High Ridge Country Club is one of the more private clubs in West Palm Beach, a land noted for its exclusive golf facilities. The club was originally designed by Florida-based architect Joe Lee during 1979, featuring many amoebic bunkers that certainly seem to be growing larger as you look at them from the tee.
Like many Florida courses of its era, it also relies on a number of ponds, with numerous holes creating “cape”-like situations where a player will need to trust their driver and long irons to get home in two honest shots.
The club was committed to offering the same challenge for modern players with modern equipment as it did for the first generation of members, and thus it brought in Kipp Schulties during 2001 to add additional length to the club, as well as provide renovation work to Lee’s original bunkers. Schulties returned to High Ridge in 2010 to perform a complete course redesign. Although a decent amount of Florida hardwood remains to convince players not to stray too far from the penalizing water hazards, Schulties also removed at least a few to keep the club’s playability realistic.
High Ridge has long been a "hidden gem" in South Florida, but until recently, I had not played the course in about 12 years and had no idea what incredible work Kipp Schulties did 10 years ago (in 2010) when a major renovation of the course took place. How many flattish courses in Florida can you really say are interesting? Very few. Pine Tree is an example of one that comes to mind where Dick Wilson did an amazing job creating interest and variety on a pancake flat property. For those of you that have never played High Ridge before, you should do whatever you can to play this terrific golf course. There is just enough subtle elevation change built into the course to keep things interesting without feeling artificial. Even though just 10 years ago this major renovation took place, it looks like the course has always been this way.
The property has dense trees throughout the course and as such each hole is wonderfully separated from the others even though an overhead view would show you the holes are much closer to each other than they appear. Strategically placed beautiful crystal white sand bunkers throughout the course set up tough but fair approach shots to the angled greens which have plenty of undulation to challenge even the best putters.
One could argue that a few holes are a little bit too tight off the tee and it's easy to get uncomfortable if your game is off, but for me High Ridge represents a great challenge and the true defintition of "championship golf".
A few hole highlights include the 5th and 6th which were substantial renovated by Kipp Schulties.
The 5th is a spectacular par-4 that is not only long, but intimidating as well with a tough drive shaped with bunkers left and a huge water hazard right. The fairway is actually wider than it looks but don't get too comfortable as you are facing one of the most intimdating approach shots on the entire course to an elevated green with a lot more undulation than you can see from the fairway. Par on this hole is an excellent score that often times will likely feel like a birdie.
The 6th is a spectacular par-5 that perfectly defines risk/reward. The tee box is elevated and a good drive could leave a long hitter with a risky approach shot over water to try and reach this green in two shots for an eagle opportunity. The vast majority of players will take the traditional route of laying up to the right of a large Oak tree that can cause issues if you don't play far enough to the right.
Standing in the 6th fairway, you should take a moment to observe what is not only of the of the most beautiful par-5's in all of Florida but one of the very best architecturally. Kipp Schulties has done work on about twenty South Florida courses and I have been lucky enough to have played them all. This hole is my single favorite Kipp Schulties hole I have seen, it's truly awesome.
The 8th hole at High Ridge is a terrific par-3 which is not only a mid-iron shot but has one of the coolest greens you will find with great angles and undulations where precision off the tee is key as its a tough green to hit. You will walk off this hole knowing it's a great hole.
On the back 9, the 14th is another great par-3 that is hidden in the woods and plays quite long over water with lots of natural beauty all around you. Throughout the course you have a constant sense of tranquility, ever present on the 14th, just one of the things that makes High Ridge a special place.
The 15th is another great par-5 with an intimidating tee shot with water left and dense trees to the right. On distance alone it may seem reachable in two shots, but it is a low percentage ill advised attempt as my second shot into the water short confirmed. The approach shot to this green is nothing short of picture frame worthy gorgeous to a two tiered green that demands you find the proper tier to have a reasonable putt at making birdie.
The 16th hole was one of my favorite par 4's, This hole is a great example where a medium length hole with a little elevation can still be plenty challenging. This green is slightly elevated and has plenty of undulation making putting a challenge.
The 18th hole is a fun finisher. Not overly long but plenty challenging with a punch bowl section on the green, which is well protected by water short. This hole presents all the drama you would ever want when the match or tournament is on the line and you need a strong finish. What makes this hole very playable for the average golfer yet challenging for the highly skilled one is that there is plenty of room to play short and left of the green to avoid the water if you are worried about taking on the risk of coming up short.
When you walk off the 18th green at High Ridge you instantly know you have just played a special golf course. As of November 2020, High Ridge is ranked #37 in the state of Florida ensuring this hidden gem has finally gotten the recognition it certainly deserves. Congratulations to Kipp Schulties and the membership on a job very well done.
*Separate from the golf course, High Ridge just recently completely rebuilt their brand new clubhouse in a different location and it is a spectacular sight to be seen. I believe it is unquestionably one of the top clubhouses in the United States.