Jack Nicklaus and Justin Thomas officially unveiled Panther National—the duos’ new co-designed 18-hole course and centerpiece of a new private golf community in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.—with a grand opening in mid-November.
The vision of Swiss developer Dominik Senn, a former world-class alpine ski racer turned founder of the 4sports & Entertainment sports management agency, Panther National brings another high-end residential community to the golf-rich South Florida region. Featuring the championship-level course, 218 modern estate homes, clubhouse, and lifestyle club, Panther National sits on approximately 400 acres within the new, 4,752-acre mixed-use Avenir development. It’s also adjacent to the 2,400-acre Avenir Conservation Area, which borders the north edge of the golf course.
“Panther National sits on the last parcel of premium, developable land in Palm Beach County, where we are proud to offer a visually stunning and environmentally sensitive golf course as the cornerstone of our modern, lifestyle community redefining luxury in the region,” says Senn.
Here are five more noteworthy details about the newly opened Panther National.
1. It’s Been a While
Situated around 20 miles northwest of Palm Beach International Airport, Panther National breaks onto the scene as the first private golf community to open in Florida’s Palm Beach County in nearly two decades.
Owing to its South Florida location and the exposed nature of the course, with very few palm trees only dotting the layout in places, the co-designers both note that Panther National will play dramatically different depending on the direction and ferocity of the wind from day-to-day. “You could play here two days in a row and hit some significantly different clubs on holes,” says Thomas.
2. A Symmetrical Start
Thomas (now 30 years old) began working on his golf design debut at the age of 29—the same age that Nicklaus started his course architecture career as a consultant to Pete Dye in 1969 creating Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Of course, the Golden Bear would go on to become the game’s most accomplished professional player (18 major wins, in case you forgot), as well as one of the most prolific golf course architects with more than 425 designs in over 45 countries and 40 states.
For Thomas, the fortuitous location of Panther National, approximately a half-hour drive from his South Florida home, allowed him to make frequent visits to the property and dip his toe into the business of golf course design while maintaining his primary focus on his playing career.
“I’d love everything about my golf career to be like Jack’s, that’s for sure,” says the two-time PGA Champion Thomas. “You never know where it’s going to go. I’ve always been fascinated with the architecture side, but I couldn’t have imagined or dreamt of doing something like this. In a perfect world, I’d love to maybe co-design a couple more with some other architects and learn as much as possible. I’m a long way from wanting to do this by myself, that’s for sure.”
3. The Big Scoop
The location for Panther National was an expanse of flat nothingness—essentially featureless before construction began. According to Head Professional Adam Schafer, 2.5 million cubic feet of dirt was moved to build a golf course that can be stretched to 8,000 yards from the back “JT” tees. Nicklaus and Thomas were given marching orders from Senn to create a modern design with elevation change that looked and played nothing like anything else in South Florida. And there were zero environmental restrictions for the project—something that was a first for Nicklaus as a course designer, who calls the site a “unicorn of land.”
“I never minded environmental restrictions because I think that makes part of the character of the golf course. We had to create our own character here; you didn’t have anything to work off of,” says Nicklaus. “I think if you drive out here and look at the property, you’ll say, ‘Where did you find a piece of property like this in South Florida?’ Obviously, we didn’t find it; we created it.”
The resulting work from certainly accomplishes the task of producing an out-of-Florida experience. The layout offers wide fairways, sprawling waste bunkers, massive manmade lakes, and surprising undulation, with a variety of uphill and downhill shots and elevation change as much as 48 feet in spots. In some ways it feels like a Dye design, whether it be the wooden bulkheads encircling greens next to water hazards a la TPC Sawgrass or the smorgasbord of randomly placed bunkers for visual effect reminiscent to Whistling Straits. Other unique features include a double green shared by the par-three 8th and par-five 17th holes, a double fairway at the par-four 14th, and an island green at the par-three 15th—the largest green Nicklaus has ever built at 87 yards from end-to-end.
“We probably built the island too big when we did the construction and we had to adapt to it to do what we wanted to do,” says Nicklaus of the 15th, which can play from around 110 to 270 yards depending on the tee and pin location. “I think it turned out kind of cool because basically it’s like three par threes in one.”
4. Along for the Ride
The opening day festivities included a national anthem punctuated by soaring skydivers from the Frog-X Parachute Team, a ceremonial Nicklaus first tee shot (his first real swing since the 2023 Masters Tournament), and a spirited three-on-three exhibition match between notable pros in front of a gaggle of members and prospects. Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and Lexi Thompson took on Xander Schauffele, Erik van Rooyen, and Morgan Hoffman in a 9-hole, 2 Best Ball match-play format, with JT’s squad prevailing on the final hole.
In addition to Thomas, who along with being credited as a designer is invested as a partner in Panther National, several pros have signed on as ambassadors for the club. Schauffele, Thompson, and Hoffman—as well as Camillo Villegas and Cameron Young—will serve as representatives and “engage with members through a variety of events and activations year-round,” according to Panther National.
5. More to Offer
Thomas and Nicklaus were also intimately involved in designing the Panther9 par-3 course, with nine holes ranging from 90 to 200 yards built to replicate the kind of approach shots players face on Panther National’s 18-hole design, as well as an island green modeled after the 17th at TPC Sawgrass. Members also have access to a 30,000-square-foot putting course called “The Cub,” club-fitting studio, indoor simulator, and high-end fitness facilities.
Additional community amenities include Michelin-inspired dining at Panther National’s 66,000-square-foot clubhouse, resort-style swimming pools, tennis and pickleball courts, and more than 10 miles of nature trails.
Do you have a favorite course designed by a former PGA Tour pro? Tell us about the design in the comment section.