While contestants in The Honda Classic this week try not to get ensnared by the Bear Trap, the gauntlet of watery holes on the back nine of the Champion Course at PGA National, visitors can explore nearby Palm Beach, one of the nation’s most elegant and refined winter getaways. A long slim island linked to the mainland by three bridges, Palm Beach is a gilded realm where Bentleys are as common as Hondas. Go ahead: Be dazzled by what unbounded wealth can buy, starting with the huge, beautifully landscaped mansions. And while the area’s white sandy beaches are freely accessible, bear in mind that no one ever comes to Palm Beach to make money, only to spend it.
The Breakers (Rees Jones Course). Located 10 miles west of the resort, this well-groomed layout, superimposed by Jones onto a pre-existing venue, is framed by mature palms, oaks and pines, with five acres of water in play. Stretching from 7,104 to 5,164 yards, this versatile test has broad fairways, undulating greens and dramatic flashed-face bunkers. The quartet of par 3’s, three of which play over water, is outstanding.
North Palm Beach CC (Jack Nicklaus Signature). At a municipal facility that was curling up at the edges, Nicklaus, who lives nearby, charged the village $1 to stretch its vintage layout by nearly 700 yards and completely revise the course, which sprawls across the Seminole Ridge and features two holes routed beside the Intracoastal Waterway. There’s plenty of room off the tee, but beware the buried elephants in the greens.
Palm Beach Par 3 GC. This gorgeous 18-hole par-3 course, completely remodeled in 2009 by area resident Ray Floyd, has six holes that flank the ocean. This fun, walker-friendly track will test your ability to control the ball in the wind. A steal at $45.
WHERE TO STAY
The Breakers. An Italian Renaissance-style palace facing the Atlantic and fronted by a stately drive lined with royal palms, this colossal Palm Beach landmark is a Gilded Age playground with 540 refurbished guest rooms and enough refinement (and enchantment) to keep the most discerning travelers happy and content for days on end.
The Colony. Tall white pillars trim the lemony-yellow exterior of this quintessential Palm Beach hostelry, its classic British Colonial design burnished by a recent $12 million refurbishment. Lovely palm-shaded pool, evening entertainment in the Polo Lounge, and a great location just steps from Worth Avenue.
Worth Avenue. Known as the “Rodeo Drive of the East,” this opulent boulevard is home to more than 120 international boutiques, from Badgley Mischka to Van Cleef & Arpels. Only the best of the best are tucked behind the pastel storefronts and striped awnings. Dozens of specialty stores unique to Palm Beach and a handful of eclectic cafes can also be found here.
Flagler Museum. This 73-room Beaux Arts mansion built in 1901 by railroad tycoon Henry M. Flagler has miles of marble, trompe l’oeil ceilings, exquisite furnishings and priceless paintings. Have a look at Flagler’s private railway coach to see how the 1% lived 100 years ago.
The Flagler Steakhouse. In addition to superb Italian, Asian and oceanfront dining spots at The Breakers, you can also head across the street to this underrated steak house occupying the top floor of the resort’s old Florida-style clubhouse. Excellent hand-cut aged prime steaks, with side orders and wines to match.
Café Boulud. Located in the stylish Brazilian Court Hotel & Beach Club off Worth Avenue, this gourmet hotpsot, headed by renowned chef Daniel Boulud, features French-American cuisine of a very high standard. The three-course lunch (Monday – Friday) is a terrific deal at $28.