The Breakers, the historic, five-star oceanfront Palm Beach property that has been one of Florida's most popular incentive resorts for as long as there has been incentive travel, recently completed a $6 million upgrade and redesign of its Breakers West golf course, now renamed the Breakers Rees Jones Course.
The redesign, which makes the course more aesthetically appealing, more functional during inclement weather and more challenging, is part of a long-term, $15 million-per-year capital investment program, says hotel management.
Another capital improvement of interest to incentive planners is a massive beach redevelopment program, which includes the construction of 20 plush beach bungalows complete with air conditioning, bathrooms, television and high-speed Internet access. The 300-square-foot bungalows, which can be rented by the day, will open in late spring.
David Burke, vice president of sales and marketing for The Breakers, said the golf course upgrade, completed in 2005, is designed to bring the course more to the level of The Breakers Ocean Course, which surrounds the resort. The Ocean Course, built when railroad magnate Henry Flagler opened the resort in 1896, is the oldest course in Florida. The Rees Jones Course is located on the mainland, about 10 miles west of the resort.
Burke said the work on the course, done by Rees Jones, son of the late golf course design legend Robert Trent Jones Sr., is also intended to make it a top course in a county that features some of the best courses in North America, including those at the PGA National Resort in nearby Palm Beach Gardens.
"With Rees Jones behind this project, we are not only transforming Breakers West into 18 holes of exceptional golf, but we will reaffirm The Breakers Palm Beach as a true golf destination," Burke said.
Some highlights of the updated course include:Hole #9, a spectacular carry over water; Hole #11, a medium-length par 3 with a peninsula green; and Hole #14, a picturesque par 5 with numerous shot options — it is a decision-making hole that one can play conservatively or gamble to go for the green in two while navigating a tight approach and steep drop-off to water at the back of the green.The lakes on the course have been redesigned as well, in order to bring water into play in more places.
The $6 million price tag for the makeover also paid for some pragmatic improvements, including a new drainage system and a paved cart path that will make it easier to play the course after rain.
Planner Ed Beaman, vice president of operations for USA Hosts/Gardner & Associates in Fort Lauderdale, said resorts in South Florida have to do a lot to put themselves on the short list of top-notch courses for incentive planners.
"With great courses like the Blue Monster at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami, the bar is set pretty high for courses in South Florida," Beaman said. "So a resort really has to bring something to the table to make a splash. Consequently, the situation for incentive groups that want to come here for golf events is good and getting better, as more courses continue to improve."