Seminole Golf Club - Course Guide
Seminole is the only course I could be perfectly happy playing every single day. If you can play well there, you can play well anywhere.
Part of Seminole’s mystery and allure is that almost all golf fans know it only by name rather than sight.
Located in Juno Beach, Florida – seven miles north of West Palm Beach – it’s a private golf club that has become a staple on any ranking list.
Typically, it’s voted as the best course in Florida and one of the top 25 in the United States while also earning a regular place in the top 50 layouts in the world.
No wonder it attracts the rich and famous. The list of storied visitors includes US Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, the Duke of Windsor, the Rev. Billy Graham, and Bing Crosby.
In addition, the annual Latham Reed Invitational Pro-Am held there attracted legends of the game such as Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead.
Looking at the club’s history, Seminole has an immediate stamp of class having been designed by the legendary Donald Ross and is widely considered to be one of his masterpieces.
It opened for business in 1929 and, most recently, has been refurbished by two more designers of note – Bill Coore and double Masters winner Ben Crenshaw.
One other standout rubber stamp of approval comes from the great Ben Hogan.
From 1954, the nine-time major winner used to practice at Seminole for at least 30 straight days every spring to prep for The Masters.
Hogan, one of just five players to have won all four majors, said: “If I were a young man going on the pro tour, I’d try to make arrangements to get on Seminole. If you can play Seminole, you can play any course in the world.”
Jack Nicklaus concurred, ranking Seminole alongside Augusta National and St. Andrews in terms of difficulty.
Seminole Fast Facts
Yardage: 6,836 yards
Seminole course designer: Donald Ross
Seminole course record: 60 (Claude Harmon)
Seminole Course Guide
As with so many great courses, geographical location plays a big part in its appeal. Most of Seminole – 14 of the 18 holes to be precise – is laid out in a bowl between two sets of dunes, giving it a surprising amount of elevation.
The eastern side runs along the Atlantic Ocean, affording the player some stunning views which is unusual for a Florida course.
Despite measuring in at just 6,836 yards off the Gold tees – very short by modern standards – it rates as one of the toughest tests around.
As well as the elevation, its main defenses are the challenging green complexes which are sloped and tilted and its constantly changing routing which means continual adjustments must be made for the altering wind direction.
Ocean breezes ramp up the difficulty level further while sandy rough areas were reintroduced by Coore and Crenshaw to give the course a more linksy feel.
Key Holes at Seminole
Par 4, 450 yards: Ranked the hardest hole on the course, this ultra-tough par 4 catches many out. A blind tee-shot is the first test while approaches are played to a slightly raised green surrounded by cunningly placed bunkers. That includes a cross bunker 30 yards shy of the green which comes into play if the wind is against.
Par 4, 388 yards: It looks fairly innocuous in terms of yardage but this is the hole that intrigued Hogan the most. A waste area runs down the right side of the fairway while anything too far offline brings trees into play. A series of staggered bunkers can play tricks in terms of perception with the approach.
Par 4, 390 yards: Another hole whose yardage suggests birdie chance and yet the reality is often very different. A ditch down the left side must be avoided but going too far right creates a difficult approach. The small green is one of the hardest to hit and hold and anything loose can find sand and leave bogey a big possibility.
Par 3, 175 yards: All four par 3’s present a challenge but perhaps the last of them is the best of the lot. Visually, it’s wonderful, playing parallel to the beach and no less than eight greenside bunkers await once the tee shot is launched over wasteland.
Par 4, 417 yards: A dogleg left, the fairway is wide enough although shorter hitters will have to play away from the bunkers (longer hitters can clear them). The main test is the second shot as Seminole’s sign-off hole has a raised green protected by a quartet of bunkers.
What They Say
“Seminole is the only course I could be perfectly happy playing every single day. It gives me a premium on precision, an emphasis on playing shots. If you can play well there, you can play well anywhere.”
Golf Digest review:
“I’ve played Seminole with several past finalists in U.S. Amateurs and former Walker Cup players. To watch them struggle to break par on a course not overly long by today’s standards tells you how tough the course can play for some of the best golfers around.”
Gary Williams (former assistant pro at Seminole):
“Each hole has subtle features that require focus to notice and appreciate and the par 3’s are as fine and stern a set of 3’s you can find anywhere. Driver is not demanded on all the par 4’s and the key to playing Seminole is to stay underneath the hole. The routing of Seminole never allows you to get comfortable in one wind direction as you are changing direction every third hole at the max. The stories of Hogan are all true and his love of the sixth hole is totally understood when you look at the hole from the green back to the tee. Angles of genius and a green complex that defies the thoughts of one man. The 17th green, par 3, may simply be one of the hardest greens to hit and hold in the world regardless of the wind direction and a 3-4 finish is one to boast about to anyone who will listen.”
“You wouldn’t expect a Florida course next to the Atlantic Ocean to have some serious elevation changes. That’s just part of the uniqueness of Seminole.”
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