Our highly subjective guide to great golf in a community that loves its clubs.
Palm Beach County often is called the nation’s golf capital—and for good reason. It has more golf courses (more than 150) than any other Florida county, and Florida has more golf courses (more than 1,200) than any other U.S. state. Quod erat demonstrandum, baby.
Yet with so many golf courses in Palm Beach County, how do you determine the best? Here’s one attempt. In consultation with some of the area’s top golf professionals and our own golf-crazy staff members, palmBeachIllustrated.com has compiled a list of 18 fantastic golf holes at Palm Beach County’s top resorts, luxury communities and daily-fee courses. It’s presented in no particular order and—as with everything in golf—it’s certainly open for debate.
Got your own favorite? Let us know. In the meantime, tee up our list and see how it flies—hooked, sliced or straight down the middle.
The Breakers, Palm Beach
Hole: Ocean Course #16, par 3, 212 yards. This might be the most challenging hole on what’s billed as Florida’s first course (Alexander Findlay, 1896). It requires a carry over water that abuts the front of a sloping green. A treacherous chip-and-putt is your best hope for par. Information: 561-659-8407
PGA National Resort & Spa, Palm Beach Gardens
Hole: Palmer Course #18, par 5, 601 yards. You’ll be tempted to power your way through this picturesque hole. Don’t. You’ll easily end up in a bunker or the water flanking your approach. And the undulating fairway means you’ll need three careful shots to reach the tiered green. Information: 561-627-2001
Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach
Hole: Championship Course #17, par 3, 215 yards. Beautiful but deadly. Jim Fazio’s signature hole has lush landscaping, a scenic bridge, a 60-foot waterfall, a creek to the left, rocks to the right, and wind. The green pitches right and looks bigger than it actually is. It hurts so good. Information: 561-697-6700
Abacoa Golf Club, Jupiter
Hole: #13, par 3, 235 yards. Four tees allow the hole to play as short as 138 yards, but every shot requires a carry over water onto a bunker-protected green that slopes toward the pond. Plus, the hole often plays into the wind. So, yeah, good luck with that. Information: 561-622-0036 or abacoagolfclub.com.
Boca Raton Resort, Boca Raton
Hole: Resort Course #16, par 5, 528 yards. Golfweek calls it one of 2010’s “Best Courses You Can Play,” and this is a big reason why. You need a perfect tee shot to avoid a huge tree to the right, water to the left, and more water 100 yards ahead of a green that runs away from you. Information: 561-447-3419
Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, Wellington
Hole: Cypress Course #17, par 5, 641 yards. Approaches are difficult from every angle, with water down the left and multiple sand traps down the right. Rubbing it in: a faux pathway from the green into the water that lets golfers drown their sorrows after this monster. Information: 561-798-7405
Aberdeen Golf & Country Club, Boynton Beach
Hole: #4, par 5, 581 yards. Desmond Muirhead’s “Beauty and the Beast” features an island landing area (the “beauty”) and a narrow, bunker-laden mainland fairway (the “beast”). Its design pretty much forces you to try for the island if you have any hope for par. Information: 561-738-4903
Jupiter Hills Club, Tequesta
Hole: Hills Course #9, par 3, 227 yards. This signature hole takes you uphill to an expansive green—if you can avoid an attractive patch of sand and native vegetation on the left. Designed by George Fazio in 1969, Golf magazine ranks the private course among America’s top 100. Information: 561-746-5151
The Bear’s Club, Jupiter
Hole: #10, par 5, 525 yards. This private club has been hailed as the finest design work in Jack Nicklaus’ architectural career, and we can see why. With water abutting the green and lining the fairway, and bunkers and trees lurking near the pin, the appeal is obvious. Information: 561-514-6948
Emerald Dunes Golf Club, West Palm Beach
Hole: #4, par 3, 168 yards. A Tom Fazio creation. Named “Emerald Falls” for the waterfall behind the two-tiered green, it features water to the front and right and a deceptive tee that tricks you into hitting far left. It also has a 50-foot dune from which players can oversee the course. Information: 561-687-1700
Seminole Golf Club, Juno Beach
Hole: #6, par 4, 388 yards. The legendary Ben Hogan rightly called this “the best par-4 in the world.” It follows the land’s natural contours, incorporating lots of bunkers and demanding precise shot-making. Golfranks this ultra-private Donald Ross course among the world’s top 25. Information: 561-626-0280.
Old Marsh Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens
Hole: #5, par 4, 362 yards. Fronting mounds create a difficult approach to a blind green guarded by bunkers and water. Adding to its character: After putting, you’re asked to ring a bell to let other groups know it’s safe to approach, in tribute to designer Pete Dye’s father. Information: 561-626-7400
Breakers Rees Jones Course, West Palm Beach
Hole: #9, par 4, 455 yards. Instruction director John Webster calls it the most challenging hole, requiring a tee shot to carry long over water and another to reach the pin, while avoiding a stand of trees to the left of the fairway and bunkers straddling the green. Of course, we do love a challenge. Information: 561-653-6320
Mirasol, Palm Beach Gardens
Hole: Sunset Course #18, par 4, 476 yards. This long, kidney-shaped finishing hole easily could be a par-5. Tee shots require a visually intimidating carry over water, the fairway is well bunkered, and the shaved-down chipping area might mean bogey to those who aren’t careful. Information: 561-638-5600
Palm Beach Country Club, Palm Beach
Hole: #6, par 4, 425 yards. Donald Ross’ 1917 design is timeless in its elegance. Elevated tee boxes require pinpoint accuracy, and low-lying fairways require skilled shots onto elevated greens. The harsh dogleg right has a narrow fairway and four green-protecting bunkers. Information: 561-844-3501
Mizner Country Club, Delray Beach
Hole: #9, par 3, 147 yards. The shortest hole at this Arnold Palmer course requires an accurate short iron to an island green protected by two fronting bunkers. If you’re not on target, you’re looking at double-bogey. Palmer says he designed it for players of all skill levels. Information: 561-638-5600
The Club at Admirals Cove, Jupiter
Hole: South Course #8, par 4, 370 yards. This signature hole, a dogleg left, needs two shots over water to reach the three-tiered peninsula green. Like the Club’s three other Robert von Hagge tracks, the South Course is replete with undulations, water hazards and trees. Information: 561-745-2630
Ibis Country Club, West Palm Beach
Hole: Tradition Course #18, par 4, 462 yards. Steve Nicklaus (son of Jack) designed this course, which finishes with a dogleg right lined by bunkers to the left, one massive bunker to the right, and two more flanking the green. Precision is the key here, with water on three sides. Information: 561-625-8500
Old Palm Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens
Hole: #19, par 3, 100 yards. Every course worth its sod has a “19th hole”—i.e., clubhouse bar—but this one takes the concept literally. Ray Floyd designed a traditional Scottish bye to let golfers have a few more swings before packing up for the day—or settle any outstanding wagers from the official 18. Information: 561-493-7220
Palm Beach Par 3, Palm Beach
Hole: #13, par 3, 171 yards. At the tee, you’re only 50 yards from the Atlantic Ocean, with a straight shot to the pin. If you go wildly right, you’re into the surf (or beachgoers). If you go left, you’re into the spoils (or landscaping). It’s not championship golf, but it’s unique Palm Beach fun. And, really, that’s all that matters in golf, right? Information: 561-547-0598 or golfontheocean.com.