The West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course will be operated on a nonprofit basis by the PGA of America. The enhanced property will include an 18-hole course, a 9-hole course, a driving range and putting practice greens, as well as a clubhouse. The PGA of America is leasing the city-owned site for up to 70 years for $1 per year.
The West Palm Beach (Fla.) Municipal Golf Course is nearing its reopening date, The Palm Beach Postreported. The facility on the city’s border with Lake Worth Beach, is expected to open in April, according to PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh, who spearheaded the project and raised $55 million to build and endow it.
The West Palm course, to be operated on a nonprofit basis by PGA of America, aims to counter golf’s “elitist” legacy and to make golf more accessible to all, The Post reported.
The enhanced property will include an 18-hole course, a 9-hole course, a driving range and putting practice greens, as well as a clubhouse, The Post reported. Plans call for instruction for beginners to elite golfers, as well as in-school golf programs that bring students for their first golf outings. There’ll be practice facilities for high school golf teams, scholarship awards and a caddie program, for high school kids to engage with business leaders.
The context in which this facility materialized made its creation unlikely, even without the pandemic getting in its way, The Post reported. Palm Beach has more golf courses, public and private, than just about any county in the United States. But recent years have seen one course after another lapse into ill-maintenance because of high costs and low participation and be converted into housing. West Palm closed its 179-acre site in 2018 and initially entertained a series of proposals that would have converted part of the property into condos or townhomes.
That soon may be the fate of Lone Pine Golf Course, 11 miles to the north in Riviera Beach, The Post reported. The 18-hole course and driving range offer well-kept grounds, prices that are among the lowest in the county and a clientele among the most diverse in the county, reflecting that city’s demographics.
The family that has owned it for decades has contracted to sell it to a homebuilder, however, The Post reported. And the city is preparing to rezone the property from recreational use, to allow a 286-home subdivision to spring up. The final city council vote has not yet taken place, but the initial vote went 3-2 in favor of the houses and townhomes, despite an outcry from neighbors who’ve enjoyed fairway views for some 40 years.
The city, which has tens of millions of dollars worth of capital projects in the works, has not sought to muster the additional untold millions that would be needed to outbid homebuilder D.R. Horton and preserve the site for recreation, The Post reported. Housing would bring the city a stream of property tax revenue; a city-owned golf course or park would not.
The good news is, PGA’s Waugh says he plans to reach out to officials of Riviera Beach and other municipalities, to sign up children from those areas to participate in programs at West Palm Golf Park, The Post reported. At one point he considered Lone Pine as a site for PGA of America but rather than buy that privately owned property, PGA was able to lease the city-owned West Palm site for up to 70 years for $1 per year, with West Palm’s enthusiastic cooperation.
Waugh now is scouting other sites in the county to duplicate the West Palm project, The Post reported.
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