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Old Palm Golf Club

A new ownership group promises to bring fresh energy to this luxurious South Florida enclave founded by the legendary Ray Floyd

By: Tom Cunneff

Appeared in 2011 LINKS Premier Clubs

FLORIDA ALWAYS HAS BEEN popular among golfers looking for a warm-weather base, whether they are snowbirds, retirees or tour pros. Those looking for high-end golf homes, a challenging golf course and the unmatched ambiance of an exclusive private club can find it all at one address, Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens.

The club has numerous real-estate opportunities (there are 302 properties in the community), a 7,401-yard course that has earned rave reviews from tour pros, a prime South Florida location and a 33-acre practice facility consisting of a two-sided range, three regulation holes and an instruction studio.

The club and course were developed under the watchful, discerning eye of its accomplished founder, Ray Floyd, the winner of four major championships. Also a talented course architect, Floyd designed the formidable yet flexible Old Palm layout not only for his tour-pro friends, but also for golf enthusiasts of all abilities.

Planted entirely in salt-tolerant, eco-friendly paspalum, the immaculately maintained course encourages players to take a rip with the driver whenever possible, making for a fun round. The challenge comes on the approaches to the large, undulating green complexes.

“My goal for the course was to have something playable, that people enjoyed and would want to come back to,” says Floyd. “I accomplished that with the wide fairways, waste areas and six sets of tees. If you play the right set of tees, you should be challenged yet enjoy your game.”

Old Palm will test all aspects of a player’s game: power on holes like the 598-yard 4th, where Floyd dug a large lake both to create elevation and to help irrigation, and the 537-yard 9th; accuracy and precision on the 418-yard 7th and 396-yard 8th, where players need to avoid well-placed trees and water hazards; the short game on the 433-yard 3rd, where a large bunker protects the left side of the green, while big humps and swales guard the right side, making for varied shot selection.

While the front nine sits on open land, the back nine moves through the trees. “There’s a total change of landscape from the front to the back,” says Floyd. “That was the hardest thing, to make people feel they weren’t changing locations from one nine to the other. I’ve tried to make it where there’s continuity throughout.”

One of the hallmarks of the back nine is its elevated greens that call to mind Donald Ross, most notably on the 452-yard 16th, which has a putting surface that falls off on all sides, leaving those who miss the green with plenty of recovery options, from putter to lob wedge.

The back nine also has a number of strong par 4s—the 470-yard 10th, 478-yard 14th and 486-yard 18th—that test driving skills. Members making double bogeys on these holes can blame Floyd’s sons, Robert and Ray Jr.; the original layout was 300 yards shorter than the current yardage, but Floyd added distance after seeing how far they were hitting drives.

Mercifully, all it takes is a wedge to play the 99-yard 19th hole, which has an island green. Members then settle their bets in the 43,000-square-foot clubhouse, to which another family member, Ray’s wife, Maria, contributed her design sensibilities, developed over her decades of worldwide travel.
Possessing an Old World charm, the Mediterranean-style structure features Portuguese-tile murals, wood-beam ceilings and British-colonial furnishings. “Maria didn’t want a cavernous clubhouse that felt like a warehouse,” says Floyd. “It turned out very special. I like its warmth.”

No doubt, Floyd also likes the living room, which has a glass display that holds replicas of his major-championship trophies. On the opposite wall, a portrait of Floyd, painted by LeRoy Neiman, hangs over the fireplace.

Members enjoy the clubhouse’s numerous indoor and outdoor spaces, including the grill, lounges, board room, wine room, fitness center, courtyards, event lawn and pool. Non-resident members can stay in the four guest casitas near the clubhouse.

No matter where they live, all members and guests will want to make themselves at home in the locker rooms. Due to Maria’s influence, Old Palm is one club where the women’s lounge is a highlight instead of an afterthought. While both locker rooms offer food-and-beverage service, the women’s space also has a spa. “Every day is ladies’ day at Old Palm,” she jokes.

An international consortium led by ING Clarion Development Ventures III (CDV III) recently purchased Old Palm and will improve upon the already impressive foundation with plans for a higher level of service from the new management team, Buena Vista Hospitality Group.

“This unique residential community combines a world-class golf facility with unparalleled amenities,” says Doug Bowen, CDV III’s portfolio manager. “We are proud to add Old Palm Golf Club to our portfolio.”

With consumer confidence slowly returning to the marketplace, the new owners have already seen a spike in real-estate sales at the 651-acre community, where prospective buyers will find value in Old Palm’s offering of homesites, golf cottages and custom estates.

But the core of the club is not its physical attributes but its people and their interaction with each other. Those looking  for a game can just show up by 9 a.m. on the four days a week when up to six foursomes throw balls in the air to form teams, and play amid the good-natured bantering and laughs that form bonds between members.

Off the course, they also get to know each other during  “Pub Nights,” when the club sets up a hitting mat on the event lawn and participants take their turns in a closest-to-the-pin contest to the 19th green.

“Members love to fire balls at the green at night after a couple of beers,” says Floyd, a sometime participant in the Wednesday-evening ritual. “People sure do know how to have a good time at Old Palm.”                                    

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