You don't have to play golf to enjoy a stay at PGA National Resort & Spa. But it helps.

 

9008733698?profile=originalAlthough the plush Palm Beach Gardens resort radiates with recreational diversions, golf is the engine that keeps it humming. 9008734266?profile=original

 

 

With prime time for snowbirds right around the corner, the South Florida oasis

will open a new course Nov. 1 and will welcome participants to its "Institute of Performance," a training facility designed to help both beginners and professionals -- plus the vast army of golfers who rate themselves somewhere in-between.

 

The new course, called The Fazio, is actually an extensive improvement of The Haig, an existing course that was the first at the PGA National when it opened in 1980. Four other courses (the Palmer, the Squire, the Estates, and The Champion) give PGA National its current configuration of 90 holes.

 

Coupled with the benign climate of South Florida, that complex should more than satisfy anyone bitten by the golf bug -- as participant or spectator.

 

PGA National offers plenty of both, with the PGA Tour's Honda Classic coming in early March and a legacy of hosting such major events as the PGA Championship (1987), the Ryder Cup (1983), and two decades of the Senior PGA Championship. Several legendary golfers live at or near the sprawling resort complex.

 

All are looking forward to the opening of The Fazio, which features a 70 per cent increase in green surface (from 1.5 to 2.5 acres); extension of course yardage to more than 7,000 yards; reconfiguration of tee-boxes from circular to square; a switch to Celebration Bermudagrass on tees and fairways; plus installation of state-of-the-art irrigation technology and PGA-inspired player-friendly tees that allow the course to be played at 5100 yards.

 

9008734657?profile=originalAccording to Joel Paige, vice president and managing director of the PGA National Resort since 2006, "We offer avid golfers a TOUR-quality practice and playing experience, including David Leadbetter and Dave Pelz academies and championship level club-fitting and practice facilities.

 

"We also offer a suite of amenities, from spa and tennis to fine dining and relaxing pool-side, that are comparable to the world's great luxury golf resorts."

 

The statistics are mind-boggling: a European spa that embraces 40,000 square feet; a comparable amount of conference space; a health and racquet club that covers 33,000 square feet and includes 19 Har Tru tennis courts; nine on-site restaurants and lounges; three outdoor mineral pools in a "Waters of the World" complex; plus proximity to both I-95 (exit 79B to PGA Boulevard) and the Florida Turnpike (two miles away).

 

Also within hailing distance is Roger Dean Stadium, a fine baseball facility that is the only one in Florida to host two teams during the six-week spring training period that starts in mid-February.

 

Not to mention all that golf, including a private member's club whose growing roster currently tops 2,000.

 

9008734301?profile=originalAt the moment, the focus is on the Fazio, which follows in the footsteps of previous PGA National course player/designers Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

 

Tom Fazio II, third generation of a family that designs award-winning courses, brought 20 years of experience to PGA National when he started the project.

According to Fazio, "We think the most appealing aspects of The Fazio are the newly reconfigured greens, tee-boxes, and bunkering, thus achieving an ideal balance where single-digit golfers will be fully challenged while higher handicaps will have a layout ideal for a day of enjoyable resort golf."

 

Those whose game need more toning can always enlist in the Institute of Performance, where David Donatucci is the director. According to Donatucci, former director of fitness and performance for PGA of America, the institute will focus on four programs: elite player development, recreational golfer improvement, onsite educational conferences, and national and collegiate team training and consulting.

 

The opening of both The Fazio and the Institute of Performance, plus a $100 million revitalization that added new rooms and themed suites, seems certain to help PGA National add to the dozen major awards it has won in the past two years. The list includes "No. 1 Golf Resort in Florida" (About.com), "Top 50 Resorts" (Golf World), and "Best Tour Courses You Can Play" (Golfweek).

 

9008734869?profile=original

 

PGA National deserves its impressive four-diamond rating from AAA. But since it keeps getting better, perhaps that coveted fifth diamond -- matching the handsome resort's number of courses -- is just past the next tee.

 

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg is travel editor of New Jersey Lifestyle and The Maggie Linton Show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. He is also the host and executive producer of Travel Itch Radio, heard Thursday nights on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio.com. His e.mail is dan@natja.org.