There are hotels where you arrive, quickly drop your bags and hop back on the road for an off-site round of golf, in no great hurry to return.
Then there’s The Breakers Palm Beach.
On a very short list of America’s best beachfront resort properties, the legendary destination on the National Register of Historic Places pulls you in and all but defies you to leave. The Italian Renaissance-style architecture will have you wandering the grounds almost aimlessly in awe; a perfectly stationed chair at poolside or on the private beach will easily swallow half a day or more.
The golfer is also taken care of on-site, with the state’s oldest course steps away from the front door. The Ocean Course, originally laid out in 1896, is a delightful stroll between trees, meandering on both sides of South County Road, perfect for families and demanding accuracy over brute strength.
Between that and the regal main property, it seems almost unnecessary to drive (or take a hotel shuttle) to The Breakers Rees Jones Course some 11 miles inland.
Don’t make that assumption.
The architect once known as “The Open Doctor” for taking classic courses and turning them into major-championship tests also worked his magic at the former Breakers West Country Club, taking Willard Byrd’s 1968 layout and tweaking it in 2004 into a 7,104-yard course capable of challenging pros and top amateurs. So vacationing golfers need not ask whether the ride is worth the effort and putting The Breakers briefly in the rearview mirror – it is.
Jones added 4.2 acres of water features to the layout, though tasteful landscaping around the banks doesn’t make them feel overpowering. Yet the water is the key element on approach shots for 10 of the 18 holes, so pack an extra sleeve or two of Titleists. The work isn’t done after negotiating the water, however, not with greens maintained to breakneck speeds, much quicker than the Ocean Course.
The personal service of The Breakers shines through at the Rees Jones course; I never touched my golf bag and my car was ready to go when the round was over, parked at the valet stand. So, look at it that way -- you’re not really leaving The Breakers to play the off-site course, you’re just taking a quick trip to experience the best course the resort has to offer.
Three cool holes
No. 9, 455-yard par 4: The front side ends with a boomerang-shaped hole requiring a drive that avoids a corner-of-the-dogleg bunker but also a thatch of trees on the inside of the bend. The approach is slightly uphill to a peninsula green.
No. 11, 161-yard par 3: Brace yourself: three of the four one-shotters require water carries. Challenging the hole, especially a right-side location, brings more of it into play.
No. 12, 514-yard par 5: The back side is a unique par 37 with par 5s at No. 10, 12 and 14. The 12th is the shortest and will have you thinking eagle, but the hole's defense is a narrow fairway and small opening to a green protected by sand on the left and water on the right.