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Now browsing: Hometown News > Golf > James Stammer

Comparing designer's golf courses
Rating: 3.33 / 5 (15 votes)  
Posted: 2012 Nov 16 - 08:55


Last week I wrote about playing The Fazio, the new name for the redesigned Haig course at PGA National Resort and Spa. The work was done by Tom Fazio II. Many years ago, I had the pleasure of being one of the first to play Tommy's first solo design, Eagle Marsh Golf Club in Jensen Beach.

There is no doubt that Tommy has the pedigree to design a great course. After all, he worked with his famous father, Jim, and his Uncle Tom, who both happened to learn from the great George Fazio.

I wanted to see how Tommy's design philosophy has changed over the years, so I played Eagle Marsh for the first time in several years and compared what I found there and remembered from that day more than 12 years ago to what I experienced last week down in Palm Beach Gardens.

Most of what goes into making a course work well is buried beneath the surface. Without good irrigation and drainage, a course could quickly die from too much or too little water. Bunkers need to be built to drain and water systems need to have the latest technology to make the piping last for decades instead of five years or less.

At Eagle Marsh, Tommy used iron fittings for the irrigation system and more than four times the recommended allowance for rocks in the bunker drainage systems to make everything last as long as possible.

Over time, Tommy's design philosophy has evolved, as has his first course. For his first jump into designing on his own, Eagle Marsh was a tough piece of property to build a golf course on. There were many wetlands, protected habitats and more to deal with. The permitting was quite a headache.

When Eagle Marsh first opened there were few homes and plenty of trees, water and even animals to contend with. What I liked most about the course was that no two holes ran alongside one another. Each seemed to sit as its own little piece of heaven. While that is still the case, many homes now occupy places where trees once stood.

Originally, Eagle Marsh featured lots of forced carries, narrow fairways bordered by wetlands and good length. While Tommy didn't start from scratch at PGA National, he used the same style in framing the greens and defining the fairways with bunkers and trees as he did at Eagle Marsh.

Over the years, the owners and staff have softened Eagle Marsh. They realized the need for a more playable course that would attract the average recreational golfer. Yet they wanted to keep it challenging enough for the better players.

Fairways have been widened where the average player hits a tee shot, tees have been added to allow the shorter players the ability to reach the fairways and the rough is kept so that it's playable, but still stops many errant shots from going into hazards.

One noted difference between the two courses is Tommy no longer uses severe angles from the fairways to the greens. His dog-legs are softer and his greens complexity allow for a wider variety of shots.

At Eagle Marsh, the second hole, a difficult par-4, used to have a large, beautiful pine guarding the safest angle into the green. That tree has long since died, changing the entire feel of the hole and eliminating the designer's original intent to guard the hole.

Some of what makes Eagle Marsh so difficult today comes from changes made after Tommy finished the course. An architect has little control over where the homes are built, how well the course is maintained or tweaks the owner decides to make.

The best example comes at the difficult par-3 13th. This hole originally featured a green framed by tall pines. Now townhomes sit behind the green; not nearly as beautiful a hole, but still a tremendous challenge.

You will find the biggest change at Eagle Marsh at the par-4 18th. What was once a nearly impossible hole for high handicaps has been modified. To help the majority of golfers, but keep a tough finishing hole for the better players, a new green was added. Yes, you have two greens to choose from.

Playing to the original green requires a long, accurate tee shot that favors the right side. From there you have a long shot over a huge wetland to a large green. If you prefer the easier route, you can play to the new green built straight ahead with no required carry over the hazard.

To schedule your round or find out more information about Eagle Marsh Golf Club, call the pro shop at (772) 692-3322 or visit www.eaglemarsh.com.


James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday night golf show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at stammergolf@yahoo.com.

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