Review: West Palm Golf Park (Championship + Par 3)

Reading Time: 11 minutes


  • West Palm Beach, Florida
  • Public — Municipal
  • Gil Hanse & Jim Wagner (2023)

West Palm Beach’s municipal has quite the history to it, beginning with Dick Wilson, restored by Mark McCumber, and now, the new facility—with a snazzy new name—will open sometime in 2023 at the hands of Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner, and their caveman crew. Most of the old layout is reimagined with Hanse’s vision. Part Seminole, part Mackenzie in the Sandbelt, this is a wonderful addition to South Florida’s golf scene.

The opening hole is a gentle dogleg left par 5. The scorecard provided does not have yardages, but Google Earth is telling me around 560 yards from the back deck.

Out of the gate, it becomes clear this is an expansive, wide layout with bunkering eating into the fairways. The second shot has to navigate a couple bunkers, but for an opening hole, this is an easier three-shot hole.

For West Palm’s standards, this is a more tame green, although a ‘Valley of Sin’ homage front left certainly comes into play with a mishit approach shot or those going for the green in two.

The second turns directly back, working its way to the clubhouse and the 1st tee. A bunker comes in play on the left, although there is more than enough room.

From the fairway, the 2nd approach seems fairly straightforward…

But the green itself is very narrow and long, bending gently to the right. One of the highlights of The Park is the green shapes, which are very abnormal and funky. On the 2nd, it takes a rather nondescript piece of ground and adds a new layer to it.

The third returns us to the clubhouse with a shorter, 160 or so yard par 3. The routing creatively makes it way back to the clubhouse on numerous junctions, including the 3rd, 9th, 12th, and 18th. From an operation’s standpoint, it allows freedom to play less than nine or eighteen holes, should they be short on time.

It is a good par 3, with the green being the star of the show. The green works its way on an angle from 8:00 to 2:00.

After a relatively gentle opening stretch, the 4th begins a strong couple holes. At 470 yards, the “S” shaped fairway further lengthens the hole, beginning with a dogleg left tee shot.

In some respect, playing without a scorecard and an idea on how long the holes are restored the feeling and curiosity in not knowing what awaits. On the approach, it looks menacing with a slew of bunkers to carry. In fact, there is more room short of the green than it looks.

The fifth is a massive 270-ish par 3.

On the website, the plan seems to indicate the original concept for this hole was a Biarritz. There certainly are elements in the green, but it is a psuedo-Biarritz with the concept presented, but not a complete replica. For my taste, I prefer this sort of template: clear homage, but slightly different to present a refreshing take on an age-old concept.

A common theme around the greens is varied hazards and surrounds, which keeps things fresh. The actual surfaces are full of interest and variety. Some big slopes, some micro stuff, too; but around the greens mimics the variety.

Some reprieve is granted on the 6th, a shorter par 4 just shy of 400 yards. There is a lot of room out there.

This is a very cool green, with a lower section tucked close to the trees and shrubs, and an upper portion to the right of the bunker. On my lone visit, I actually only took a photo of the lower portion… without an indication of the flag on the right, it fooled me!

The 7th is a sick (emphasis on this) reverse redan par 3 at ~205 yards.

The kicker slope is not exactly a direct feeder. Rather, there’s a depression, as if they shaped a bunker but decided against it, short left. For my own preferences, small details around the greens is the way to go. Far too often, modern designs build broad slopes that all but guarantee the ball will end up where you think it is, but that’s not how the classics work. More times than not, dumping the ball short left will bring the ball down, but there is just enough doubt after seeing the hole once that you might bail on the thought, or make it harder to commit.

Missing anywhere left of the slope is carnage from short grass.

Into the meat of the wind, the 8th is a stern 460 yard par 4. If I’m being honest, it felt longer than that, but Google Earth doesn’t lie. A wide fairway encourages a big drive.

There is bunkering eating into the line of play as you approach the green, while the contours short of the green can further complicate the run up shot.

The 9th returns us to the clubhouse with a 560-odd par 5 with a relatively straightforward tee shot against the far east property line up the right.

It gets fun on the layup, where a bunkering scheme pushes you left, although staying right is a better idea to open up the green which is rather narrow and long.

The green is a very distinct triangular shape, with the green sloping to the right slightly.

The back nine begins with a 450 yard dogleg right par 4 with a ton of space left.

There is a large bunker complex on the inside corner, so anything at the three palm trees (above) is a good line.

I enjoyed this approach shot. From a flatter lie in the fairway, the obvious choice is a draw coming in. A feeder slope up the right will help usher balls down also, but it is not so extreme that you can throw it 40 yards right and have it work its magic. Right edge, or maybe a bit outside, will bring the ball in.

When we arrived at the 180 yard par 3, 11th, our caddie mentioned it was the 5th at Royal Melbourne. My playing partner, who has played everywhere, said it was more Valley Club of Montecito. Either way, they’re both Alister Mackenzie designs.

This is a brilliant one-shot hole with a ridge running in halfway into the green, with some very good pin locations (namely on the right side). Instantly into my favourite par 3’s in Florida.

The 12th is a meaty 470 yard par 4 up the hill. The tee shot has a lot of room, but keeping it on the inside corner (left) shortens the hole considerably.

From the ideal shot, the approach is blind, with just a sliver of the flag to help align you.

Cresting the hill, you see the green funnels in, akin to a punchbowl. Particularly, I think it is the perfect way to soften the blow of a blind approach shot. I suspect most won’t appreciate it—though I did—but having a punchbowl to funnel balls in to the green is a bit of a peace offering from Hanse.

The 13th is a snazzy 410-ish yard par 4 that really made me feel like I was at Seminole. There are some obvious Donald Ross-type features here, including the sandy abyss leaking into the fairway, and the crowned green complex.

I had to snap a picture from the left, because I loved the view of the sandy scrub, bunkering, and the palm tree with the insane green. This is a delicate approach shot, and one that should be played like Seminole or Pinehurst No. 2: to the middle of the green.

The 14th is a monster two-shot hole at over 500 yards, aggressively swinging to the left. Playing to the inside corner is the play to help cut off as much yardage as possible, but as is the theme here, there is enough room right to miss.

I have a sense that some might think this hole is too lowkey and doesn’t quite live up to 11-13 and 15-17, but truthfully, this is a sneaky good hole. Given the length of the hole, most approach shots will involve some sort of ground game. The contours short are funky and varied to provide some unpredictability and fun. I would love to sit here all day and hit 4 irons across the ground and see how close I could get it.

The 15th is a short par 5, interesting about the same length as the previous hole (at least according to google earth) at 515 or so. Rather than a downhill tee shot on the 14th, we work our way back uphill.

Getting the ball in play allows the golfer to gamble: go for it, or lay back?

Given the green’s location behind a ridge, laying up continues to provide an unobstructed view of the flag.

I appreciate holes that take away the standard 100 yard layup/comfortable wedge shot, as the 15th at The Park has. In truth, you’re better to smash it up there over the contour ridge if you’re wanting to layup, there is far more room right to lay up, and the angle into the green is actually better. On first play, though, you might not know it. While the 1st and 9th provide the “standard” wedge shot option, the 15th does not. For me, this is a favourite out here.

The 16th is a drivable par 4 somewhere around 300 yards, although without a card and strong winds off the Atlantic, it is difficult to actually know how long the hole played. The tee shot is uphill, and the layup must carry the bunkering on the left to avoid a blind second shot.

You only see the top of the flag from the layup area.

The green itself is long and narrow, with some funky movement in it, but nothing too crazy.

The penultimate hole is a par 3 at roughly 200 yards, maybe a little less. It is very “do or die,” by this point in the round, good shots are rewarded, and those that aren’t good shots are, well, punished.

The undulations short are not friendly to receive run up shots, but they would allow some pretty funky recovery shots.

I love the look back between 16 and 17, with some pretty awesome undulating landforms.

After a rather brilliant stretch beginning at the 11th, the final hole is a bit of an anti-climatic 600-ish yard par 5 slog coming home.

Most, if not all, will layup here. There are bunkers, but there’s enough room to play.

What I did like, however, was the bunker short hiding the depression behind it, which also leads into a pushed up green. A small detail, but something simple to help provide interest. This is not a bad hole, but it does fail to live up to the previous stretch, which is rather sublime.

When it officially opens, West Palm Golf Park will comfortably sit among the best public golf courses in Florida. Where exactly will that be? It is hard to say. For me, it belongs in that conversation with Streamsong Red at the top. A safe bet would be better than one of the three Streamsong’s, and not better than TPC Sawgrass on the various lists, so call it 4th best public in the state. It is an excellent golf course with a ton of room, but smart, sophisticated greens from Gil that all serve a purpose strategically. I wrote a bit less robotic and hole-by-hole here why I like The Park.

As an added bonus, West Palm Golf Park also has a par 3 course with floodlights ready for night golf. Here’s a quick photo tour. They’re all less than 130 yards, with a majority being less than 100 yards (including the 9th, which is putter!).

Hole 1

Hole 2

Hole 3

Hole 4

Hole 5

Hole 6

Hole 7

Hole 8

Hole 9


  • Andrew Harvie

    Based in Toronto, but having lived in Alberta, British Columbia, Montana, Arizona, and Texas, I have been lucky enough to see over 400 golf courses and counting!

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