By Lee Pace
Since his days growing up as a caddie and apprentice club professional in the Philadelphia and South Jersey area, and later as a tour pro, George Fazio dreamed of one day owning and operating his own golf club. His vision was winnowed and focused in the 1940s by playing the Bing Crosby Pro-Am on the jagged and gorgeous California coast.
“My uncle said he wanted to build something on the East Coast to rival what he saw at Pebble Beach and Cypress Point,” remembers his nephew, Tom Fazio.
George was playing golf in Florida one day in 1968 when he got a tip there was a parcel of land for sale in Jupiter, about 20 miles north of Palm Beach, that would make a terrific golf course. Fazio inspected the property, which was on the southern boundary of Jonathan Dickinson State Park near the headwaters of the Loxahatchee River.
The land included a natural sand ridge that gave the flat Florida landscape a rugged feel with 75-foot elevation changes.
“George saw the hills and the dunes and elevations and said, ‘Wow, this is it. This is what I’ve been looking for all my life,’” says Tom, who was 24 at the time and running George’s golf-design company.
George immediately called his wealthy friends from the entertainment, business, and golf worlds and told them he needed $1.2 million to buy the land. Bob Hope and carmaker Bill Ford were among the 10 original partners who bought into the project.
“They just sent the money because they liked and respected George,” Tom says. “They trusted him and each put in $120,000. They closed the transaction in April 1969 and we immediately began construction, allocating 150 acres for golf and the rest for club facilities and homesites.”
“It’s some of the best land for a golf course I’ve ever seen,” George had said. “In general characteristics, it’s a cross between Pine Valley and Seminole. It will be the only wooded course in that part of Florida. Every hole is tree-lined.”
Jupiter Hills opened in 1969, making this year the club’s 50th birthday. The first course, named the Hills Course, was joined in 1978 by the Village Course. The Hills is the only course in Florida to have hosted two USGA events—the 1987 U.S. Amateur and 2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball.
“There is nothing like the Hills Course in the state of Florida,” says Robbie Hofmann, a Pittsburgh native who’s played the course since the early 1970s, has been a member for more than two decades, and is the current club president. “The elevation changes, the rolling hills, and the natural sandscapes that border nearly every fairway give it a look and feel you don’t find anywhere else in this state.”
Both courses have been renovated in recent years, the Hills in 2006 and the Village in 2017. Tom Fazio and his son Logan regrassed them wall-to-wall and tweaked the contours, rebuilt bunkers, and added new tees—longer ones for elite players and shorter ones to appeal to a broader variety of golfers.
“Fifty years—that’s a long time, but it doesn’t seem that long,” Tom says. “Jupiter Hills became George’s passion and it became his life. It was so important, we moved our office from Philadelphia to Jupiter Hills. George was there every day, and I set off building our design business.”
On this day in December 2018, Fazio pauses to tend to a grandchild he’s babysitting. His wife and daughter are out playing golf—at Jupiter Hills.
“In the blink of an eye my grandkids will be playing there,” he says. “That’s pretty cool.”