Finally got around to reading Michael Bamberger's look at Palm Beach Country Club, the club's social history (Bernie!) and more importantly, the Donald Ross design restored by Brian Silva and its allure as a model for what a golf course should be.
But what Ross did on 80 acres of drained swampland in Palm Beach is almost unimaginable. The holes do not feel shoehorned in, even though they are, and they do not feel parallel to one another, even though they’re that, too. What Ross did, and what Silva restored, was give each hole just enough shape so that the course never feels back-and-forth. Parts of at least six holes use a natural coral ridge that gives the course movement, elevation and beautiful views. Another hillside was manmade, but you’d never know it.
Having six par-3 holes is excellent. What hole represents the best chance for the ordinary golfer to make a par? The reachable par-3! And check out this range of lengths (from the back tees): 216, 120, 207, 180, 212, 150. And two of the four par-5s are 528 and 552. So what’s short about any of that? Nothing. You could easily take 150 yards off those eight holes and make the course only more playable for more people.
The fact is, 6,200 yards is plenty long for most people, certainly when a course is configured like PBCC is. The mental hurdle is really 6,000 yards, but there’s nothing wrong with a regulation course that measures less than 6,000. For everyday play at Palm Beach, many male members play a mix of forward and back tees that total 5,940 yards. This is known there as the Donald J. Ross Course. It’s 5,300 yards for women.
To repeat: the par-70, 6,000-yard course with six par-3s and four par-5s on 80 acres is the future of golf. It’s faster to play and much less expensive to maintain.