Closing time: Golf courses that finish strong in West Palm Beach
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- More and more, the West Palm Beach area is becoming one of the top golf destinations in Florida. It's not quite up there with Jacksonville or Orlando, but there's a lot of traffic on some of the nicest courses in the state.
Besides that, this area of the Sunshine State is home to the PGA of America, so it's a place that can't afford shoddy golf courses. It's also a place where there are lots of people with deep pockets who don't mind paying a few extra bucks for a challenging round of golf.
The closing holes at most courses can always be tough, and in West Palm Beach, they don't get much more difficult. Tourism is huge where the snowbirds come down for the winter, but that doesn't mean the closing holes at some of the toughest courses are any easier. You take your lumps.
Come down for some great weather and golf, but remember that with the golf -- if you lose your concentration coming down the home stretch -- you might end up with a snowman on your final score, the exact thing you are trying to avoid by coming to south Florida in the first place.
Here are some of the toughest, but most popular, closing stretches in West Palm Beach:
Ironhorse Golf & Country Club
At just more than 6,800 from the tips, Ironhorse Golf & Country Club isn't going to crush you, but the last three holes might. Ironhorse has plenty of hazards throughout, but the closing holes are as tough as it gets.
No. 16 is the easiest of the three. At 377 yards, it's a straight par 4 with out-of-bounds on the right and a large waste area on the left. Two bunkers front the green, but a 3-wood off the tee is the best bet. Keeping it straight is the way to go, and it isn't worth the risk of trying to add a few extra yards off the tee. There is simply too much to risk.
"It gets a lot tougher after that," said Randy Raimondi, director of golf at Ironhorse. "There is a lot of trouble after that."
No. 17 is a 445-yard par 4 with water all the way down the left and right with a dogleg that cuts to the right. The approach shot is also a bear since there is out-of-bounds on the left and a small green that has bunkers all over the right side. The approach is as important as the tee shot.
Getting par here is vital since 18 can be a monster. It is a par-5, 531-yard closer that has water on the right off the tee. Then there's water on the left on the approach with out-of-bounds on both sides. Going for it in two isn't an option.
"Our last two holes are some of the toughest in all of Florida," Raimondi said.
West Palm Beach Golf Course
West Palm Beach Golf Course opened in 1947, long before most of the modern courses that dominate the state, but it has lived up to its reputation as one of the more difficult courses in southeast Florida.
Just check out No. 16, which is a 524-yard par 5 with more than 200 yards over marsh off the tips. It's straight, and if you stay safe off the tee, you might want to go for it in two, but the green slopes and is small, so it's best to play it safe.
No. 17 is a 194-yard par 3 that is long and plays into the wind, which is prevalent throughout the course.
West Palm Beach Golf Course's closing hole is a real test. At 546 yards, it's the second par 5 of the last three holes and easily the toughest. The tee shot is fairly easy, but the second shot requires an approach over marsh. Going right leads you into the trees, left is OB and the green is undulating and small. Go for par, and go home happy.
President Country Club's Eagle Course
The Eagle Course at President Country Club, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. course, is part of a 36-hole layout, with its sister course, The Patriot. Neither play to more than 7,000 yards, but they have their share of tricks, especially down the stretch.
No. 16 on the Eagle Course is a long par 3 that is 235 from the tips. There's water on the left, and that's the way the wind is usually blowing, but there is a bailout area to the right. The greens slopes towards the water, so picking the right club can be tough.
"Other than all of that, the hole is a piece of cake," kidded Director of Golf Scott Mailloux.
No. 17 is a tough dogleg left that runs 440 yards with water everywhere. The key is to get the approach shot to the proper spot on the two-tiered green. Don't even think about going for the 560-yard, par-5 18th in two.
There's marsh all the way down the fairway on the left, and there is sand everywhere along the fairway. There's water from about 160 yards into the green, so you don't want to turn into Tin Cup by trying to go for it.
The trick, Mailloux said, is to talk yourself out of even thinking about going for broke.
President Country Club's Patriot Course
The Patriot Course at President Country Club is the easier of the two courses but not less challenging. Water doesn't come into play often, but trees line the fairways on almost every hole.
Bunkers, combined with the trees, make No. 16 extra tough. It's a 188-yard par 3, but hitting the double-tiered green is important, otherwise it's a tough up-and-down. No. 17 is a 364-yard dogleg left with an extremely tight landing area. Fairway bunkers are everywhere, so when you see that the Patriot plays to only about 6,500 yards, don't be fooled.
The final hole is a sharp, dogleg right that goes 343 yards. A bomber might think about going for it, but it's not that easy. The fairway is tiny, and most golfers go with a long iron off the tee to leave a safe approach. Bunkers and trees guard the green.