Justin Thomas, Jack Nicklaus collaborating on new golf-course design in South Florida

From left: Panther National developer Dominik Senn; Chris Cochran of Nicklaus Design; Justin Thomas; and Jack Nicklaus.

Lombardo - Hailey Garrett

Justin Thomas — major champion, 14-time PGA Tour winner and seventh-ranked player in the world — now has another title to add to his resumé: golf course architect.

At a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Thomas was on hand to mark the start of construction on his first design project, a collaboration with Jack Nicklaus called Panther National. (Nicklaus Design and GOLF.com are affiliates of 8AM Golf.)

The course, which is slated to open in late 2023, will anchor an upscale lifestyle community of the same name that will feature a range of sustainable initiatives, including infrastructure and amenities powered by energy from Tesla. It is being described as the first golf development in Palm Beach County in nearly 20 years.

“I started drawing golf holes on napkins as a kid, so this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Thomas said in a statement. “To begin my golf course design endeavors with someone like Jack Nicklaus is a dream come true.”

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The entire venture is the brainchild of Swiss developer Dominik Senn, a former ski racer who went on to become one of his country’s most successful sports marketers. Among other athletes, Senn managed Roger Federer early in the tennis great’s career.

In a statement, Senn said the community is meant to “fill a void in the market” with a blend of aesthetics and amenities that offer the outdoor activities and “work-life” balance so many people have increasingly prioritized since the pandemic.

Groundbreaking at Panther National comes as the PGA Tour begins its Florida Swing at another Palm Beach Gardens property, PGA National. Thomas is not in the field this week, but he lives in nearby Jupiter.

Though details on the course design were not immediately available, a release sent out in advance of the groundbreaking said that Panther National will have “elevations and features unlike any course in the state,” and that it will marry Nicklaus’s architectural approach with Thomas’s “modern perspective.”

Thomas and Nicklaus’ course is expected to debut in late 2023.

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Thomas is 28, roughly the same age Nicklaus was when Pete Dye asked him for his design input on The Golf Club, in Columbus, Ohio. In subsequent years, the two men collaborated on multiple projects before Nicklaus embarked on his own design career.

Nicklaus, who was also at the groundbreaking, said that his design work had helped shape his perspective as a player, and the other way around. He said that he expected the same would be true for Thomas.

“I’m thrilled that Justin has decided to take on this rewarding challenge, and I’m confident this venture will serve him well, both on and off the course,” Nicklaus said.

In addition to the Nicklaus-Thomas 18-hole course, Panther National will have a nine-hole par-3 course; practice facilities with shot-tracing technology; an indoor simulator; a putting room; and a custom-club fitting center. Set on 400 acres and surrounded by an expansive conservation area, the development will have 218 custom estates, ranging from 4,700- to 10,000-square-feet.

Each of those luxury homes will have a two or three-car garage with an electric charging station. Panther National has also partnered with Tesla Energy to provide power-wall backup systems in all its estates and amenities.

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Golf.com

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.