PGA National's Squire course: A short man's - or woman's - Fazio in Palm Beach Gardens

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

The Squire at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens may be the most uncharacterisic Tom Fazio golf course you'll find. The Champion, a PGA Tour stop, is still tops - but the Squire is a fun change of pace.

Squire at PGA National Resort - No. 17
This tree on PGA National Squire's No. 17 is not so innocent.
Squire at PGA National Resort - No. 17Squire at PGA National resort - Par 3Squire at PGA National resort -  Woman
If you go

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Golf practical jokes are usually about as highbrow as an Adam Sandler movie. Somebody puts an exploding ball or a remote-controlled ball down for his buddy to putt and hilarity ensues.

Or at least a lot of forced laughter.

Yearn for a more original golf practical joke? Head down to PGA National Resort in Palm Beach's ritzy shadow, tell your buddies you're going to be playing a Tom Fazio and then book a tee time on the Squire Course. Your pals will show up flexing their drivers, anticipating a day of bombing shots in battle against super-sized bunkers.

You'll pull out your 3-iron on the first tee and snicker your way to a day of $2 Nassau dominance.

Hey, nobody said this practical joke would make you popular.

PGA National's Squire is the most unFazio-like Fazio anyone's likely to ever play. It's a modest golf course in both yardage (6,465 yards from the back tees) and temperament. When's the last time you heard a Fazio described as blushing? It's also crammed around a golf community. Whereas most Fazios are as expansive and bold as Jack Nicholson after three bottles of champagne on Oscar night.

Welcome to the Twilight Zone. Next week: the subdued and proper Rachael Ray.

"I didn't know Fazio made courses like this," vacationing golfer Fred Macklo said.

He did with his uncle George back in 1980. The five-course PGA National resort has changed a lot since then and clearly its best course today is Champion, the new home of the PGA Tour's Honda Classic.

Champion is the course you go to PGA National to play. Squire is a course you play while there as a change of pace.

Or if you really want to take out a window. Or two. At the very least, a few stray shots are bound to find somebody's backyard.

Squire's fairways are about one fourth as wide as Champion's. The Fazios call it "the thinking man's course" in the resort brochures, which is better than calling it "the crammed man's course," I suppose. Either way, you're not getting a whole lot of room to swing free.

All of this can quickly add up to a tougher day than many testosterone-fueled duffers realize.

"Squire can sort of come up and bite you when you're not looking," said Bob Coman, PGA National's director of golf.

Water's in play on almost every hole for one thing (17 out of 18 holes include some wet stuff). Plenty of doglegs pare down club selection even farther than the length does. But the biggest obstacle at Squire just may be your pride.

Too many golfers just refuse to keep the head cover on Big Bertha. A 5-iron off the tee on a par 4? Are you kidding me? You're kidding me, right? No, and that 139 slope rating from the back tees is no optical illusion on your scorecard either.

"It's a nice male ego-slapper," Chicago golfer Shelly Conrad said of Squire. "I love it."

The stretch most worthy of love is the finish. No. 15 has you shooting over swampy water to get to a tucked away green. No. 16 is 383-yard par 4 with a seemingly innocent little tree sticking out almost right in front of a bunker that's below the pin. Don't buy this act. That tree is about as harmless as Lolita.

Approach shots go bouncing crazy off it.

On No. 17, the best par 3 on the course, there's a major water clear. Still your most pressing worry may be hitting it too long and smashing right through a window that almost appears to be leaning right over onto the green.

It's not the usual Fazio theater, but it's theater nonetheless. Just try and tell your duped friends that.

The Squire at PGA National: The verdict

This is definitely not one of those eye-popping Fazios. It's not a course that you travel to play on its own. But if you're at PGA National for the Champion and are looking to get in more golf, you could do worse.

This golfer enjoyed it more than the Haig course, which wasn't in as good shape as Squire (Champion's in a whole other universe of good course conditioning than PGA National's other four courses).

If you don't mind playing in houses, all the water makes for some interesting shots. Many of those doglegs can be cut by a bold player.

No. 7 has its tees almost set back in a peninsula of trees, giving a glimpse of what Squire might have looked like before houses grew like wildfire.

Even Fazio doesn't always get the space he wants. At Squire, you see America's most over-the-top celebrity golf course architect a little shrunken. It can be a scary thought at first.

But you may just get to rediscover a few irons you almost forgot you had in your bag.

Sometimes a golf practical joke can be educational.

Palm Beach Gardens dining

Seasons 52 (561-625-5852) is a Florida chain that's spreading, but it's unlike any other chain restaurant you've ever seen before. It's an actual upscale restaurant with good cooking — as opposed to say, your average Cheesecake Factory.

The gimmick here is that no dishes are more than 475 calories. Somehow taste hasn't been sacrificed. The salmon's great, the venison's good and the $1.95 desert shots just scream for sampling.

The catch comes in the wait. At the Palm Beach Gardens location on PGA Boulevard, right near the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, you're talking an hour most weekdays, minimum. On weekends, two to three hours is the norm.

Palm Beach Gardens hotels

PGA National Resort & Spa (800-633-9150) has four golf courses right outside the resort doors, including Squire — one more course down the road and a Don Shula's steakhouse. The beds are plusher than you expect and the quiet mornings can relax the most harried road warrior.

Fast Fact

Squire plays out over 105 acres, compared to 150 for Champion Course.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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