Saturday, January 5, 2013

North Palm Beach Country Club, North Palm Beach, Florida, Golf Course Review

North Palm Beach Country Club 
North Palm Beach, Florida, United States

Architect: Jack Nicklaus (2008)

7,028 Yards, Par-71

Rating/Slope: 73.8/140

My Quick Review: The best public course in the West Palm Beach area.

North Palm Beach CC probably falls in the hidden gem category.  The course has been ranked among the top-10 public courses in Florida by Golfweek, but has since dropped out of the top-25.  NPC is a Jack Nicklaus Signature design.  Golf has been played on this property since the 1920s when The Winter Club, Seth Raynor's final design (he died during construction), was built.  The decision was made over several years from about 2003-2006 not to restore the Raynor design but to have Jack Nicklaus design an entirely new golf course.

North Palm Beach is a lot of fun to play, and in my opinion, is a better golf course than most of the (more highly acclaimed) private golf courses in the area.  It is much more than the typical public Florida golf course.

The greens are extreme and the day I played them, very fast.  In the days before and after I played North Palm Beach, I visited the very private and perfectly manicured McArthur and Floridian Golf Clubs -- neither's greens were as fast as the greens at North Palm Beach.  The combination of extreme and fast greens will make North Palm Beach a love/hate golf course for many -- just ask my playing partner who putted off four different greens (and one of those times down a hill, ending some 40 yards from the putting surface).

Surrounding many greens is built up mounding that allow for, and sometimes demand, shot-making.  Watching shots land on, or run-up, the back and side boards is a lot of fun.

Water is in play on several holes at North Palm Beach, but it is generally used in a strategic manner and rarely is there a forced-carry.  Further, the fairway bunkers, which are on a larger scale and have a more rugged look than most courses in the area, demand that choices be made from many tees.  This clever bunkering, combined with tremendous variety in hole yardage, ensure that the thinking golfer has the opportunity to play many different clubs from the tee.

The first hole is a long par-4 that requires the golfer play near the massive fairway bunker to leave a preferred angle into the green.  Like most holes at NPB, there is plenty of room to bailout.

The 1st green as seen from behind gives an idea of the extreme contouring the golfer will face throughout the day.

The approach to the short par-4 second is played up the mountain to a plateau green.  Anything landing on the front quarter of the green will spin back down the entire mountain (putts can come back too!).

The 5th is a pretty par-3 set near the water with a diagonal spine running across its centre.

A buried elephant in the 6th green...

And two more buried in the 7th green...

The 8th is a mid-length par-4 with two short forced-carries over water.  The green falls off short and long on the left, but the right side uses built-up mounding to create a very fun back/sideboard.

The 9th green is similar to Nicklaus' 18th green at Valhalla, with a raised centre portion and two lower wings.  Putts from the lower right can use the slopes to access the the lower left.  Very cool.

The 10th and 11th holes are very short par-4s, but given the predominant wind direction, only the 11th is drivable (for some).  The approach to the 10th after laying up short of cross-bunkers 220 yards from the tee.

The tee shot at the 11th is visually intimidating but there is ample width for the golfer willing to lay-back from the tee.

An uninspiring green from the fairway, the 11th green relies more on tilt than contour and is the most demanding test of precision on the golf course.

The long par-4 12th is a simple looking hole but is one of my favourites on the course.  Golfers lulled into playing an approach to the 'safe-side' will face a near impossible chip down the slope of the green.

Another nice green site at the 14th, with a green tucked over a valley at the base of a hill.

The par-3 15th can stretch to over 250 yards.

The home hole is a mid-length par-5 that can be tacked around to make a simple 5, but requires aggressive shot-making by those hoping to make a birdie to end the round.

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