By Scott Kauffman, Contributor, Golf Business
Palm Beach Gardens officially describes itself as a “Signature City.” Now, the South Florida municipality has a new golf facility that lives up to its ‘Signature’ billing.
At least that’s one way to describe The Nest, a newly-opened par-3 course created by one of the biggest names in golf, Nicklaus Design. The alternative 18-hole layout at Sandhill Crane Golf Club, which had an official ribbon-cutting ceremony July 10 with various local officials and most of the Palm Beach Gardens-based Nicklaus Design team, complements the city’s highly popular par-72 6,330-yard championship course that annually plays host to 43,000-48,000 rounds.
In addition to the compelling 3,056-yard short course engineered by Nicklaus’ senior design architect, Chad Goetz, The Nest also features a remarkable double-ended lighted driving range, two-story clubhouse powered with numerous TrackMan simulator bays and the 30,000-square-foot Crane’s Landing putting course. Other highlights of the city’s $17-million golf development: a new maintenance yard/storage building; indoor/outdoor clubhouse patio space and a full-service bar/café that will be operated by the city (the adjacent course also has its own clubhouse facility and restaurant, leased to a third-party vendor).
What makes The Nest so appealing is the world-class nature of the overall facility that truly caters to every level of golfer and all facets of the multi-generational consumer just wanting to experience the game and have a little fun with family and friends. There’s even a bonus 19th hole island green, poised to be a hit for all golfers.
But don’t let the length of the par-3 layout fool you, what with the rare undulation and variety of shots/angles Goetz designed on every hole, thanks to the signature 35-acre lake that generated 450,000 cubic yards of dirt and elevation change of about 23 feet at the highest point.
“Creating 18 different par-3 holes can be very challenging, so from the outset, the goal at The Nest was to create as much variety as possible,” said Goetz, who’s in his 24th year with Nicklaus. “While (the elevation change) may not seem like much in other parts of the country, this is a lot for South Florida, making The Nest very unique. This allowed us to create a nice mix of flat, uphill and downhill shots. It is also interesting how much more the wind is accentuated when playing off some of these elevated areas.
“From there we really focused on mixing the types of shots, distances, angles, etc. For example, golfers play the shortest hole on the course, the 3rd hole, at about 100 yards. They then move on to the longest hole at the 4th, which can max out at 256-yards to a large punch bowl green…I really like how the course seems to unfold throughout the round. Only at the highest point on the 15th and 17th tees do players get an overall view of the course. Otherwise, players experience the course unfolding before them as they move from hole to hole. I think that creates a little mystery and excitement.”
What Goetz and Nicklaus Design ended up creating is simply a fun/memorable course, ripe for most golfers, or a true test of the entire golf bag when played from the tips, according to Sandhill Crane General Manager Casey Mitchell, a longtime local instructor and head coach of Jupiter Christian’s girls prep team.
A case in point is that Sandhill recently hosted a mini-tour event and the golfers “loved it,” Mitchell added. And Mitchell, who has dedicated her career to municipal and public-access golf in a region rich with high-end private clubs, loves the fact The Nest represents a plethora of opportunities to keep growing the game and provide local residents with more leisure and recreational amenities.
“I would say in our immediate area, there are very few public access facilities, as most are private golf clubs,” Mitchell said. “Golf is a twelve-month sport in Florida, and we are lucky to be in a very tourist-driven location; however, with upwards of 60,000 residents, and growing, those in Palm Beach Gardens have been very supportive of the addition of the first-class amenities that are representative of Gardens and their commitment to recreation…
“We are very grateful to have the partnership and support from numerous (Nicklaus Companies) executives and the entire Nicklaus Design team. And the feedback from the public has been tremendous.”