The Park, a new eighteen-hole public golf course designed by Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner, in West Palm Beach, Florida, will open on 17 April.
The layout has been built on a sandy site that was home to the municipal West Palm Beach golf course, a 1947 design by Dick Wilson that closed in 2018.
Hanse and Wagner have worked with The Park’s co-founders, businessman Dirk Ziff and PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh, on the project, which has been funded entirely by charitable donations from private individuals, to the tune of $56 million. Other volunteer co-founders are Tom Frankel, president of Frankel Development, and retired Goldman Sachs partner Dan Stanton, who has led fundraising efforts. The general manager is Brian Conley, who has recently worked at the municipal Bobby Jones golf course in Atlanta.
“When Jim and I understood that private citizens, including many of our friends, were giving charitable money to build a new course and facility for the public to enjoy, within the city limits of West Palm Beach, we decided right away to donate our normal design fee and jump in with both feet,” said Hanse. “The site is incredible, almost 200 acres of rolling sand and mature trees with 30 feet of elevation change, extremely unusual for south Florida. It’s obvious why it was chosen for a golf course in 1947 when the entire area was undeveloped.
“Jim, Dirk and I set out to design and build a new course that is wide, strategic, an easy walk and above all fun to play and appropriately challenging for golfers of all abilities. It was a blast to create, and the reaction to pre-opening play by everyone, from PGA Tour players to near-beginners, gives us belief that we achieved our goal. Jim and I are honoured and thrilled to be co-founders of this wonderful facility.”
Hanse’s routing allows for multiple loops to be played, with the third, ninth, twelfth and eighteenth holes all returning to the clubhouse.
“When ideas for this site were being considered, I never imagined an outcome like this was possible,” said Keith James, the mayor of West Palm Beach. “This is a tremendous gift to the city of West Palm Beach. People will be astounded when they see the outstanding facility that has been built for the city and its residents, especially the next generation. The process has been smooth, and the progress has been amazing.”
Waugh said: “Golf is such an integral and important part of our community but sadly there is a real shortage of public golf facilities in the area. It has been so gratifying to work side by side with such an amazing group of like-minded donors, local volunteers, and public officials led by Mayor Keith James. To bring this incredible project from idea to reality in just over three short years has truly been a dream come true.”
The project has also included the addition of a lighted nine-hole par-three layout; an eighteen-hole putting course; a two-acre kids-only golf area; and a two-sided driving range with a state-of-the-art practice facility, featuring Toptracer technology, designed by PGA Tour coach Darren May.
The Park will be the new home of the South Florida PGA Section. There will also be youth programmes and community outreach initiatives, including affordable golf instruction, classrooms for mentoring and after-school tutoring.
“Golf is not only the greatest game in the world but also a remarkable vehicle for impacting and improving lives,” said Waugh. “From the beginning, the goal has been to make The Park into the happiest, most welcoming, most complete, and most inclusive place in all of golf. We love the idea of ‘open golf’. We wanted to call it The Park because this is 190 acres owned by the residents and like a park it should be open to all. We have the abiding view that if we can help to make the game look more like the world, then just maybe the world will adopt some of the core values of the game. I speak for everyone involved when I say we cannot wait to throw open the doors to the community and the world and watch the joy and the impact on lives both young and old.”