Noteworthy Number of New Course Openings for 2023
The pandemic era uptick in golf popularity and play has meant some property owners and visionaries are actively building golf courses – much more so than a decade ago or so.
This development looks quite different than it did during the boom era of golf course construction, however.
New courses today aren’t, in most cases, being built to help sell real estate. But you will find commonalities beyond the strong Florida, South Carolina, and Texas representation – as almost two-thirds of the courses to open in 2023 were in those three states.
Nationwide, 2023 brought more new course openings than any year since 2010.
On the public side, including at resorts, there’s a predilection for short courses and off-the-beaten-path locations. On the private side, there’s a wealth of high-end, destination golf. And then there are the full rebuilds, where what is essentially an all-new course is built on the footprint of a bygone layout.
Looking for a comprehensive list? NGF’s Construction Report ($) offers a comprehensive look at U.S. golf course and related development activity, with access to an online database of projects under construction, in planning, completed, under reconstruction, and on hold.
Following are 10 examples of 2023 course openings that encapsulate U.S. development trends industrywide:
T36 at Baytown (Baytown, TX)
The newest addition to the public golf landscape is this condensed and flexible layout near Houston that debuted in December and reimagines golf’s traditional 18-hole routing on a 65-acre piece of land, less than half the average footprint. The differentiator for T36 is an innovative “double-loop” design in which nine holes each have two separate teeing areas and green complexes, allowing them to play completely differently while using the same common fairway. Built on land once occupied by a closed municipal golf, the vision for T36 became a reality when its backers convinced the city to keep golf as a community amenity.
The Battlefield at Shangri-La (Afton, OK)
In spring of 2023, a dramatic 18-hole par 3 course was unveiled at a waterfront resort in northeastern Oklahoma named Shangri-La. The Battlefield is among the newest entrants in the world of great resort short courses — a scenic and strategic design that complements the property’s existing 27-hole championship course. The new par-54 layout, designed by Tom Clark and Kevin Atkinson, may help Shangri-La (well known as a “best-kept secret” in neighboring states like Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas) emerge as more than a regional golf destination.
Fields Ranch at Omni PGA Frisco (Frisco, TX)
This year’s biggest splash in the public golf space came in the biggest state in the continental U.S. – Texas. Three new courses opened during the spring at this modern resort adjacent to the PGA of America’s new headquarters outside Dallas. Fields Ranch hosted the 2023 Senior PGA Championship at its East Course, designed by Gil Hanse, and will hold dozens more tournaments in the coming years, among them the Women’s PGA Championship (2025, 2031) and PGA Championship (2027, 2034). Fields Ranch West, designed by Beau Welling, will be in the mix for those events as well, while the property also added a 10-hole, lighted Par 3 course known as The Swing.
The Park West Palm (West Palm Beach, FL)
When the West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course closed in 2018 it was neglected and overgrown. Gil Hanse and his team were brought in to completely overhaul the property, which reopened in spring of 2023 with a new 18-hole layout as well as a new, lighted 9-hole Par 3 course. The routing, which plays through sandy scrub and oak trees, has become a popular community gathering spot, and provides the versatility to play several 3- or 6-hole loops from the clubhouse.
Sandhill Crane – The Nest Par 3 (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
About 20 miles northwest of The Park, another municipal facility has added a Par 3 course. Initial plans called for a nine-hole regulation course after the city of Palm Beach Gardens acquired 115 acres next to its existing 18-hole course, but the Nicklaus Design team instead opted for an 18-hole short course with back tees ranging in distance from 100 to 256 yards. And technically, the Nest is a 19-hole layout as it finishes with a bet-settling island green in addition to its two bars, casual dining options, and two-story, covered driving range.
Old Barnwell (Aiken, SC)
Camaraderie and competition are at the root of this private national club, which is nestled on 575 acres of sandy soil and rolling hills surrounded by towering longleaf and loblolly pines. The first of the property’s planned three courses debuted in the spring, part of a mini rush of private golf development in the area that also includes professional golfer Zac Blair’s club, The Tree Farm, in nearby Batesburg. Part of Old Barnwell’s mission is creating developmental programs tied to people and communities historically underrepresented within the game.
Panther National (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
Jack Nicklaus and Justin Thomas teamed up on the design of the new courses – an 18-hole championship and 9-hole Par 3 – at the center of this luxury and lifestyle community in South Florida. When the courses debuted in November 2023, Panther National became the first new golf development in Palm Beach County in nearly two decades, partnering Thomas’s youthful relevance with Nicklaus’s iconic name.
Red Feather Golf and Social Club (Lubbock, TX)
There’s a laidback vibe to this private club with an 18-hole course designed by Rob Collins and Tad King, the architects behind popular public destinations like Sweetens Cove (Tennessee) and Landmand (Nebraska). The duo dug over 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt in transforming a flat, non-descript cottonfield just outside Lubbock, creating what they’ve described as a “modern day Shadow Creek.” The club has 350 local and 75 national members.
Shell Bay Club (Hallandale Beach, FL)
Just north of Miami, Greg Norman’s design team overhauled a course that was part of the Diplomat Golf Resort and is tucked on prime piece of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway. The cost for a membership at Shell Bay is over $1 million, a price tag that highlights demand for the first private club in the Miami area in more than two decades. None of the original holes remain, as the former course was torn up, sand-capped and elevation changes were added throughout.
Wicker Point (Alexander City, AL)
One of a couple Coore & Crenshaw courses to debut in 2023 (along with the second course at McArthur in South Florida), Wicker Point Golf Club is the centerpiece to a luxury residential development on Alabama’s Lake Martin. The layout features pine plantations and meandering creeks but is defined most notably by a series of spectacular lakefront holes on the back nine, with a handful of greens sitting right on the water.
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