By Adam Stanley
If there’s one thing that’s evident in The Last Dance, the documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, it’s that Jordan loves golf. Like, really loves golf.
Golf architect Bobby Weed had the opportunity to work with Jordan on his latest project, The Grove XXIII—the roman numerals representing “23,” Jordan’s iconic jersey number while playing in the NBA.
Jordan was the client that commissioned the private course, near Hobe Sound outside of Jupiter, Fla., to be designed by the team at Bobby Weed Golf Design. It had a soft open in the fall of 2019 before opening for its first full year in early 2020.
Weed says he and the basketball superstar had some great early discussions and Jordan placed “the highest emphasis” on the golf course.
The property is about 227 acres on a flat, rectangular piece of land that was formerly a citrus grove—essentially a blank canvas where Weed was able to create a multi-faceted layout. The land is marked by two distinguishing features—drainage canals on the western and northern boundaries of the property.
“I knew it would afford excellent drainage opportunities, but at the same time we were able to incorporate those drainage canals into features by setting golf holes up against them and tees on the other side of them,” says Weed. “It worked out really good in that respect.”
The course plays fast and firm, is virtually treeless (completely void of the palm trees typical of the region), and has some links-style features to it. There are water hazards, but they don’t really come into play, says Weed.
“From the clubhouse you can pretty much see every hole on the golf course out in front of you. It’s progressive and contemporary,” Weed says. “It turned out really good in every perspective.
“We ended up building a golf course that really does not feel like it’s in Florida.”
Once Weed and his team agreed to a layout, that’s when the real excitement began—in a routing that Weed dubbed, “Totally ingenious,” the course gives golfers the opportunity to play four distinct nine-hole loops.
There is a north end and a south end, and each of the four nine-hole routings incorporates holes from both ends of the property. At the 5th and 14th holes, there is a cross-over where golfers can switch playing the back nine or front nine and still end up back at the clubhouse.
Weed says what struck him the most about having Jordan involved was how great of a listener he was. The NBA Hall of Famer enjoyed coming out to the golf course and observing as it was constructed.
One big stand out of the property has been the practice facility—the final tally of the facility was 20 acres, according to Weed’s website, with multiple areas to work on one’s game.
“Butch Harmon called me and said, ‘I hear those practice facilities are the best on the planet,’” recalls Weed. “I said, ‘I haven’t been all over the planet but everyone is speaking very highly of them.’ They may be the most technical, advanced practice facilities anywhere.”
Weed says the idea for the spectacular practice complex came from Jordan.
“In hearing how (Jordan) pushed himself to the extreme limits when he was playing basketball and practicing and the regiment he created—he wanted that same experience in golf. He wanted us to build a facility that would give players an opportunity to practice under conditions that are extremely challenging,” says Weed.
Weed has received positive feedback on the course from PGA Tour golfers and regular members alike. It’s hard to build golf courses that accommodate the wide variety of golfers that play the game today, but he believes they’ve done it at The Grove XXIII.
“The project was great because it is sheer golf,” says Weed, “and nothing else.”