“I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to design golf courses all over the world, but there is something special about having my 300th golf course open right in my own backyard,” Jack Nicklaus said. “Banyan Cay is a piece of property that had plenty of room and opportunity to take a course that first opened in 1969, redo it, and make it into a modern-day golf course and something special. It’s got a lot of excitement, but at the same time, it is very user-friendly. I’m delighted for people to have the opportunity to play a golf course that will have a lot of challenges, but also one that can be played in an easier, fun way. I think for a resort and membership club, we’ve got a winner.”
Jack Nicklaus’ first design opened in 1969, when he collaborated with Pete Dye to create Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C. Since then, the Golden Bear’s North Palm Beach-based firm Nicklaus Design has created 415 courses in 45 countries and 39 states.
"As both his son and a fellow designer, I am amazed at the résumé Jack Nicklaus has put together," said Jack Nicklaus II, president of Nicklaus Design. "To celebrate the opening of his 300th course design speaks volumes about the depth, the breadth, and the longevity of his work. He has provided us the cornerstone and a firm foundation for Nicklaus Design's imprint and impact around the world. It is our mission to continue and even enhance the design legacy Jack Nicklaus has created."
The Banyan Cay course showcases a character highlighted by subtle changes of elevation—with as much as 25 feet in changes within the golf course – more than double most courses in South Florida. Additionally, the course features gently rolling fairways, land forms, various water features, and bunkers that provide both aesthetics and strategy. Also, as a unique feature, a handful of revetted bunkers –reminiscent of the stacked-sod bunkers seen on links layouts in Scotland and Ireland – have been scattered strategically throughout the course.
“We basically have taken the golf course and created a lot of really nice strategic golf shots,” Nicklaus said. “We created a lot of elevation changes in areas where we had the ability to do so, including four holes on the front and four on the back. We also created land forms to play off of, such as No. 12. It is a short par 4 with a huge area for a green that was about 8,000 square feet. We put a bunker in the middle of the green to play around and, in effect, created three separate green areas to play to with a short club. We have a half-dozen revetted bunkers on the golf course and we put those in strategic places. We also had a very good tree program, keeping most of the existing trees where they were, and transplanting others when grading and shaping dictated it. Additional trees were brought in where we needed more screening or accent planting.
“The original golf course was up in the air, meaning the fairways were high and there was a big difference between the fairways and any surrounding water. We dropped the fairways down to relate them to the water. We took the dirt and created space. It was low in between the holes before and now it’s high in between the holes. We used it as mounding to turn the holes in most places. In the end, it is a very pleasant golf course.”
The course layout provides members and their guests with a challenging, yet playable golf experience. The new par-72 design features five sets of tees to accommodate players of all skill levels, and the course yardage ranges from 4,800 yards to a championship-length 7,200 yards from the tips. The practice facility, as well as the course’s opening hole, is located in front of the future home of a new full-service clubhouse, which will open in 2018.