The Top 10 Golf Courses in the Palm Beaches and the Treasure Coast
With five championship courses played by some of golf’s greatest, it’s hard to beat the allure of PGA National. The courses, open to resort members and guests, include The Champion, redesigned by Jack Nicklaus; The Fazio and The Squire, designed by George and Tom Fazio; The Palmer designed by Arnold Palmer; and The Estate designed by Karl Litten. Each course may be “Tour-worthy,” but Jane Broderick, the resort’s director of golf, says to not let that intimidate the average player. “Our courses can be played by golfers of all skill levels. Each course offers several different tees and yardages, and by matching ability to the correct tees, all of our courses can be enjoyed by anyone,” she says. So, don’t let the legends stand in your way.
Special features: PGA National Resort hosts The Honda Classic golf tournament on the resort’s Champion course each spring. This year’s classic is planned for Feb. 23 to March 1. It’s one of the premier events on the PGA Tour, and the first stop on the “Florida Swing.” Top players compete for a purse of more than $5.6 million. The Champion course was also ranked as one of the “Top 100 Resort Courses in America” by Golfweek for four years in a row.
Fees: A current golf membership entails a charter deposit of $26,500, then dues of roughly $12,000 per year for a family, plus a $25 cart fee each time a member plays. Numerous golf packages are available to resort guests.
400 Avenue of the Champions, Palm Beach Gardens | 561.627.1804 |
Make it a point to play a different course each day at PGA Village, which offers four great options – the Wanamaker and the Ryder both designed by Tom Fazio; the Dye designed by Pete Dye; and the St. Lucie Trail Golf Club designed by Jim Fazio. Plus, the Village offers a PGA Short Course designed for beginners and avid golfers alike. Each course has its own distinct flavor, but the Dye is considered to be the most challenging. “With its vast coquina waste bunkers and grass-based bunkers, the Dye is the most challenging, but fun of our four courses,” says Adriana Vizcaya, the Village’s director of marketing. All of the courses have numerous accolades, including recognition from Golf Digest magazine, honoring the Village in the “2015 Best Public Courses in Florida.”
Special features: Stop by the Village’s PGA Museum of Golf, filled with displays, championship trophies and artifacts that honor some of the great names in golf history. Visitors will see Donald Ross’ 1900s-era workbench, as well as rare golf artifacts, such as the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship Trophies.
Fees: The fees vary depending on the time of year. The PGA Golf Club Season Pass, which is valid from Jan. 5 to March 31, offers 12 rounds for $1,161, and can be shared with family and friends. The St. Lucie Trail Golf Club Season Pass, which is valid from Jan. 5 to March 31, offers 12 rounds for $801, and can be shared with family and friends. PGA Golf Club membership opportunities are also available.
1916 Perfect Drive, Port St. Lucie | 772.467.1300 |
Abacoa Golf Club
If you’re golfing for a good time, Abacoa is your course. This public course, which opened in October of 1999, was designed by Joe Lee and offers beautiful greens with varying elevations, and wetland areas that attract wildlife. “The course offers a perfect mix of just enough challenge without beating the player up to where it’s no fun,” says Club Administrator Terri Dew. The Club is also undergoing a $1 million face-lift. The renovation includes improvements to the lake banks, landscaping and cart paths on the course. The driving range, which was also renovated, will be the home of the new Abacoa Golf Club Golf Academy. Plus, there’s a new outside bar at the clubhouse for a refreshing drink after 18 holes.
Most challenging hole: Watch out for the sixth hole, which is 587 yards and a par 5. It’s guarded by two oak trees on the right side of the fairway off the tee. “A hazard runs the length of the hole on the left side and continues on to guard the front of the green. The green is not particularly large or deep, but it gradually slopes from back to front,” Dew says, adding that it requires a well-placed shot to the green in order to avoid a putt from above the hole on the quick putting green. Fees: Prices range seasonally and by the time of day. Winter rates are as high as $115 and summer rates are as low as $35. The course offers a limited number of annual memberships priced at $2,500, plus a $25 cart fee per round.
105 Barbados Drive, Jupiter | 561.622.0036 |
Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club
Harbor Ridge is home to two diverse private courses – the Joe Lee-designed Golden Marsh course and the Peteand P.B. Dye-designed River Ridge course. Golden Marsh has tropical charm, with swaying palms and grand sweeping vistas at every turn. It’s slightly less challenging compared to River Ridge, but still provides a true test for golfers at all handicap levels.
River Ridge is known for its undulating greens and obstacles lined with the signature Dye bulkheads and bunkers. The course has hosted numerous qualifying rounds for USGA championships, including the U.S. Open. The River Ridge course boasts one of the highest slope ratings in all of Florida, and can be played from any of five sets of tees to accommodate all handicap levels.
Both golf courses have achieved designation as “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries.”
Most challenging hole: The 16th hole on River Ridge is known to be one of the most challenging holes on the property. “It is a short and sporty par 4 with a back tee length of 295 yards,” says Suzy Duffy, Harbour Ridge’s communications and marketing manager. The hole may be played two ways. The conservative path would have a player hitting a tee shot into an undulating landing area. The relatively short second shot is made very difficult by a small elevated green surrounded by deep bunkers. A more aggressive player may hit his tee shot toward the green. An errant tee shot will leave a challenging uphill short shot from a deep bunker or the turf. Played either way, a par 4 on hole 16 is always a good score.
Fees: You must be a member to play. The fully refundable equity fee is $68,000 and the non-refundable fee is $7,000.
Ibis Golf & Country Club
This private club lives up to the Nicklaus standard. It’s the only club in the world with three Nicklaus family-designed 18-hole championship courses. The club’s oldest and signature course, the Legend, is considered the “masterpiece” of Jack Nicklaus, Sr. Golfweek magazine has named it one of the country’s “Most Distinctive Courses.” The Heritage course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, Jr., was named as the “Most Women-Friendly Course in America” by Golf for Women magazine. Golf Director John Jorritsma says that 80 percent of members’ spouses also golf. The third course, the Tradition, designed by Steve Nicklaus, is best known for its breathtaking views with undulating greens. “Every course gives you a different golf experience,” Jorritsma says.
The club is bordered by the Grassy Waters Nature Preserve and includes a 20-acre practice facility designed by Jack Nicklaus, Sr. that includes three chipping greens, five target greens, two putting greens and complimentary range balls.
Special features: While playing the Legend course, expect lots of mounding. At Heritage, expect to encounter water obstacles, and at Tradition expect a more “traditional” links-style course.
What to watch for: “Ibis has arguably the three hardest finishing holes in Palm Beach County with water by each green,” Jorritsma says.
Fees: The Equity Premier Golf Membership fee is $80,000 with $13,000 per year in dues.
8225 Ibis Blvd., West Palm Beach | 561.625.8500 |
Martin Downs Golf Club
Despite its close proximity to the Turnpike, Osprey Creek at Martin Downs exudes peace and quiet. The semi-private course, designed by Charles Ankrom in 1981, sits close to the ocean, making it a breezy place to play. “We get wind from all different directions, which makes for a different golf experience each time,” says Matthew Boyd, the Club’s director of golf and membership. The course is also known for its varied atmosphere and terrain. The front nine has a wide open feel with more challenging holes, whereas the back nine is known for its dense and woodsy charm, Boyd says. The course has been the site for the PGA Tour Qualifying School and the U.S. Open Qualifying.
Most challenging hole: The course is considered to have one of the best finishing holes in the area. When golfers play the 18th hole, they’re forced to hit the tee shot before the water unless they try to “be greedy” and keep it left down the tight narrow fairway, Boyd says. The windy green is also surrounded by bunkers. The second most challenging hole is the 15th. It’s a long hole lined with trees on both sides, with a bunker in front of the green and to the right of it. Plus, there is water to the left of the green, and behind it.
Fees: The in-season rate is $65 before 11 a.m., $55 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and $45 after 2 p.m. The Club also offers nine holes for $25 after 2 p.m. Rates change throughout the year.
3801 SW Greenwood Way, Palm City | 772.286.6818 |
The Tesoro Club
The beauty of Port St. Lucie and its surrounding natural wetlands shines at The Tesoro Club. The private club and residential community features two golf courses – the Tom Watson Signature Golf Course, which opened in 2006, and the Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course, which opened in 2008. Both courses use bridges to span the wetlands between tees and greens, and offer impressive views. The 127,000-square-foot clubhouse overlooks a 120-acre lake. Golfers can often spot bald eagles while teeing off.
Special features: The Tom Watson course tends to be more forgiving than the Arnold Palmer Signature Course, which hosted the official PGA Tour event, “Ginn sur Mer Classic,” in 2007. The club also features a full spa, plus tennis, croquet, swimming and dining.
Fees: Inquiries should be directed to the Golf Pro Shop.
2000 SE Via Tesoro, Port St. Lucie | 772.345.4000 |
Sailfish Point - Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course
Water and wind are the distinguishing factors at Sailfish Point. This private course, originally designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1981, is surrounded by three bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean, the St. Lucie Inlet and the Indian River. Each hole boasts stunning water views, which makes it both beautiful and challenging. Members and guests comment that it feels like a new course each time they play at Sailfish because of how the wind and weather conditions affect their game, says Victor Tortorici, Sailfish Point’s director of golf. The par-4 signature 18th hole has been dubbed the “Window on the Sea” for its remarkable ocean view.
Most challenging hole: Watch out for the 14th hole. It’s a 614-yard par 5 that often plays into the prevailing wind, Tortorici says. Golfers have to hit the third shot over the water to the green with the St. Lucie Inlet directly behind the green, he says.
Special features: The challenging seaside course still attracts Jack Nicklaus, who returned in 2007 to remodel Sailfish Point. It paid off. The course was rewarded with a top ten spot on Golf Digest’s “Best Remodel” list in 2009. Impressive, right?
Fees: There are numerous memberships and options to join and play at the golf course. Contact Sailfish Point directly for membership fees and rates.
1648 SE Sailfish Point Blvd., Stuart | 772.225.6200 |
The Breakers Ocean Golf and Tennis Clubhouse
The Ocean Course offers the perfect blend of old and new. It was originally designed by Alexander H. Findlay in 1896, making it Florida’s oldest 18-hole course. But the private course, which covers nearly 85 acres of the The Breakers’ property, was redesigned in 2000 by famed golf course architect Brian Silva. As part of the restoration, Silva recovered the vintage characteristics by addressing tee elevation and sizes, surface slopes, pin placement areas, and integrating sand and grass-faced bunkers, says Media Relations and Communications Manager Shannon O’Malley.
Most challenging hole: The sixth hole plays like an island green, O’Malley says. She also recommends watching out for the 16th hole, which is a 212-yard par 3 that not only has the smallest green on the course, but is also surrounded by hazards and out of bounds, and fronted by water.
Special features: As the oldest existing 18-hole golf course in Florida, the Ocean Course has a notable history. It was the first course Harry Vardon played in the U.S. when he visited on Feb. 22 in 1900. Vardon was famous for using the grip we still use today. At the time he played the Ocean Course, he was a three-time British Open champion, and he later went on to win six.
Fees: For membership fees, contact The Breakers directly.
1 S. County Road, Palm Beach | 561.655.6611 |
Old Palm Golf Club
Not into reserving a tee time? Old Palm is the course for you. The private course, designed by Raymond Floyd, is considered “naturally competitive” with a no tee-time policy. The course, which opened in 2005, features a unique 19th hole, as well as a state-of-the-art golf studio complete with three full-length practice holes. The course also boasts lush native landscaping with pine tree-lined fairways, flowing creeks and water features, enhanced by coquina sand. It’s a breathtaking course. Many PGA Tour superstars call the course home, including Raymond Floyd, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood, Ian Baker-Finch and Brad Faxon. Darren Clarke, the 2011 British Open winner, is also a club member.
Most challenging hole: The length of the par-5 fourth hole, as well as the sand areas protecting both the drive and second shots, makes it very difficult. The fairway provides plenty of width for both shots, however missing the fairway requires a strong recovery shot.
Special features: The Club’s caddies are heralded for their attention to detail and knowledge of the game. They can make sure a golfer always has his or her favorite beverage on the course, help a golfer read the greens and offer a swing tip, if necessary.
Fees: Equity membership cost is $175,000, with $22,500 in annual dues.
11889 Old Palm Drive, Palm Beach Gardens | 561.472.5120 |
At the top of your game
Matt Denzer, the director of instruction at PGA National Resort & Spa, shares tips for improving your swing, and enjoying the game.
What are some basic tips to improve a golfer’s overall performance?
All golfers should be aware of their setup: alignment, posture and grip. So many of these issues affect our consistency. Second, make sure to practice how you play. A common fault that we see is a golfer who just practices the same shot over and over. On the course, we very rarely have the same shot twice. When you practice, make sure to switch clubs and targets to simulate what you experience on the course. Lastly, it sounds simple, but pay more attention to the target. During so many playing lessons, I see students that rarely focus on the target. The more time you spend focusing on where you want the ball to go, the better your outcome will be
Should a new golfer consider lessons?
The most difficult thing as a golfer is the difference between perception and reality. Often times, what we think we are doing and what is really happening is so different. Anyone who wants to enjoy the game more should take lessons, regardless of stage or level. Everyone has something that they can learn or improve on.
What are the most common mistakes that you see?
The most common mistake that can and should be avoided is a poor setup. An easy way to work on your setup is practicing it in front of a mirror. I ask a large majority of my students to spend five minutes a day checking their setup in front of the mirror so they can be sure of their grip and posture. Seeing is believing.
What is your advice for a beginning golfer?
I would start by recommending lessons. If new golfers can learn proper fundamentals, the learning curve is so much greater. The second recommendation I have is, don’t take the rules so seriously. Go out and have fun. If you don’t want to hit out of the rough, don’t. If you want to try the shot again, go ahead. Anything that makes the game more fun, I would encourage.
How does golfing here compare to golfing elsewhere throughout the country?
I would start by mentioning how blessed we are with great golf weather year-round. Second, we have so many great courses to chose from. Many of the world’s best course designers have courses in the Palm Beach and Treasure Coast areas. If you are an experienced or novice player, there is a spot for you here
Look chic on the course with the latest clothing and accessories.
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5 TORY BURCH Stainless steel gold Fitbit bracelet; $195; Available at Tory Burch at The Gardens Mall; toryburch.com
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7 GOLF GEAR Nike black and gray golf bag; $139; Available at Golf Gear, Stuart; golf-gear.com
14 Other Can’t-Miss courses
The Palm Beaches and the Treasure Coast are packed with award-winning championship golf courses. Take a tour of some of the area’s other top courses.
BallenIsles 100 Ballenisles Drive, Palm Beach Gardens / ballenisles.com
The Bear’s Club 250 Bear’s Club Drive, Jupiter / thebearsclub.com
Champions Club at Summerfield 3400 SE Summerfield Way, Stuart / thechampionsgolfclub.com
The Evergreen Club 4225 SW Bimini Circle S., Palm City / theevergreenclub.com
The Florida Club 9005 SW Old Royal Drive, Stuart / floridaclubgolf.com
Jupiter Hills Club 11800 SE Hill Club Terrace, Tequesta / jupiterhillsclub.org
Lost Tree Club 11520 Lost Tree Way, North Palm Beach / losttreeclub.com
Meadowood Golf 9425 Meadowood Drive, Fort Pierce / meadowoodgolfandtennis.com
Monarch Country Club 1801 Monarch Club Drive, Palm City / clubcorp.com/clubs/monarch-country-club
Old Marsh Golf Club 7500 Old Marsh Road, Palm Beach Gardens / oldmarshgolf.com
Palm Cove Golf & Yacht Club 2363 SW Carriage Hill Terrace, Palm City / palmcovegolf.com
Seminole Golf Club 901 Seminole Blvd., Juno Beach / seminolegolfcourse.com
St. James Golf Club 5613 Saint James Blvd., Port St. Lucie / stjamesgolfclub.net
Trump International Golf Club 3505 Summit Blvd., West Palm Beach /trumpinternationalpalmbeaches.com