In the mid 1920s, Boca Raton’s first golf course opened to the public as a part of the Cloister Inn. Changing the name to the Boca Raton Hotel and Club in 1930, the course became private, open only to club members and hotel guests. As the city’s population increased, additional private golf courses, each bordered by upscale residential communities, were deftly carved out of sandy orange groves, vegetable farms and waste areas. Boca Raton experienced a boom in the development of private golf course communities in the 1980s, and today is home to some of the finest. Five of these courses are profiled.
Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club 2425 Maya Palm Drive, West J. Todd Heifner, Head Golf Professional
Tucked inside the prestigious residential community of Royal Palm and winding its way alongside million dollar homes, the beautifully manicured par 72 country club golf course lies majestically beneath the South Florida sun, beckoning member play.
Opened in 1959, the course subsequently accepted additional changes under the supervision of Joe Lee. In 2002 it underwent its most dramatic change to date–a complete facelift—as Jack Nicklaus redesigned the entire golf course. Forward tees play just under 5,000 yards and championship tees play just over 7,000 yards.
“This is a very typical Nicklaus designed golf course,” said Heifner, head golf professional. “The par fives are very much risk/reward par fives and because of the inclusion of five sets of tees, it’s very playable no matter what level of golfer. There are no forced carries anywhere on the course, and while many of the greens have adjacent hazards, Nicklaus gave the higher handicapper a bale out area next to the green so that 150 yard shot over water isn’t so intimidating.”
The new course provides a visually pleasing and strategically challenging playing experience both for beginners and veterans. Blue lakes and refreshing water features, including marshy wetlands filled with aquatic plants, strategically placed bunkers and smaller, well-protected greens, aren’t the only challenges awaiting the golfer, large waste areas have been carved between several holes creating a new dimension of risk and adding to the visual relief of the emerald green fairways. But the most endearing features on the course, mature banyan, fichus and palm trees, were left intact, offering golfers needed respite from a bright Florida sun.
Along with the renovated golf course a new 30,000 square foot clubhouse, located on the former clubhouse site, is being constructed to compliment the existing one. Scheduled to open by year’s end, it will house the golf pro shop, cart storage, 130-seat dining room, lounge, outdoor terrace, ladies and men’s 19th hole and a private dining room.
Boca Raton Resort & Club 501 East Camino Real Bob Coman, Director of Golf
The resort’s rich golf history began in 1926 with the opening of the Resort Course. Sporting unobstructed fairways, it had few undulations or noteworthy features.
Not so today.
With the 1999 completion of a 6.5 million dollar renovation project, overseen by acclaimed golf course designer, Gene Bates, the golf course is now a challenging par 71 and encompasses an abundance of rolling terrain—in places up to 30 feet in elevation—attractive sub-tropical falls and water features, and includes an elevated tee on the 18th hole that offers a panoramic view of an island green.
Fifty-two strategically placed white sand bunkers and 12 one-acre sparkling lakes come into play on 15 of 18 holes, challenging the most ardent of golfers. And heading back toward the Resort, a scenic green, complete with custom-designed water feature, rounds out the player’s golfing experience. Ensuring both high and low handicappers a challenging round, each hole offers five sets of tees.
Electric golf carts come equipped with a GPS monitoring system and a computer generated layout of the course and each hole, including distance markers and hitting tips. With the push of a button, members can keep score, stay abreast of weather alerts, course conditions or congestion, and be informed of emergency calls. They can even order lunch. And if they need assistance, the pro shop can pinpoint their exact location.
Yet one of the most innovative features isn’t found on the golf course or golf cart—it’s found on the driving range.
“We recently added a new 10,0000-square-foot practice area and a 10,000-square-foot putting green,” said Bob Coman, Director of Golf. “Our golf facilities are very unique in that we offer synthetic-grass fiber tour-turf on the practice area, which simulates the characteristics of playing on natural turf. Our mix of Bermuda grass and tour-turf better preserves our courses during seasonal changes, insuring consistent playability.”
The Resort Course is annual host to the nationally televised ADT Golf Skills Challenge and is home of the Dave Pelz Scoring Game School and Boca Golf Academy.
St. Andrews Country Club 17557 Claridge Oval West John S. Ferguson, Director of Golf
Leisurely meandering through 5,200 lush acres of the St Andrews Country Club, two impeccably maintained golf courses crown an impressive club amenities program.
A 125,000 square foot clubhouse, whose layout and décor are reminiscent of a luxurious resort, services the club’s almost 700 golf, tennis and social members.
The developer of this exclusive golf course community capped its expansive estate homes at 732, and set them amidst 718 acres of bright green fairways and over 70 acres of glistening lakes.
Renamed The Olde Course, the former East Course recently underwent design changes and now boasts new tees and greens–a much more comfortable fit for the club’s 613 equity golf members. But it’s the newly designed Arnold Palmer Signature Course, formerly known as the West Course, that takes your breath away.
Scheduled to open in February 2004 with Palmer in attendance, the course is beautifully contoured with gently sloping fairways and augmented by an abundance of mounds and pristine bunkers, including one that meanders down the fairway for 180 feet. Water comes into play on each of the 18 holes, and stately royal palms, colorful flowerbeds and coral rock walls bordering several greens, compliment the already aesthetically pleasing layout.
“Target golf is the name of the game on this course,” stated, Ferguson, the club’s director of golf. “When Mr. Palmer designed these holes, he wanted to give the member, especially the higher handicap golfer, a lot of space to be able to work the ball up the fairway. The farther you go back on the tee, the more risk/reward you face. But the course is very member friendly.”
Supplementing that friendliness is the inclusion of five tee boxes, allowing golfers of all ages and ability the opportunity to fully enjoy the game. And complimenting both courses is a truly outstanding amenity–the driving range. Designed to resemble actual playing conditions, members hit over rolling terrain and strategically placed bunkers onto a handful of meticulously manicured greens all in an effort to enhance the golfing experience.
Boca Grove Plantation 21351 Whitaker Drive Greg Pickett, Head Golf Professional
In 1980 golf course architect, Karl Litten, carved a challenging 6,567-yard championship golf course through a standing grove of orange trees. Named Boca Grove Plantation, it soon became Boca Raton’s premier country club community and immediately attracted wealthy buyers to its upscale residential community.
Though the citrus grove is now gone, having fallen victim to the Florida canker virus, a two million dollar landscape and renovation project was recently undertaken to replace the endearing trees. Resulting efforts have allowed long-range views of adjacent holes, greatly beautified the fairways and added depth to the already challenging course.
Stately Bismarckia, Coconut and Date palms were added to fairways, and bed upon bed of white and fuchsia bougainvillea and soft pink dwarf oleander compliment the trail from tee to green. Free flowing crushed coquina shell waste areas line several fairways and double as cart paths, while west Florida limestone rock shores up waterways and arched bridges that span several water hazards.
But don’t let the beauty fool you. The course is tough, and not for the faint of heart.
Plenty of water abounds and the greens are sloping and well protected. On the 18th hole tee shots are over water to a fairway bordered on the right by water and out of bounds on the left. More water awaits your approach to the green.
“Our number 8 hole is a par three and one of the toughest par threes in the county,” stated Pickett, head golf professional. “What makes our golf course so tough–we’re rated 142–is the slope from the back tees. Length isn’t so much of a factor but there are numerous shots where you have to carry water and have water and out of bounds either right or left, all on the same hole. There are a lot of forced carries.”
Yet with all its challenges, the course has great appeal to its members, as evidenced by the fact that is one of the few courses built in the 1980’s hasn’t undergone major redesign or reconstruction, thereby keeping its original integrity.
Bocaire Country Club 4989 Bocaire Boulevard Gordy Powell, Head Golf Professional
Touching the northern collar of Boca Raton on Military Trail lies the secluded splendor of Bocaire Country Club. Its red cobble stone entry escorts you to the grand and newly renovated 42,000 square foot clubhouse and pro shop, a place head golf professional, Gordy Powell, has called home since the opening of the club in December of 1984.
Meticulously cared for grounds are amply dotted with variegated foliage and an abundance of colorful shrubs and flowering plants. Stepping up to the first tee, bird of paradise gracefully bow their heads in greeting and direct your tee shot down a wide open fairway that has a slight left dogleg. Plenty of rippling lakes, bunkers and trees abound on this course each strategically placed to give the golfer a run for his money, but not so much that enjoyment would turn to frustration.
The pleasure of this course is in its uncommon and expansive fairways—fairways that might transport you to another less populated state . . . maybe North Carolina. The upscale homes lining the course are set far enough back to allow the golfer plenty of room for an errant shot but also allow for a quick recovery. On holes 13 through 15 numerous stands of native palmetto palms were left au natural, a charming reminder of old-world Florida.
Stated Powell, head golf professional, addressing service to the 225 resident and non-resident members, “We sell convenience to the golf course; we have no starting times. And when golf course architect Joe Lee recently renovated the course, he returned many of the greens to their original larger size and added more tee space. Now the ladies have a second tee and men a third, giving our members a choice of distance, depending upon their handicap and level of play.”
Bocaire continues to keep pace with the needs of its members as evidenced by the Boards recent approval for renovation and construction of a new 3,500 square foot fitness center.