Places We Play: Nicklaus' North Palm Beach CC is a real "Bear"

Places We Play: Nicklaus' North Palm Beach CC is a real "Bear"

Reid Spencer Publisher
image (Metro Golf Magazines file photo)
The pitch in the green on the par-3 17th hole at North Palm Beach Country Club is typical of this Nicklaus

One of the real benefits of our annual trip to St. Louis Cardinals’ Spring Training in Jupiter, Fla., is the opportunity to play North Palm Beach Country Club, rated the No. 1 municipal course in Florida.

North Palm Beach CC has been around since 1950, and it was a challenging public layout even before Jack Nicklaus transformed the sprawling course on Seminole Ridge into one of his Signature Courses.

“Signature” is an apt description, given that the Golden Bear’s paw prints are all over the renovated track. Make no mistake, the green complexes are some of the most challenging you’ll ever play. When we tackled the course on Feb. 28, roughly a third of the hole locations were tucked in corners behind bunkers.

Others we deceptively enticing. I hit a 6-iron to a front pin on the picturesque 183-yard par-3 sixth hole, which plays along the Intracoastal Waterway. The ball landed on the front edge and spun backwards into a collection area in front of the green.

That’s just one example of the precision that’s required to produce a good score at NPBCC. Most greens are heavily contoured, a reflection of the character of the entire course, which features a rolling topography uncharacteristic of South Florida.

The large Bermuda grass greens are well kept and contain subtle, deceptive breaks within the obvious slopes. Playing 18 holes at NPBCC without a three-putt is a lofty accomplishment—and something no one in our foursome managed achieve during our most recent visit.

We chose the Blue Tees for our round, and with the wind up, the 6,365 yards played more like 6,800. All four par-3s are challenging and range in length from 163 to 193 yards.

The fairways are typical Nicklaus—wide and generous—though the short par-4s feature prolific bunkering designed to challenge anyone with the temerity to hit driver. But NPBCC is a second-shot golf course with a premium on accuracy to small sections of the large greens.

Overall, the challenge is unmistakable, from the 400-yard first hole through the 512-yard par-5 18th, which typically plays into the prevailing wind.

If you’re looking for a benign course that doesn’t penalize errant shots, North Palm Beach Country Club is not for you. From the Blue Tees, the course rating is 70.8 and the slope 134—and I would argue that both those numbers are on the low side.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a layout that will challenge every aspect of your game, and where a par is a worthy accomplishment, you’ll enjoy this course, and you’ll derive enormous satisfaction from every hole you play well.

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