Wonderful news dropped Tuesday with the announcement that the next iteration of The Match will feature Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, Lexi Thompson, and Rose Zhang in a 12-hole skins format. Perhaps even more exciting than the format and player lineup, The Match will be contested at The Park in West Palm Beach, Florida, an open-to-all public course. Set for February 26th (when the PGA Tour is in town for what had been the Honda Classic and is now the Cognizant Palm Beach Classic), The Match will air in primetime under the lights at The Park. The ninth edition of The Match will make history for the franchise, both by adding women to the competition and by playing at a municipal facility. These are welcome developments for a series that has demonstrated an ability to draw viewers and generate fan interest.

As to the venue, The Park has become one of the country’s finest public golf facilities following a 2021 Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner overhaul. The pair transformed the defunct West Palm Beach Golf Course into a world class golf facility featuring 18 spectacular holes in addition to a lighted par-3 course, driving range, and putting course. We hosted our first Fried Egg event of the year there two weeks ago, and I couldn’t believe the young crowd The Park was attracting. Especially at night; upon arriving at The Park our first night there were dozens of teenagers, plenty of dogs on leashes, and even a toddler playing in the bunker. This facility boasts wonderful golf course architecture, but it’s also a textbook example of how to create a welcoming environment for golfers of all levels. The municipal golf course of my youth was all about restrictions. As a teenager I could only play at certain times, and I was met with frowns on the putting and chipping greens from course employees. The Park couldn’t be further from that experience. The practice facilities and short course in particular provide a welcoming, come-as-you-are atmosphere that remains sorely lacking across the public golf space. I am particularly excited to see The Match go somewhere like this, where a young local girl or boy intrigued by seeing stars like Max and Rose under the lights could start practicing at that very same course pretty much right away. The Match (and all the activations that come along with it) is so much easier to get excited about when the whole thing is highlighting a facility fostering future participation in the game.

This piece originally appeared in the Fried Egg Golf newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.