My Town: Discover the golf riches of Port St. Lucie on Florida's Treasure Coast
Veteran golf writer Leigh MacKay spends his winter months in Port St. Lucie, where there are plenty of golf and off-course activities to enjoy in the Florida sunshine. He offers his local advice on where to stay and play.
Port St. Lucie is one golf port o' call that should be on everyone's itinerary. This haven by the Atlantic offers excellent golf, lodging, dining and entertainment. A year-round mecca on Florida's vaunted Treasure Coast, Port St. Lucie is for those players who are serious about both their golf and their vacation time.
I make that statement not only as a travel writer but also as a resident. Before my wife and I moved into St. Lucie County, we scoured southern Florida -- east and west coasts -- for the golf setting that would best suit our needs. Port St. Lucie won out, and in our four years here, we have seen how the area suits the needs of so many other golfers as well.
As a golf venue, Port St. Lucie, located 45 minutes north of Palm Beach and 120 miles south of Orlando, is an ideal spot for the long weekend or a week, for snowbirds who want to stay one to four months, for buddy trips, for couples getaways, for family vacations and, of course, for full-time locals.
The serious golf begins just off exit 121 on I-95 at the PGA Village, one of the state's most popular resorts and ranked by Golf Digest as one of the 75 best golf resorts in the country. Owned and operated by the PGA of America, the resort boasts 54 holes, an extraordinary 35-acre practice/instruction facility and the PGA Museum of Golf, where the Ryder Cup resides when the U.S. has been victorious.
Tom Fazio designed the
Wanamaker Course and Ryder Course, both championship layouts with multiple tees, gently rolling terrain, large pine and palm trees, and frequent water hazards. The Dye Course is typical Pete Dye with a "dye-abolically" creative design that features raised and undulating greens, pine-straw roughs, vast coquina waste bunkers and ubiquitous grass-based bunkers. All three are great challenges and fun to play.
A number of other courses in the area demand equal play as well. The Florida Club is just down the road at exit 101 and its superior layout is as much a favorite with the residents as it is with the tourists. The ample fairways wend through the palmettos, pines and oaks and show both the native wildlife and their natural habitats, which are maintained to Audubon standards. The large, true greens make putting almost a pleasure.
Hammock Creek Golf Club prides itself as the first golf course in Florida that was co-designed by Jack Nicklaus and his oldest son Jack II. I have always assumed that the doglegs left were inspired by Jack II. Regardless, the architects created an enjoyable track that both men and women of all abilities can play. Leave your Bushnells and Garmins in the bag as the carts provide GPS yardage.
St. James Golf Club, designed in 2000 by Warren Henderson, is located in the heart of PSL in a resort-style community. The links-style course has just undergone a thorough renovation, including new bunkers, and features some of the fastest, truest greens in the area. The par 5s and par 3s offer variety and a plethora of shot-making decisions. The golf carts are brand new, and the recently upgraded clubhouse offers some very appealing happy hours and grill-room fare.
The Sandpipers Course is part of the Club Med vacation resort chain. You can always stay at Club Med and partake of all the other activities and amenities, but the course is also a daily-fee venue that deserves a play day. It was built in the early '60s as The Sinners Course along with its sister course, The Saints, now owned by the city of PSL. Both layouts are typically southern Florida with their water hazards, creeks and well-trapped greens.
A final daily-fee venue to consider is Sandridge Golf Club, a first-rate public course about a half-hour north of PGA Village. With its 36 holes designed by Ron Garl, the club has been rated 4.5 stars by Golf Digest for four consecutive years in their annual "Places to Play" listing. The Dunes Course and the Lakes Course present two different layouts -- as the names suggest --but each one is engaging and worth the drive.
Stay and play in Port St. Lucie
An assortment of lodging near exit 121 caters to all golfers, all wallets and all lengths of stay, including Castle Pines Condos, Hampton Inn & Suites, Hilton's Garden Inn and Homewood Suites, Holiday Inn Express, Main Stay Suites, Marriott's Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites, Perfect Drive Golf Villas and Sheraton's PGA Vacation Resort.
Most of the hotels offer stay-and-play golf packages for PGA Village and for the other courses as well.
Many other attractions exist for the golfers/tourists in PSL: fresh and delicious seafood; New York Mets spring training and then the minor league Mets season; deep sea and lagoon fishing; boating and canoeing; scuba diving and surfing; hiking and horseback riding; airboat tours and bowling; shopping and theater.
Ultimately, however, Port St. Lucie is the perfect place where golfers can play and where the Ryder Cup should reside.