A gated golf community designed and partly developed by Jack Nicklaus, The Bear's Club is situated on a swampy 400-acre tract of land in the Palm Beach County town of Jupiter, a couple of miles from the coast. Although the course opened in 2000, Nicklaus began planning this club when he first moved from Ohio to Florida during the 1970s. His aim was to build a quality golf facility, like Muirfield Village, that could be set-up precisely the way he desired and shared with a small, exclusive membership.
Not surprisingly, the Nicklaus footprint is all over this property, particularly the golf course, which is carved entirely from the native terrain and nicely distanced from the surrounding housing development. The two-loop routing integrates smoothly with the natural cypress swamps, lakes and wetland areas, its fairways lined by indigenous pines and palmettos. The holes themselves are beautifully built and enhanced by flashed Sandbelt-style bunkering and tricky green complexes that generally play smaller than they appear.
Better areas on the course include the difficult starting holes, the first two with shallow targets falling away toward the rear or side wings and the 3rd bending left around a lake and into a small green hard against the water. The closing run is also very good, the 16th just one of four gorgeous short holes and the 18th a typically dramatic lakeside par five finisher that ends beneath the grandiose Tuscan-style clubhouse. For the gambling golfer, the aggressive line here is out over water to a peninsula green jutting into the lake. The other standout par five is the 10th, a strategic three-shot test that also runs alongside a lake, a large tier and deep bunkers defending the green for those hitting their second shots too safely away from the water.
Nicklaus set The Bear’s Club up as a very private affair, and he doesn’t covet publicity or attention for his club. This is a terrific golf experience, however, and he does deserve great credit and recognition for having created one of the finest golf communities anywhere in Florida.
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