The Breakers: Palm Beach, FL

The Breakers of Palm Beach

If Michelangelo had been a golfer, he would have stayed at The Breakers.

He would have taken one look at the elegant and artistic surroundings – from the Renaissance-inspired architecture to the intricate frescoes on the ceilings to the peaceful outdoor courtyards and fountains – and sent the following message to Leonardo Da Vinci:

“Leon: The Breakers is our kind of place! Let’s book a Buddies Golf Trip!”

To all of you Renaissance Men and Women out there, I suggest you do the same. With the frost on the pumpkin in much of the world, a winter escape to The Breakers in sunny Florida would be just what your golf professional ordered.

My wife and I visited The Breakers in August, 2011 and it was fabulous! Michelle explored the beach, the pools and the Spa. She received a 90-minute massage but had trouble deciding which “therapy modality” to enjoy: Swedish, Thai, Harmony, Shiatsu, or Alfresco. I recommended the Alfresco because it sounded like it came with fettucini and why not have lunch with your massage?

Me? I was there to play the resort’s two golf courses: the Breakers Rees Jones Course and the Ocean Course.

“Go West, Young Man!”

The Breakers Rees Jones Course is located approximately 10 miles west of the resort. A complimentary shuttle whisked me to the course, and when I arrived there my clubs were waiting for me.

The Breakers Rees Jones Course

I popped into the pro shop and met with Director of Golf: Dan St. Louis. We had a fun interview in the clubhouse dining room. A nicer D.O.G. you’ll never meet, Dan gave me a brief history of the course. The Open Doctor himself, architect Rees Jones, was brought in a few years ago to add some length to the course and bring it up to contemporary standards.

Robert Blumenthal & Dan St. Louis

I interviewed Rees a few months later and he told me how important it was to make a golf course playable for everyone, not just scratch and tour players. If you leave your ego at the baggage carousel area of the Palm Beach Airport – and play from the proper set of tees – you’ll love every moment on this Rees Jones beauty.

Brimming with overconfidence after making par on the first hole, I had a relapse on the second hole as I ventured to double-bogey land. I won’t make excuses, but I thought I heard a weed whacker go off during one of my back swings.

At the third hole, a par-three, I waited for the foursome ahead of me to finish plumb-bobbing on the green. I tried to stay within the moment and not think about the Rigatoni Alla Vodka I was going to have for dinner that night. (I had explored The Breakers’ web site prior to my arrival and checked out the menus for all of their restaurants.)

When the third green cleared, I decided to cut a 2-iron over the lake to the traditional Sunday back-right pin placement. It was 135 to clear the water, 146 to the flag, and about 4 miles to the nearest Wal-Mart.

I opened my stance, opened the club face, and swung along my body line. It was the classic double-cross and my ball sailed towards Okeechobee Boulevard. Once again, I stayed within the moment and tossed my 2-iron into the lake. I proceeded to the ball drop area and pitched in for an apocryphal par.

After thrusting my illegal sand wedge into my golf bag, I noticed a twosome behind me on the third tee. The foursome up ahead wasn’t going anywhere so I waved up the two gentlemen on the tee.

After they holed their putts, I invited them to join me and we headed to the next tee. Introductions were made. One of my playing partners was Tony Nelson, Director of Risk Management at The Breakers. Tony’s friend was Dr. Pierre Dorsainvil, a physician specializing in Internal Medicine.

Tony Nelson & Dr. Pierre Dorsainvil

My heart sank when I discovered that “Director of Risk Management” was another term for “Director of Security.” And there was my wife, back at the hotel, stuffing Egyptian cotton towels into her suitcase!

Not wanting to risk being banned from playing the Ocean Course the next day, I sang like a canary and informed on my wife.

Tony graciously allayed my fears and remarked, “We’ve been watching your wife the moment she stepped foot on the property. Don’t worry, we won’t let her leave with any towels. Of course, Splenda packets are a different story.”

What a relief to hear those comforting words! The three of us proceeded to have a wonderful few hours together, dissecting the Rees Jones Course with surgical precision. I put on a clinic of retrieving balls from water hazards and impressed Tony and the good doctor with my ability to produce “Snowmen” (“8”s on the scorecard, for you non-golfers) in the August heat.

With just three holes to play, the sky suddenly darkened and lightning bolts were sent down from on high by mighty Zeus himself. (This meteorological myth was reported later that evening by WPTV’s “Storm Team 5.”) We had no choice but to scurry to the clubhouse and take shelter in the dining room.

A Summer Storm at the Rees Jones Course

I summoned the waitress and magnanimously offered to charge lunch to Tony’s employee account. But before I had a chance to peruse the wine list, Tony ordered a ginger ale and that was that.

Robert Blumenthal & Tony Nelson

Outside, the rain came down in sheets and it was clear that our round was kaput. The following vexing problem turned over in my mind: as The Breakers had kindly comped me for my golf, would I be viewed as unduly porcine if I requested a rain check?

I needed guidance on this issue and didn’t want to impose upon Tony and Doc. So I excused myself, went into the locker room, and visited the following web site on my iPhone: www.You’veGotSomeBigCojonesMister.com

After skimming through some readers’ forums, I came to the conclusion that requesting a rain check for a free round of golf would be the height of ingratitude, selfishness, and vulgarity. All excellent qualities for a reality TV show but bad form for a guest.

I returned to the table and bid farewell to Tony and Doc. Shuttling back to The Breakers as the windshield wipers furiously lashed back and forth, I was reminded yet again of the unique quality of the game of golf: I had just spent a few hours in the tranquil surroundings of nature with two “strangers” who soon became friends. And that’s good stuff indeed.

Next? The Ocean Course, Of Course!

Located in front of The Breakers hotel is its Ocean Course, the oldest 18-hole golf course in Florida. Built in 1896 by Alexander H. Findlay, the Ocean Course was designed for a game of golf that could not have anticipated today’s high-tech clubs and balls.

The Oldest 18-Hole Golf Course in FL

Thus, in 2000, golf course architect Brian Silva was hired to bring the Ocean Course into the 21st century. There wasn’t much real estate available to lengthen the course; Silva tacked on just 200 extra yards. But he did make elevation changes, adjusted tee sizes and green slopes, fine-tuned fairway shapes, and a host of other important additions.

For you bombers out there who might sneer at the Ocean Course’s 6,167 yard length, know this: if you don’t find the fairway with your tee shot, most of the time your ball will disappear into some tropical vegetation, never to be found. So stuff that into your high ball-spin rates and launch angles!

The Ocean Course requires proper shot placement, courageous chipping, and a deft putting touch. Unfortunately, I displayed none of these characteristics during my round. But I enjoyed the lush surroundings as well as the views of the hotel and the Atlantic Ocean. I had a lot of fun playing most of this course but wouldn’t you know it, the sky darkened again around the 15th hole and a ranger came out to inform me that lightning was in the area. I had to get off the course immediately lest I risk being fricasseed.

The Ocean Course Before the Storm

I decided to once again hold my ungrateful tongue regarding a rain check and returned to the clubhouse. A bit later, I paid a call on Aussie Mark Reid, the head golf course superintendent. Mark showed me the Ocean Course’s reverse osmosis plant, which takes relatively sane people and turns them into golfers.

Ok, let me start over: the reverse osmosis plant pumps salt water from an aquifer 1,100 feet below the surface and converts it into irrigation water for the Ocean Course. Which is but one of the dozens of “green” applications used at The Breakers on a daily basis.

Robert Blumenthal & Reverse Osmosis

I asked Mark about the gnarly tropical grasses that swallowed some of my golf balls. He said that a few times a year, they cut the grass back and out pop hundreds of balls. You know who gets to keep the Pro V1s? Take a guess, mate … and throw another shrimp on the barbie.

Head Course Superintendant Mark Reid

The Accommodations

There are few resorts left on earth like The Breakers. It’s an original, a one-of-a-kind, a true historical gem that has been lovingly cared for by a family, not a corporation.

Enter & Behold!

To turn into the main drive is to go back in time when true artisans erected stately hotels. The lobby has actual chairs and sofas where guests can sit and talk … or read … or check their email.

The Main Lobby at The Breakers

For a summary of the resort’s architectural features, this from The Breakers web site:

“Created in the Italian Renaissance-style, inspired by the magnificent Italian villas of the 1400s. Exterior: Twin Belvedere towers with graceful arches, patterned after the Villa Medici in Rome. Front drive: Re-designed and landscaped 1,040-foot main drive leads to Florentine Fountain patterned after the fountain at the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Main lobby: Inspired by the Great Hall of the Palazzo Carega (circa 1560) in Genoa.”

The resort is listed in the National Register of Historic Places … as well as being the recipient of AAA’s Five Diamond Award.

In addition to the two golf courses, The Breakers offers tennis, spa and fitness facilities, swimming pools, restaurants, shopping, and just about every luxurious amenity under the tropical sun.

As for the accommodations, take a look at our lovely oceanfront room:

Our Room at The Breakers

Nice digs, eh? And the management went out of their way to welcome us with a chocolate facsimile of the hotel:

The Breakers: Good Enough to Eat!

The “sand” was actually sugar and cinnamon. The chocolate “tuxedo”-covered strawberries were too pretty to eat … but we ate them anyway. I was touched by this thoughtful gift until I removed the chocolate roof and saw the following:

Chocolate-Covered Cash!

Egad, what was this? A cash bribe??? Frankly, I was shocked by this brazen attempt to compromise my journalistic integrity.

So let me assure my readers that money did not influence this review of The Breakers. Indeed, the comped golf was all I needed to make me a believer! :lol:

But if I may be serious for just a moment, our room was magnificent. Tastefully appointed and top-drawer all the way. A clock/radio with a port for your iPhone, a safe in the closet to stash my wife’s Splenda packets, a luxurious bathroom that was larger than my first apartment. If there wasn’t so much to do and see at the resort, I could have happily spent several days in the room ordering movies and room service.

Sunday Brunch

The Breakers boasts the mother of all Sunday brunches. And I mean THE mother! Brunch is served in The Circle, an elegant room that features 30-foot ceilings adorned with frescoes. Look up, and you’d almost think you were in the Sistine Chapel. Look out, and you see the Atlantic Ocean and the waves – or should I say, the breakers – lapping onto the shore.

The Circle

Then there’s the food … and more food. Chefs are on hand to serve you prime rib, chicken, king crab legs, shrimp, lobster tails, omelettes, pasta, etc., etc. And there are 30 different kinds of desserts that are as beautiful as they are delicious. My compliments to the pastry chefs!

(If you bring the kiddies with you to brunch, fear not: America’s favorite sugar-laden cereals are available to satisfy the little ones.)

The wait service during brunch is … well, you never have to wait for anything! As you might expect, this being Florida, the fresh-squeezed orange juice is superb. Champagne, mimosas, bellinis, whatever you want to quench your thirst, your friendly waiters and waitresses keep your flute glass filled. If you don’t gain two pounds during Sunday brunch at The Breakers, you’re doing something wrong.

I, of course, gained four pounds during brunch. The wife and I took a stroll around the grounds after our feast to get the lay of the land. I can’t stress enough how beautiful The Breakers is. It’s like being in a fine museum … but it’s warm and comfortable. It makes you feel good just to sit in the lobby and marvel at all of the beautiful architectural details and tapestries. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore, folks!

The Tapestry Room

Water, Water Everywhere

As you exit the south wing of the hotel, you pass through an elegant courtyard that leads you to the spa, the fitness center, five oceanfront swimming pools (including a lap pool), private bungalows, and a little thing called the Atlantic Ocean (with a half mile of private beach).

A Dedicated Lap Pool

I really have to get down on my hands and knees and thank The Breakers for creating their “Relaxation Pool,” which is “intended to provide a quiet oasis” for guests. NO CELL PHONES ARE ALLOWED!

Relax: No Cell Phones Allowed!

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Imagine: you can sit by the Relaxation Pool, enjoy the sun, read a book, take a snooze. All without having to listen to someone next to you blabbing on their cell phone:

“Yeah, we got here yesterday. You won’t believe this place, it is just gorgeous. I’m looking at the Atlantic Ocean right now. You should see the color of the water down here. The boys are playing golf, I’m getting a massage Alfresco later. I think it comes with fettucini.”

Dinner Is Served

There are more dinner options at The Breakers than you can shake a palm frond at, from Asian cuisine to seafood to aged prime American steaks. My wife and I opted for Italian food at the appropriately named The Italian Restaurant. Why no fancy-schmancy name such as Sacco & Vanzetti’s or Funzi’s of Firenze? Because The Italian Restaurant is a family-friendly restaurant where you can bring the kids. If they spill their chocolate milk on your Mozzarella in Carrozza, no harm done.

The Italian Restaurant

(Speaking of kids, The Breakers is very family friendly. They offer camps, playrooms, entertainment centers, baby sitters, junior golf lessons, and much more.)

We had our dinner in the lounge near the bar where we watched Keegan Bradley win the PGA Championship. My Rigatoni Alla Vodka was superb and the chef happily agreed to my request to prepare the dish with “extra” vodka.

But the highlight of the meal was the Fig and Pear Crostata, truly the best dessert I’ve ever had. And if I’m lying, may I be afflicted with the yips AND the shanks for the rest of my golfing life. Adorned with almond ice cream and Amaretto syrup, this was MY Wanamaker Trophy on PGA Championship Sunday.

*************************************

For golfers, The Breakers is a magnificent resort destination. It was wonderful when I visited there in August. And to golf there during the winter when the rest of the country is shivering and freezing, well, it doesn’t get better than that!

Don’t want to bring your sticks? Not a problem, you can rent clubs. Want to improve your game? Visit the on-site John Webster Golf Academy.

The John Webster Golf Academy

I strongly recommend that you explore The Breakers’ superb web site which includes virtual tours of the Rees Jones Course and the Ocean Course, as well as the rest of the grounds and the resort’s amenities.

After “touring” The Breakers for yourself, I think you’ll understand why I’ve bestowed upon it my highest, GolfConversations.com rating of 5 BALATAS:

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