PGA Village in St. Lucie’s $6.5 Million Makeover Makes It An Ideal Spot For Golfers
The cool air pumping throughout the newly renovated Taplow Pub eases muscles that have been worked for hours in the sun. Comforting décor and rustic sophistication welcome the thirsty golfers into the pub for a savory selection of beers.
From there, they catch a glimpse of the picturesque panoramas of the preserves—the money view usually reserved for members’ eyes only.
When invited for an exclusive preview of the $6.5 million, 20,000-square-foot addition to the clubhouse at PGA Village in St. Lucie, which doubled in size, we realized that the only way to truly experience the expanded elegance was to do so as a golfer would—after sweating out 18 holes.
Two golfers volunteered to guide us over the fairways and around the rough: Bob Brunjes, the publisher of and the Stuart News and a well-seasoned, well-respected golfer; and Bob Raynes, a partner at Gunster law firm specializing in real estate and land-use, as well as a former PGA golf professional.
Both men are modest about their golf games. So often it seems the more seasoned the golfer, the greater their awareness of the game’s gift for inspiring modesty.
“The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course.”— Rev. Billy Graham
Although they’ve met many times before and played in at least one charity tournament together, neither man has faced the other one-on-one. So from the onset they keep it friendly.
“We’re on the same team,” Brunjes says when asked about the head-to-head match.
“That’s right,” adds Raynes after the first hole. “And we’re winning.” Scorecards never surface. The only notepad in sight rests in the hands of the reporter, who knows some things must remain off the record.
This Friday afternoon, the Ryder Course at PGA Village belongs almost entirely to us.
“Golf—know why I like it? Because golf is walking through a park, with a purpose.”—Michele Seipp’s Zoe in “The Blue Iguana”
After Raynes powers a drive onto the fairway, he turns to motion at the lush greens surrounding us. In the distance, a solitary bird’s song draws even greater attention to the overt stillness of it all.
“Beautiful out here, isn’t it?” Raynes says. “That’s what’s so great about golf—this.”
The Ryder is Raynes’ favorite course. Named after Sam Ryder of the Ryder Cup, PGA likens its rolling grounds and undulating greens to something you might play in the Carolinas. But Raynes thinks even farther north.
“This reminds me of back home in West Virginia,” he says. “Some golf courses feel good to you—this one feels good to me.”
Brunjes’ favorite course at PGA Village in St. Lucie is the Dye, designed by World Golf Hall of Fame architect Pete Dye. It twists alongside 100 acres of the Big Mamu wetlands with “tiered greens” that both men appreciate.
“Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it’s open to anybody who owns hideous clothing.”—Dave Barry
PGA Village includes two other courses for a total of 54 holes. Created by illustrious designers Tom Fazio and Dye, the courses include the St. Lucie Trail Golf Club, which is open to the community, and the Wanamaker Course, considered one of Florida’s most beautiful and named for Rodman Wanamaker, key visionary of The PGA of America.
Founded in 1916, PGA is gearing up for its centennial celebration. The award-winning PGA Village in St. Lucie opened in 1996. With course variety and a vast arsenal of instructors and clinics, it embodies the quality you’d expect as the game’s brand name and standard bearer, while remaining accessible enough to encourage newcomers to discover and love the game.
“The reason the pro tells you to keep your head down is so you can’t see him laughing.”—Phyllis Diller
Each year more than 1,500 PGA professionals visit, encountering plenty of course challenges. Amateurs can take advantage of the PGA Short Course, which stretches no longer than 60 yards. There are multiple instructional avenues to advance their abilities at the 35-acre PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance, including junior programs, golf clinics, and PGA golf schools, as well as a simulator and other technologies to analyze and improve swings and putts.
On the Ryder, the afternoon heats up, and so does the game.
Brunjes and Raynes blitz through each hole. Wickedly powerful drives launch low over the horizon before dropping with stunning accuracy on or near the green. The few shots that fall in the rough or crater in a bunker require little more than a nifty maneuver or two to rescue. After mere moments of sizing up the greens, both players place even distant putts close to or in the cup.
“And you get in there—It’s such an exciting athletic sport, too: whack the ball, get in the cart, whack the ball, get in the cart.”—Robin Williams
Tracking our GPS-outfitted cart, Adriana Vizcaya, director of marketing for the PGA Golf Club, arrives with waters and triangle-cut club sandwiches. Delicious. The food only heightens our anticipation for the fare and refreshments we’ll enjoy later in the PGA’s new digs.
Even as heavy, sunny rain falls the twosome persists. Thunder rumbles in the deep distance. Too far away for concern; no alarms sound.
“Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today, it’s called golf.”—Irish saying
Both men extol the virtues of PGA Village at St. Lucie courses, and they’ve done the research to support their claims. They’ve played nearly every course in the region, save the Floridian for Brunjes and Seminole for Raynes. Both have even visited Ireland on separate occasions to play.
“Winds in Ireland blew 30 mph, constantly,” Brunjes says.
“Pebble Beach has four or five good holes,” Raynes says. “Ireland courses had all 18. The caddies advised us to hit 100 yards left of the hole because of the wind.”
Retrieving a ball from a sliver of rough between a sand trap and water hazard, Brunjes gets great positioning on the green and then drills a 20-foot putt for par. Shooting from familiar distance, Raynes examines the angles, steps up and putts for birdie, rimming the edge of the cup.
“Why you don’t you just go HOME? That’s your HOME! Are you too good for your HOME?”—Adam Sandler, “Happy Gilmore”
Raynes handles it all in stride.
“It’s a fun game,” he says, “and it’s a humbling game.”
“It’s a four-letter word,” Brunjes says.
For Brunjes, the four-letter word of the day is “bird,” as in birdie. He picked up three. They finish the last hole, whose stunning vista caps off the day.
“In golf, you never lose ‘cause the winner buys drinks,” Raynes says.
Reimagined by Tom Hoch Design (which handled the entire renovation), the new Taplow Pub—named for the watering hole where Wanamaker first conceived of the PGA idea—is the perfect place to down one or two. Always open to the public and now able to accommodate 100 people, we enjoyed a cold pour and marveled at the polished, upscale finish and darkened woods. The soaring ceiling only enhances the cozy vibe.
After picking up Nike men’s golf shirts in the remodeled pro shop—which now offers a private members’ entrance and members-only lockers—we checked out the new Gallery, featuring the original Wanamaker Trophy, the PGA Player of the Year Trophy and Donald Ross’ workbench from 1900. More golf artifacts are arriving from the PGA Museum of Golf.
Other additions include the President’s Board Room—a private meeting space for business—and expanded men’s and women’s locker rooms, which even include old-fashioned shoe shines.
The big reveal comes when we’re granted access to the members-only Wanamaker Room and then the Nineteen-Sixteen Bar & Grille. Its large circular bar anchors a crescent-shaped room offering spectacular views overlooking the 18th hole at the Wanamaker Course. An 85-inch flat screen broadcasts Golf TV.
The outdoor Wanamaker Pavilion juts beyond the edge of the manicured lawns, seemingly bringing the unspoiled natural environment within touch. It’s little wonder that many couples choose to exchange nuptials in this setting, which seats 70 and includes a fire pit and two large TVs.
Our golfers enjoy sesame seared tuna and a hummus trio with a couple of pints. Dinner choices (breakfast and lunch are also served) include filet mignon, blackened pork rib-eye, cedar plank maple-glazed salmon and a host of other tantalizing delicacies.
Making plans to return and play again, Brunjes and Raynes finally part—having moved well beyond casual acquaintance thanks in large part to their natural camaraderie on the course, and topped off no doubt by the post-game ritual of food, refreshments and atmosphere at the even more impressive PGA Village.
“To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.”—P.G. Wodehouse.