Purity at Seminole Golf Club:
Nestled in a tree-lined enclave about 13 miles north of Palm Beach rests one of golf’s most treasured gems: Seminole Golf Club. The only Seminole-border open to the world hugs the Atlantic ocean, consequently, sending streams of southeastern wind to pervade the course…and every shot. Designed by Scottish-born and famed architect, Donald Ross, Seminole’s consistently top-ranked course is equally matched by its history and membership, leaving the regular golfer endlessly captivated and unassumingly comfortable.
Seminole is a product of the Roaring Twenties. Established in 1929 and spawned by younger members of exclusive clubs a few miles south, they purchased a tract of land intended to “build the finest golf club in the world.” Combine golf’s increasing popularity, the envy of it’s finest courses — all in the north — and the Northerner’s desire to escape harsh winters; one quickly finds the genesis of Seminole Golf Club.
Shear suspense builds as glimpses of the course can be viewed through the left trees after entering the guarded neighborhood — the same trees that four Canadians snuck through to view The Hawk.
A final turn left leaves you with Seminole’s unique clubhouse. This Spanish-themed, pink-stucco clubhouse displays an unmatched tone of vibrant-subtleness in golf.
Visitors sign the guest book before walking down an arched-hallway which dispenses you in a half-garden, half-patio. One glance to the left leaves an awestruck visitor viewing beautiful Seminole Golf Club. Two items directly stand out: first a massive, saltwater swimming pool overlooking the practice putting green. If Hollywood in the 1920’s made one suggestion for the clubhouse, this would have been it. Imagine a young Kathryn Hepburn suntanning among golfing’s elite — it wouldn’t seem out of place. Second, a large flag pole is situated in the middle of the practice putting green.
“Now, Vinny Giles won not only the U.S. Amateur and the British Amateur, and was on four Walker Cup teams, he’s won every Amateur tournament worth winning!” exclaimed the locker room attendant to a new staff member as he pointed up to the gold-painted, wooden score boards. These were the first words I heard entering the historic men’s locker room.
Seminole Golf Club: Source
Seminole’s locker room is ideal. Big game animals line the room above carved, wooden lockers. Eyes are immediately drawn to the plethora of amateur and pro-am tournaments hosted. Fowler, Watson, Pepper, Love III, Palmer and Hogan, all grace the walls as winners of the legendary, annual Amateur-Professional tournament. Matches are placed in ashtrays on each table, including the backgammon table.
In Seminole style, the perfect balance of relaxation and premium-golf exists. One could get lost in their library of books for hours…and smoke a cigar while doing it. The “off the premise by 6:00 p.m.” mandate keeps the focus strictly on the top-priority: golf.
Few clubs have more prestigious members and still carry such an unassuming environment. Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a golfing enthusiast guest taking in Seminole for the first time, all egos are left at the entrance and it’s truly an escape from the rest of the world. Perhaps the only club where I’ve experienced this feeling is Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. Referred to by many as “Bobby’s other golf course,” Peachtree is a haven for Atlanta and much of the deep South’s golfing elite. Fraternal acceptance is offered to all just for being invited on the grounds.
“I used to play Seminole for 30 straight days when I was preparing for the Masters, and I was just as eager to play it on the 30th morning as I was on the first.” – Ben Hogan
Seminole’s course doesn’t leave you awestruck at first sight. One may assume that lining the Atlantic ocean would leave panoramic views similar to Cypress or Pebble Beach. This is not the case. Seminole’s brilliance comes out when you’re over the ball.
Years ago, playing in the North-South Junior in Pinehurst, North Carolina, final-day competition commenced on the revered No. 2 course. Torturous, vivid memories of approach shots into the crowned greens at No. 2 suddenly reemerged on the first hole of Seminole. It was almost as if my high school teacher gave my Calculus exam again to me, today! This time I was ill-equipped with little practice or study.
A thinned-wedge on the first hole left me behind the green. My playing partners hit the green. There I was, all alone, 4 feet below the green and ten yards off from the fringe. I was in the crowd and my playing companions were all up on stage — a lonely feeling no one wants to have.
Hogan described Seminole as a “placement course.”
“Most of the holes bend one way or the other slightly, and you must place your tee shot on the right side or left side of the fairway to have the best angle to the green on your approach shot. I was always a spot player-that is, I played to a spot on the fairway and then to a spot on the green. That’s the fascination of golf for me–placing the ball in the proper position and then coming as close as I can to playing precisely the kind of shot that’s called for. You just don’t hit a club — say, the 4-iron — the same way all the time. There are 10 different ways to hit a 4-iron. At Seminole you get the chance to play all the shots there are. I like that and the fact that you can visualize clearly what you have to do.
If I were a young man going on the pro tour,” Hogan added, “I’d try to make arrangements to get on Seminole. If you can play Seminole, you can play any course in the world.”
Seminole’s architectural brilliance comes out in second shots. Number 6 is known around the world at Seminole’s best hole, but so many holes at Seminole prioritize precision and thought.
For example, the par-3 thirteenth faces directly east towards the Atlantic ocean with wind likely howling from the south (right). Any thoughtful golfer will have to line their shot over the bunkers and trust the wind to bring it towards the green. Poorly struck shots present the likely scenario of an 8 ft high face to contend with out of the bunker. Add to the mix, any shot above the hole leaves a delicate and improbable two-putt. Welcome to every hole at Seminole.
The 13th at Seminole Golf Club: Source
Seminole is more than a spectacular golf course or club. Subtly, it’s a fabric of golf where the best players come to escape, relax or prepare for the toughest competitions in golf. It’s a club where Amateur and Professional golf converge once a year, perhaps in the most intimate setting available to either side. Stories and members from Seminole have helped shape the past and present. Undoubtedly, they will continue to for generations to come.
Born in the Roaring Twenties, constructed by one of golf’s finest architects, and cultivated by a membership whose appreciation for the game can only be matched — not superseded — a fortunate guest is left enchanted with the purest form of the sport: Seminole Golf Club.