This Florida muni just got a $55 million boost. It’s making the most of it

the park muni west palm

Gil Hanse's makeover at The Park features many sandy expanses.

Art Sricklin

PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh likes to say that the soon-to-open PGA Frisco complex, in North Texas, will be a laboratory for the re-invention and promotion of golf.

On a smaller scale, he’s hopeful The Park, a reimagined municipal-golf facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., will achieve the same goals.

The Park has no formal affiliation with the PGA of America, but Waugh was deeply involved in its makeover, personally spearheading a fundraising drive that drummed up $55 million from private donors (including Tiger Woods, who helped open the course; video below) to cover the project’s costs. What was an aging muni — a Dick Wilson design that opened in 1947 — is now a lively property that houses a new-look-and-feel 18-hole course redone by Gil Hanse, a 9-hole par-3 course, a range and practice greens, and a new clubhouse.

The Park’s overarching mission: make the game more accessible.

Greens fees for West Palm residents start at $60, and the vibe caters to beginners and juniors. The par-3 course is lighted and no hole plays more than 100 yards (the 9th hole is a tribute to the downhill 12th hole at Bandon Dunes’ par-3 course, Bandon Preserve, which invites players to use a putter off the tee). The range is wired with Toptracer technology, and there’s also an extensive putting and chipping area, and a space for private lessons and junior-golf clinics.

“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,” Waugh said at the facility’s opening.

That messaging is seemingly everywhere you look.

Hats in the pro shop promote The Park’s “Open Golf” tagline. Caddies wear bibs that read “Walk The Park.” The scorecards encourage golfers to “Play it Forward” with the shortest tee distances listed first.

Improved facilities at The Park include a new clubhouse… Art Stricklin (both)
…and practice range wired with Toptracer.

Hanse is best known for his work on splashier projects, including the Olympic Course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the renovations he has done at major venues such as Oakland Hills, Southern Hills and this year’s U.S. Open site, Los Angeles Country Club’s North course.

But that doesn’t mean Hanse and his design partner, Jim Wagner, held back at The Park. On the sandy, windswept site, they built a course that will entice everyone from weekend hackers to accomplished players who surely will pop over from many of the area’s famed private enclaves.

Hanse’s championship pedigree is evident throughout the par-71 design, which can stretch to 6,670 from the back tees. The most memorable three-hole stretch is 9 to 11.

The 9th is a par-5 with an open fairway, but approaches that stray too far off line risk finding deep bunkers in front of the green and trees to the right.

The 10th, in clear view of the clubhouse, is a dogleg right par-4 with another welcoming fairway, but brush and trees all along the right side, which can be problematic for anyone trying to cut the dogleg. The green is framed by trees on both sides and bunkers.

The par-3 11th presents a simple looking tee shot, but deep bunkers surrounding the green must be avoided.

So, yes, The Park demands proper shotmaking to play well, but also can be enjoyed by all. That much was evident on a recent afternoon when golfers stopping for lunch at the turn might have spotted a half-dozen juniors gleefully rolling down the hill just to the left of the 10th tee.

Won’t see that at every course, and that’s kind of the point.  

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