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Monday, January 21, 2013

Beautiful, Challenging Golf At Trump Palm Beach

Trump International Golf Course, Palm Beach

Trump International Golf Club is one of the most visually stunning and competitively challenging courses in Florida. Members of the Palm Beach club enjoy a true championship course that has hosted nine LPGA tour events with winners like Annika Sorenstam, Karri Webb, and Lorena Ochoa, another nine holes with a daring island green, and a practice facility where many PGA, LPGA, and Champions tour regulars work on their game. Lexi Thompson was working on her short game when I was there recently.

The course was designed by Jim Fazio (with ample and expert advice from the man whose name is over the door) and opened to well-deserved acclaim in 1999. Two lakes and elevations as high as 58-feet above sea level dominate the geography, while tasteful landscaping provides colorful accents throughout.  Fazio moved over three million cubic yards of earth (dredging the lakes to 80-feet depths in the process) to sculpt the course out of what was originally flat scrub land.  The course is par 72 with six sets of tees ranging from 5,314 to 7,326 yards. Check the course rating and slope before you choose a tee box--this course punishes testosterone-fueled foolishness.

Trump International Golf Club, Palm Beach
The opening hole, par four at 417 yards, is relatively benign as long as you avoid the creek that meanders along the right side of the fairway, but don't rush to the second tee box until you pause to see the entrance to President John Kennedy's former bomb shelter along the way. The third hole, a 500-yard par five, presents a birdie opportunity as long as you watch your club selection into the water-protected green. The sixth is the hardest easy hole you'll ever play. It's only 335 yards, but the fairway bends around the lake at a right angle so a bigger-than-normal fade (aka a slice) will put you in the soup. Check the pin position, too, since the green has a Biarritz-like swale cutting across it. The last two holes on the front are stand-up holes. The eighth is a 430-yard par four with a big, elevated, well-bunkered green with a false front while the ninth is simply breath-taking, a 513-yard par five with water left and bunkers right.

The back nine opens with an echo of the sixth hole, only the tenth requires a longer approach assuming you kept your drive out of the water, which is just as wet as it is on the front.  The thirteenth, a 414-yard par four, has more bunkers than mortal man (or woman) should ever face on one hole. When you reach the tee box on the 491-yard par five fifteenth hole, stop and think before your aim your drive. The fairway is split by a creek and a long line of bunkers that you'll have to cross twice to reach the green. The signature hole on the course is the par three seventeenth, where the $3.2 million waterfall and amazing tropical foliage can easily distract you from your 190-yard tee shot over the lake in front of the green. Quite frankly, the 420-yard par four eighteenth hole is just as spectacular with its elevated tee, water, huge bunkers, and magnificent clubhouse in the background.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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