High-profile golf names want to partner with Boca to build new course

Updated Dec 27, 2017
Golf legend Tom Lehman tees off at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton in 2011. Lehman’s golf course design firm, Lehman Design Group, is one of 15 that proposes to partner with the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District to renovate its new course. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

A few big names in the golf industry — including Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus Design, Robert Trent Jones and Arnold Palmer’s design company — want to partner with Boca Raton’s park district to design a 27-hole course it will buy for $24 million.

The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District sent out a request seeking architects to transform the dilapidated Ocean Breeze Golf Club in the city’s north end into a world-class golf destination.

Fifteen firms submitted requests to design the 214-acre course. Many of the proposals include plans to build an on-site golf school.

“We have probably the finest group of golf course designers who (have sent proposals for) this project that one can ever anticipate receiving,” said Arthur Koski, director of the beach and park district.

The public golf course will be renovated and re-branded “Boca National Golf Club.”

The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, which owns and operates several parks in the city and its suburbs, is under contract to buy the 27-hole course, clubhouse and on-site hotel for $24 million.

The course is primed to become a local golf destination, as the city decided recently to shut down and sell its municipal golf course on Glades Road near Florida’s Turnpike to a home builder for $65 million.

Boca National Golf Club will be one of just two public courses in the city. The other is a smaller 9-hole oceanfront course at Red Reef Park.

Buying and operating a public course also bucks a wider trend of selling golf course land to developers for top dollar. The Fountains Country Club near Lake Worth, the President Country Club in West Palm Beach and Polo Trace near Delray Beach all have sold at least part of their golf course greens to real estate developers the past few years.

But the Boca park district and the city both resolved to keep public golf in Boca Raton, when discussion of selling the municipal golf course was brought up.

The prominence of the firms proposing to partner with the district to design Boca National Golf Club and operate a golf school proves the value of a golf course in Boca Raton, Koski said.

“Almost every one of the proposers has a resume that would elevate this golf facility,” Koski said. “They’ve designed some of the best golf courses in the country.”

Among those proposing to design the course are firms that involve golf legends and experienced course designers, including Price / Fazio II Design Team and Rees Jones, Inc. The district will select an architect in January.

The course won’t be modeled after a particular golf course, Koski said, as the city seeks to create a unique destination.

“We want something that is standalone — an outstanding facility that the residents can enjoy it,” Koski said.

It could cost up to $14 million to re-design and renovate the now-closed course. And the district will likely spend about $500,000 a year to maintain the course.

The 27-hole course and clubhouse will be rebuilt, but the hotel will not. That land will be reserved for public use.

The district may use it to build another public facility, but hasn’t ironed out the details, Koski said.