautiful 17th, a long par-3 is made to play even longer than its listed 186 yards by an elevated double-tiered putting surface guarded in front by water.

The short and way-too-easy course of years past it ain't.

"To maintain the historical significance of the course, we fashioned many of the tees and bunkers to their original design," says course designer Gene Bates. "However, we transformed the fairways and greens to be much more demanding."

Its deceiving difficulty notwithstanding, this is a very relaxing place as well. The course's signature waterfall and babbling brook - designed by architect Hugh Hughes, who built the quite lovely water feature at Florida's Naples Grande Golf Club and the absolutely amazing one at Steve Wynn's Shadow Creek Golf Club in Las Vegas -- calmly break the silence at the greens on the parallel-running third and 12th holes. And the impressive hotel tower frames the backdrop on many shots, including the approach at the island-green 18th hole.

If you find yourself far from relaxed, maybe you should blame your short game. The resort is home to a Dave Pelz Scoring Game School, a unique facility dedicated to teaching golfers the finer points of chipping, pitching, sand play, putting and all of that other stuff from inside 100 yards that drive us crazy.

If the Pelz School doesn't help you to relax, the prospect of the ultimate massage may do the trick.

Boca Resort features one of the best spas you will ever see. The brand new, award-winning Spa Palazzo has 44 treatment rooms, soaring lounge with massive windows and a roaring fireplace, and services that even a spa-novice person couldn't turn down are unique in the resort spa industry.

Don't be intimidated by the majestic surroundings: the Boca Raton Resort & Club is great for families with young kids, too. The resort recently unveiled a cool new children's playground and waterpark. And Camp Boca offers more than 300 activities and events every month to keep youngsters and teenagers alike elated and engaged.

It's all sure to get you refreshed, refueled, reinvigorated and ready to head out to the course tomorrow and enjoy it all over again.

Dining Out

Hungry? There are more than a dozen dining and entertainment venues right on property at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. Some are true top cuisine, such as 27 Ocean Blue, the innovative creation of the resort's world-class executive chef James Reaux and modern-Mediterranean Lucca, which is the brainchild of New York City culinary superstar Drew Nieporent. Check out the Food & Wine Appreciation Weekend -- to be held this year July 2-4 - a real can't-miss on the Florida culinary scene.

Also around Boca Raton are some other great places to eat, drink and be merry:

New York Prime: One of then most popular steakhouses in south Florida -- 2350 Executive Center Drive, NW, (561) 998-3881

Mark's at the Park: Medeterranean cuisine in the heart of the Mizner Park entertainment district -- 344 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, (561) 395-0770

La Vielle Maison: Perhaps the best French restaurant in Florida, consistently rated among Zagat's best -- 770 E. Palmetto Park Road, (561) 391-6701

Fast Fact

The Resort Course was originally designed by William Flynn in 1926 and underwent a $6.5 million renovation by Gene Bates in 1997.

The Verdict

It's a pretty short track, which can be frustrating if you're looking for a place to fly those huge drives. But the conditions are always absolutely impeccable, the facility is legitimately 5-star, and the lovely course layout is just tricky enough to be fun.

Stay and Play

The resort's golf package includes room, unlimited golf (with shared cart for one round per day), a golf clinic per person, club storage and cleaning, unlimited range access, full American breakfast and complete use of the fitness and other facilities.

Ted Curtis, Contributor


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