WEST PALM BEACH MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSE:
WHERE GOLFERS GATHER
Story by: Mike May
|West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course (formerly the West Palm Beach Country Club),is one of 53 golf courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail and designed by golf course architect Dick Wilson.
Believe or not, there is a championship golf course in Florida that doesn’t have any alligators living on its premises! Really? It’s because there are no water hazards located on the course – no lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, creeks, canals, or lagoons. And, it’s been that way since it opened in 1947. It is the West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course (formerly the West Palm Beach Country Club), which also happens to be one of 53 golf courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail. But, this course -- designed by golf course architect Dick Wilson -- features plenty of sand and a steady breeze! If you keep your ball ‘off the beach’ and below the wind, you will excel here, the site of the old West Palm Beach Open Invitational, a former PGA Tour stop in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course, ranked as one of the ‘Top Ten’ public golf courses in the U.S. in the 1980s, was reconfigured over the years into a course that left golfers yearning for yesteryear. Solution: Hire 10-time PGA Tour winner/golf course architect Mark McCumber to return this course to its original design. In early 2009, the renovations began. Seven months later, the West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course (www.wpalmbeachgc.com) was re-opened. To add prestige to the moment, Arnold Palmer, the winner of the 1959 West Palm Beach Open Invitational, was invited to hit the ceremonial first tee shot. He accepted the invitation. And, ‘Arnie’s Army’ came, too.
Since then, many golfers have played this course and many more should include this layout on their list of ‘must play’ courses. While courses such as Doral, PGA National, and Bay Hill may be some of the most well-known golfing venues in Florida, the West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course – where the public is always welcome! -- will challenge any golfer who feels he or she ‘has game.’ When you set foot on the West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course, be prepared to hit every club in your bag. If you are consistent off the tee, you will take the many waste bunkers out of play. Once you negotiate the tee shots, finding the greens in regulation is no easy chore since bunkers surround every putting surface and the wind influences club selection.
“We are proud to be part of the Florida Historic Golf Trail, of courses the state is promoting that the public can play,” says Judy Dickinson, head golf professional, West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course.
This venue is easy to walk, since the distances from the greens to the tees are minimal. There are five different tees, ranging from the silver tees (5,023 yards) to the black tees (7,002 yards). When going from the 9th green to the 10th tee, there is one ‘obstacle:’ the Snack Shack. It has a covered patio where you can eat a hot dog or enjoy a beverage before tackling the back nine.
This practice area includes an all-grass driving range, an 8,000 square-foot putting green and a second green to practice chip shots.
As for the course itself, it’s a physical and mental examination. To play this course well, you must stay in the moment and focus on the next shot. Don’t get frazzled if your ball finishes in a waste bunker. You won’t the first (nor the last) player to hit a shot into this ‘hazard.’ Do yourself a favor and hit the ball back onto the fairway, even if you have to hit it sideways or backwards. Two of the most difficult holes are actually two of the shortest ones – the par four fifth hole and the par three 11th hole.
The fifth hole, less than 300 yards from three of the five tees, is often played downwind, courtesy of an easterly breeze off the nearby ocean. What complicates matters are the raised, table-top, plateau-like green and the five sand traps between the tee and the green, three of which are in the fairway. There’s no need to hit driver on this hole, unless you feel that you can drive the green. When the flagstick is perched near the front of the putting surface, it’s not an easy pin to find, even with a sand wedge in your hands.
The 11th hole, as short as it is, is an uphill par three, which is often played into the wind or is affected by a cross breeze. When the pin is placed at the back of the green, it’s nearly impossible to pick the right club for a pin-high finish.
The four par five holes here at the West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course – three of which can be found on the back nine – require a strong straight drive off the tee. Anything less takes a birdie possibility out of the equation.
If you miss the greens at this course, it can be somewhat problematic, but it’s not penal. You can scramble for par on every hole if necessary, but there are very few easy up-and-downs.
One weekly event which puts this course in a special category is the Friday Pro Am, the "Oldest Game in Town.” Every week, for more than 50 years, it has attracted professionals and amateurs who want to compete in this popular point’s game.
To play the historic West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course, call the pro shop: 561-822-1591. If it was once good enough for the PGA Tour, then it remains good enough for you – January through December. Remember, the public is always welcome!
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The author of this story is Mike May, a freelance golf correspondent based in Wellington, Florida. Mike, an avid golfer, has played the West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course on a number of occasions. And he encourages you to play this course, as well. Mike can be reached on email at:email@example.com