A bit of fortuitous scheduling might have gone a long way on my visit to The Breakers in Palm Beach.
After traveling south on I-95 from home in St. Augustine, my first visit wasn’t to the hotel itself but to The Breakers Rees Jones Course, some 11 miles inland off Okeechobee Boulevard.
Not until after a fine round there (more on that later) did I venture to The Breakers proper for the first time. Good thing – once arriving at one of America’s best resorts, I had a tough time envisioning ever leaving.
The Breakers has that kind of pull, the kind earned through great architecture, a century of history and flawless, know-your-name service. A lot of very fine resorts boast prime waterfront views, eateries and amenities, but The Breakers draws you in like no place else.
Just walk around and take it all in. You won’t be the only one.
The Breakers, which reopened in 1926 after a rebuild following a fire, is built in the Italian Renaissance style, inspired by Italian villas of the 1400s. Henry M. Flagler never knew this building, having died in 1913, but as the founder of the Palm Beach Inn in 1896 – also later destroyed by fire and renamed The Breakers in 1904 – the railroad tycoon surely would have approved of its grandeur.
The main lobby is inspired by the Great Hall of the Palazzo Carega (circa 1560) in Genoa, Italy, with soaring ceilings accented by hand-painted designs. Continue around the resort’s interior and the scenery is no less spellbinding, from “The Circle” dining room to the “Gold Room”, the most-requested room for gatherings. Simple names for spectacular spaces.
Speaking of simple names, and once again invoking The Breakers’ founder, HMF is the newest dining experience on the property. It’s a bar concept featuring globally inspired cuisines and handcrafted cocktails, all (again) under majestic ceilings of the Florentine Room, re-imagined to match the HMF experience. From the time HMF opens at 5 p.m. to closing time at 1 a.m., the lights change and music adjusts to differing moods and clienteles.
Sitting and chatting at HMF over Railcar No. 91 cocktails (named for Flagler’s personal railcar) is a perfect ending to a day of golf at The Breakers, which like the rest of the resort offers historic and modern options.
Just outside the front door of the hotel is the Ocean Course, the state’s oldest 18-hole layout. Originally designed by Alexander Findlay in 1896 and redesigned a century later by Brian Silva, the Ocean Course demands short-game skill rather than brute power.
If your game is lacking in either or both departments, on-site help is at the ready with the John Webster Academy. Webster, a PGA member for two decades and a former South Florida Teacher of the Year, boasts a range of students from Tom Kite to Thomas Friedman. He and his staff, armed with a state-of-the-art learning center, create personal tutorials that students can take home. It’s not uncommon for someone who took a lesson at The Breakers six months ago to continue getting help from the staff through video and email – the same kind of personal touch evident everywhere else at the property.
The Breakers’ off-site golf getaway is the Rees Jones Course, a 7,104-yard layout that challenges scratch golfers just as much as 15-handicap amateurs. Jones took the original 1968 layout and added length and water in 2004, though landscaping around the additional water features minimizes the intimidation. Greens are kept at lightning speeds, quicker than the Ocean Course, continuing the theme of a pro-caliber test. In a county full of top-shelf courses, the Rees Jones Course has a case as the best.
The Breakers runs a complimentary shuttle to the course. That’s one circumstance where it’s OK to leave the legendary resort behind, though fortunately for just a few hours.
If You Go…
The Breakers Palm Beach
One South County Road