Matthew Doyle likes to talk about the “Wow’’ factor on the Palmer Course at Tesoro Club in Port St. Lucie, FL. To be sure, the 7,333-yard, par 72 Arnold Palmer Signature design, with its lush green fairways and natural setting, offers plenty of “Wow’’ moments, but here’s a bit of advice: Save the biggest “Wow’’ for the Club’s ownership group that had the commitment and vision to bring the entire property back to life.
Consider that in 2019, the Club’s previous owner – controversial Palm Beach County developer Glenn Straub – abandoned the 1,500 acre property. All work stopped and all employees and members were told to leave. Straub in 2021 sold the property, which included a 100,000 square-foot clubhouse, the Palmer and Watson golf courses, and approximately 900 home sites to the triumvirate of Tim Jones, Rod O’Connor, and South Florida real estate developer and New York Giants football legend, Tucker Frederickson, for a reported $40 million.
In return, what the trio initially received was a ghost town of a clubhouse and golf courses and home sites neglected to the point of being nearly unrecognizable.
A golf professional with less experience would have rejected the offer, but Doyle grew up around golf courses and course superintendents and architects. So when the offer came to become head professional at the Tesoro Club, he didn’t flinch.
“You just have to have a good plan and be committed to doing it,’’ said Doyle, whose resume includes stops at such prestigious South Florida clubs as Dye Preserve and Old Palm. “I understood their vision and how they wanted to get there.
“I’ve been hanging out on golf courses my entire life, so I learned a lot of different aspects of the game. I learned a lot from superintendents – some of them are my best friends. You pick up a lot from them just by listening. Plus, I spent some time with (architect) Bruce Hepner and with Pete Dye at the Dye Preserve.’’
Chances are that Doyle, a former Big Ten Freshman of the Year on the University of Minnesota golf team, needed every bit of those learning experiences as he and the Tesoro Club’s management team – in less than two years – have revitalized the Palmer Course into one of South Florida’s top private club experiences. The Watson Course is scheduled for future renovation.
“A lot of the work that had to be done was underground and wiring,’’ Doyle said. “Half the irrigation system wasn’t working when I got here. It had to be completely repaired. We had a great team that spent a good month putting the irrigation system back into place. One of the things Pete always talked about was how you move water around the golf course. Once we got control of the water, we could start shifting it away from places that were getting too much water and put it in areas that weren’t getting any water, So, we could be really aggressive with the aeration and top dressing to start growing in healthy grass.’’
The routing, Doyle said, is the same as when the course originally opened in 2005.
“We eliminated some bunkers – there were a lot of bunkers. There were some forced carries off the tees. We pulled the fairways back to where the forced carries started, so the course is more playable.’’
The result is an immaculately-conditioned, larger-than-life layout, with wide fairways, fast greens and perhaps the best set of par-three holes in South Florida. The course is grassed with rye grass on the tees, fairways and poa trivialis on the greens.
Interestingly, each grass is found more on courses north of the Mason Dixon Line.
“We did it because we wanted to stand out a little more,’’ Doyle said. “When you come down the road, you say, ‘Wow, this place is amazing.’ The fairways are striped up and the greens are fast and firm.
“The course is different than any other course in the area. It has very dramatic, big views, with fabulous waterways. Everything about it is big and dramatic. It’s designed to make you say, ‘Wow.’’’
And it succeeds.
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Photo: Matthew Doyle (Tesoro Club)