Golf Course Architecture - Issue 75, January 2024

61 Brad Klein travels to south Florida to visit Apogee Club, where the first of its three courses has now opened. There’s a boom in new golf course construction in south Florida, and Gil Hanse’s West layout at Apogee is one of the first to have opened. The 18-hole layout is part of an ambitious, 54-hole private club development in Martin County, about 25 miles northwest of West Palm Beach. There are several private clubs in development in the area, most involving extensive real estate. Apogee, by contrast, is a stand-alone facility, strictly a golf and recreational club. Apogee (as in ‘ultimate height’) is a 1,200-acre luxury retreat involving some of the most successful names in the business. The co-owners are Michael Pascucci, founder of Sebonack Golf Club on Long Island, and Stephen Ross, who owns the NFL team Miami Dolphins and created the global real estate construction firm, Related Companies. They hired Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner to do the first course, which opened in December 2023, to be followed by Tom Fazio II and Mike Davis (formerly of the USGA) to do the second (South) course, opening in late 2024, and Kyle Phillips to do the third (North) layout, slated for late 2025. Along the way, the property will be outfitted with two clubhouses, villas, two massive practice ranges and stateof-the-art training facilities, a parthree course and short-game practice area, as well as equestrian, racquets, fishing, swimming and hiking. Land planning is by the New York-based firm Hart Howerton. Golf course construction is taking place in-house, overseen by the Fazio-Davis team. Ambitious, indeed. Before the golf design teams headed off to do their work, they came to a basic agreement about the kind of playability their courses would embody. The point here was not to determine a particular look but to make sure that while all three courses tested elite-calibre players, they were also interesting, fun and emotionally engaging for players of everyday skill levels. Among those elements the design teams would embrace would be wide fairways, good strategy, greens large enough to receive and hold the shot called for, no water directly in play in the form of a forced carry, no blocking entrances to greens (a hazard on one side of the entry needed to allow for room on the other side), forward tees around 4,000 yards and forced carries of hazards only for those playing from the very back tees. Apogee occupies low-lying ground; there is only 15 to 20 feet of native elevation change over the old farming, range and bird hunting land that it occupies. Woodlands and wetlands intersperse, with some very strong stands of oaks, pines and hammock trees on the eastern half of the site that will be incorporated in the designs there. Photo: Apogee