Pompano Beach Golf at Palm-Aire Resort and Spa
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The twin passions of golf and getting-away-from-it-all luxury play out every day at Pompano's Palm-Aire Resort & Spa.
The result, as experienced by my wife Cindy and I, was a long weekend that combines competitive ball striking and a refreshing relaxation that made us eager to tee it up again.
The Oaks presented the first challenge. The Tom and George Fazio-designed layout's fast greens and tough pin placements are big reasons it is a frequent tournament host. The Dixie Amateur, a prestigious event dating to 1924, has seen second place finishers here like Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia.
Our play was far from that level, but was a pleasant initiation to one of Palm-Aire's five premiere courses. An errant tee shot on the 9th hole startled ducks in a water hazard to the left, but a hawk circling overhead later seemed to care not as a 20-foot putt nestled in for a bogey save.
Following our round, the nearby Fairfield Resorts stood out as a mecca for couples and families vacationing. The excited chatter of eager learners hoisting colorful concoctions in a Tropical Drinks 101 class filled the Sabal Palm lobby. Our expansive two-bedroom unit overlooked one of two pools as well as a sand volleyball court and – to prove it's never far away – a miniature golf course.
A pool-side hot tub beckoned but we opted for the bathroom whirlpool before heading together to the spa. Therapist Jessica offered more than a dozen massage oil scents, from coconut to peach brandy, but we settled on musk. In the dimly lit room, a confident healing touch and special attention to fingers and toes provided the perfect finish to 18 holes.
Cindy's smile following that first massage was only eclipsed the next morning after his-and-hers facials. With hands and feet in cozy mitts, fruit enzymes and steam helped exfoliate and open pores. A mask of vitamins A, C and E preceded a mist of warm distilled water. As Cindy appeared, flushed and radiant, it was easy to see why stars from Elizabeth Taylor to Liza Minelli made this their spa getaway from New York.
Golf at The Cypress, although also a Fazio design, provided a markedly different challenge than The Oaks. The Cypress' undulating, tree-lined fairways mask some difficult greens, triangulated so just the right putting touch is required. Intelligent use of irons on the fourth hole is a necessity: a bunker shot cleared the green and cypress fringe and settled with a clink into a trashcan on the next hole.
A post-match massage served as a relaxing precursor to dinner at – where else? – Mulligan's. The Pompano eatery's outdoor deck felt comfortable with a calypso band and a calming breeze off the Atlantic Ocean.
After a balcony breakfast – with a father and son hitting putts through hollowed out logs below – Palm-Aire's newest course addition offered its own laid-back competition. The Sables is an executive course that provides an invigorating day for those without low handicaps.
It also provided better driving opportunities for Cindy and distances that never intimidate. The bright green color and tight weave of the paspalum grass doesn't allow weeds but does provide for balls that roll and settle smartly for a good lie. The grass might have helped on the par four 15th during a putt for eagle. The ensuing misses and par save were my own doing.
It served as a low-key finish to a full three days of golf. Our only regret: not being able to arrange a quick 18 on The Pines. Another of Palm-Aire's championship courses, it is a tad more forgiving off the tee, but has hosted tournaments like the Florida Open. The courses we did play definitively showed why Palm-Aire has long been a golf destination.
It all came into focus with one final glance out that balcony: a father juggled golf balls for his tiny daughter. She finally caught one, lined up on the putt-putt course's first hole and let it rip.
Just another visitor to this Pompano landmark, falling in love with the sport that helped put it on the map..