One of the many Floridian creations of architect Arthur Hills, the stadium course of the Tournament Players Club at Eagle Trace opened for play within a private club in 1983. It’s one of around twenty golf courses within the TPC network and was the second of the Tour’s Stadium courses (after the TPC at Sawgrass).
The course at TPC at Eagle Trace lies only a few miles south of the daily fee TPC at Heron Bay – both former sites of the Honda Classic. Eagle Trace is the centerpiece of a residential project encompassing 950 houses and it’s amazing to think that only 30 years ago, this property was a dumping ground for excess topsoil and building waste from other local developments.
As there are relatively few penal bunkers on the course (27 greenside traps and around a dozen other sand hazards, most of which are large waste areas) water is the main protector of par here and every hole except 9 and 18 offers an aquatic challenge. “Eagle Trace was an Arthur Hills design that attempted to blend Scotland with Florida.” Wrote George Peper in Golf Courses of the PGA Tour. “It didn’t work. The treeless gently rolling terrain had a British feel, except for the presence of one element – water. A virtual canal system ran through 16 of the 18 holes, creating a crossbreed layout that was neither a target course nor a links. Since ponds guarded many of the greens, the traditional bump-and-run shots could only splash and sink, and in a stiff wind, the course could make even the world’s best players look like Dorothy and Toto.”
Factor in the framing of many fairways with Oak and Cypress trees and the absence of any real doglegged holes, it’s clear to see that hitting it long and straight is the key to scoring well at Eagle Trace.
TPC at Eagle Trace played host to the Honda Classic from 1984-91 before the event moved to Weston Hills Golf and Country Club. Strong winds made the 1991 Classic tougher than usual with only three players breaking 70 during Saturday and Sunday’s play. “This place is a joke,” said Greg Norman. “You won’t see me back here next year. I don’t need to be playing carnival golf.” Many of his fellow professionals agreed and the organisers felt compelled to relocate the event to Weston Hills. The Classic returned to Eagle Trace for its swansong in 1996 before it moved to its TPC namesake at Heron Bay.
To improve the quality of the layout, the course was subject to a recent renovation project where greens and bunkers received a complete makeover and a new irrigation control system was installed.
I will start with water, there is a boatload of it. (no pun intended) Only two holes have no water feature. On the front side most of the water will be to your left and on the back to your right. Now, I will move onto bunkers, there are not very many. It is not that long, just under 7000 yards and it is one of the straightest courses I have ever played.
The first hole is welcoming and is a good oppty to get your round off to a good start. The 2nd is the toughest hole on the course. A long par 4 with water left. The 3rd, 7th and 17th are the mandatory Florida par 3s with carry over water. I did like the 4th and 5th holes. You know why. The 4th is probably the closest to a dogleg, it kind of eases to the left. The 5th straightaway par 5 with water carry off the tee and the approach. The 8th is a decent par 5 that will require 3 good shots. Which brings us to the 9th. Nine and eighteen are eerily the same golf hole. Neither has water, they each have a bunker before the fairway, one is 460 yards and the other is 470.
The back opens with a par 5, not really reachable with water and bunkers on the right side. The 12th and 14th are both decent birdie opptys with generous landing areas off the tee. The 13th is a beast at 452 yards. The 15th is an S par 5. Definite three shot hole.
I am not a fan, but then again neither is Greg Norman.
Just a quick note... played here back in January and it has completely gone down hill. Course was not taken care of and horrible condition. Needs a major renovation... clubhouse outdated. I know it’s under new ownership “Club Link”... but they have their hands full to get this course back in nice shape.