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.
As I played High Ridge it reminded me of playing Adios Golf Club. One feels as if they have entered an arboretum where someone decided to place 18 holes of golf inside of it. The course is beautiful particularly the holes that incorporate large ponds. Joe Lee’s routing minimized the disruption to the landscape. The club has added flowers and bushes to the natural features of the course. At times the beauty of the course can be distracting. I suspect that one enjoys the serenity, calmness and stillness of the course no matter how they are playing on the day.
My assessment of the course is not as effusive as the previous reviewers. While I have not played many courses on the southeast coast of Florida, I have played nearly all of the more recognized courses. In my opinion, it certainly belongs in the top twenty five in the area and likely deserves to be included in the top fifty in Florida.
The course is somewhat average from the tees (white) typically played by most members but it is noticeably stronger from the Black tees at 7175 yards. The white tees play at just under 6400 yards. I had a good long-hitting player with me and from those member tees he often hit it through the fairways even though he selected less than driver off the tees. This is because the course has a fair number of doglegs and trees that infringe on the fairway. One critique I had was the course has many more doglegs lefts than to the right as well as a lack of straight holes.
Much like Adios, if one hits into the foliage they have a high probability of a lost ball, and would be fortunate to have a pitch out shot. There is rarely the possibility of recovery once in the bushes and plants or behind a thick grouping of trees. For me, this is a negative to the course simply because there are also many holes with water that come into play where the possibility of a penalty are high. I felt the course ratings to be too low for the amount of water, trees and bushes, and the fairway bunkering.
I very much liked the par five’s where the landing zones on three of the holes were wider as well as these holes had twists and turns to them ending on very good greens. THe par 3’s are basic. The par 4’s are a mixture of a few memorable holes and fairly basic holes although some have trees that come into the fairway a bit too much.
The best aspect to the course are the greens which are of good size, slope, slants, with some fall offs but also with good green side bunkering.
The condition of the course is excellent although on our day many of the bunkers had footprints due to not being raked likely due to either laziness or disregard for other players. Most of the greens had un-repaired pitch marks. My partner and I could have fixed at least eight each on nearly every hole and not gotten all of them.
There is no unique architectural feature to the course including the style of bunkering. As mentioned the course has a decent routing and good green complexes. The other reviews mention the numerous “cape-like” holes although these holes generally offered less strategy off the tees.
I will reference the black and white tees at 7175 and 6385 yards. The course does also offer seven sets of tees and two combinations options. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many tees on a course.
1. Par 4 - 403/367. This is a somewhat gentle opener as the fairway is more generous. Yet if you miss the fairway you are likely incurring a penalty stroke. The hole moves to the left with two bunkers on the right corner the second of which is placed inside the fairway. The green is angled slightly to the right, opposite of the turn with flanking front bunkers. It is a green sloped back to front with a slight fall off. I liked the hole.
2. Par 4 - 412/374. Turning in the opposite direction this is a narrower fairway that has its only bunker at the green in the form of a long three finger off the left. It is another solid hole although not visually interesting.
3. Par 4 - 459/388. Water goes down the left side with the hole turning left. For better players it is not worth the risk to try to carry the water. The left 20% of the fairway tilts towards the water. The green has a bunker 20 yards short on the right and then flanking front bunkers. The green has a higher back half. This hole is not as good as the other water holes that come later.
4. Par 3 - 174/152. This is played over water more down the left side and front left. There is a bailout to the right. A long bunker goes down the left side with the first rear bunker on the course being on the right. If one is in that rear bunker they will face a green running sharply away from them. But for me this hole held little interest.
5. Par 4 - 452/352. This is a cape like hole with the pond down much of the right side from the tee to the green. From the back tee this is a very good hole. From the member tee 100 yards up it is not as good. There are nine bunkers on the hole and from the tee it looks as though sand is everywhere. Off the tee there are three bunkers right and two left and they are large. Three more bunkers sit on the right between the green and water with the final bunker on a rise on the back left of the green. The green has a false front and a lot of undulations within it. The combination of water, nine bunkers and a difficult green make this overkill towards difficulty. I thought there should only be one banker on the right between the green and water. From that back tee it is one of the better holes on the course but from the member tee it is less compelling.
6. Par 5 - 603/552. This is likely my favorite hole on the golf course. From an elevated tee one plays to what looks to be a narrow fairway but is actually wide. It is a penalty shot if one does not find the fairway off the tee. The hole is a double dogleg with most players going back to the right before the hole finishes off to the left. Bigger hitters might try to reach the green in two but as there is a small pond that sits to the left of the green the smart play is playing out to the right and have a short chip. Most players will play out to the right for their second due to a large oak tree protecting the left half of the fairway including a bunker lying beneath it on its right side. From the tee there are two bunkers on the right that I thought were unnecessary but they could prevent a ball from trundling into the brush. Another bunker sits on the right side at the turn for the second shot which makes one perhaps want to playa bit closer to that large oak on the left. There are six bunkers that comprise the green complex with two on the right about twenty yards before the green. The green is angled to the right with one bunker at the front (between the pond and green), two on the sides and one at the rear. I thought the bunkering to be one too many but I did like the green with its multiple tiers. This hole has length, strategy and requires precise execution from the tee to the final putt.
7. Par 4 - 424/384. This hole bends slightly left with one long bunker on the left fairway that should not be in play. There is a smaller bunker on the right side farther up the fairway that is very much in play. The tree line seems to pinch in from the left perhaps a bit too much. There are two fronting bunkers before a green that has a significant slope and little depressions.
8. Par 3 - 188/166. The green is set slightly left to right with a front bunker and a bunker on each side. It is a standard golf hole but has a green with a lot of inner movement.
9. Par 5 - 554/530. This is also slight double dogleg mainly due to trees that come about fifteen yards into the fairway on the left about 80 yards from the green that influences the approach shot. If left you will either be blocked or have to navigate them. Off the tee there are three bunkers on both sides which due to the fairway moving to the left makes the fairway appear smaller. Again, I wondered why there was a need for so many bunkers. The next set of bunkers is a collection of three bunkers way right about 45 yards from the green that for me added very little to the hole. The final bunker is a large and deep one on the left corner. This green is raised with a false front and various little shelves in it. It’s a decent par 5 but I thought it to be the least memorable one on the course.
10. Par 4 - 465/391. Much like the fifth hole, this a better hole from the back tee. Off the tee there is another collection of three bunkers on the left side with a single bunker down the right. A pond goes down the right but ends halfway up the hole and really should not be in play give the width of the fairway. If one misses the fairway to the right, it will be a penalty shot or pitch out. The hole bends left bringing the left side tree line into play. The green sits higher with a deeper bunker on each side.
11. Par 3 - 156/143. This shorter par 3 features a long, sinewy bunker snaking from the tee to the green down the left side. It’s pretty but adds an unnecessary cost to the maintenance team. There is a right front corner bunker and one parallel to it at the rear of the green. The green has a lot of slope back to front and I judged it to be one of the fastest greens on the course.
12. Par 4 - 372/321. Water goes down the entirety of the right side of this hole which also features three bunkers in play for average players and two farther up for the longer hitters. The first bunker on the right near the water is the most problematic. The green sits hard against the water on the right and is elevated with a false front. There is a single bunker on the back left corner. The green is one of the easier ones to read although getting the pace correct is a challenge.
13. Par 5 - 534/512. This is peninsula fairway for most of the hole as water is on both sides finally disappearing only on the left side about 70 yards from the green. From the elevated tee there is a long bunker down the left that should not be in play and a smaller bunker placed on the right that can catch a good shot. The second shot for most players likely does not bring another bunkers into play. The water is hard against the green on the right with to bunkers on the left side. It is a nice par 5.
14. Par 3 - 231/176. There is water that splits the fairway about 40 yards from this large green. The water continues down the left side there is about ten yards of grass between the water and green. A large bunker sits on the right front corner with two large ones at the rear of the green. As mentioned by the other reviewer, this is likely the quietest part of the course.
15. Par 5 - 517/484. For me this is the second best hole on the course as water snakes down the left side before crossing about forty yards in front of the green. This dogleg leg has a thin fairway until the turn where to bunkers wait the longer hitters. The angled green to the right is on higher land behind the water with a very large bunker on the front left and a small,one on the right middle. This green has multiple tiers and is slick.
16. Par 4 - 400/356. This is another dogleg left with bunkers on both corners. Trees down the left side come into the fairway putting a premium on playing from the middle or right. Yet the right side has a single tree that can catch a tee shot. The green is angled consistent with the dogleg off to the left with two front corner bunkers and three at the rear. The green is elevated but fairly flat.
17. Par 4 - 362/337. This is another dogleg left with trees coming in from the left blocking an approach. There is a bunker short on the right side and another bunker on the right that is essentially hidden from the tee and completely unnecessary given the narrowness of the fairway. There is a front bunker and two at the rear of this multiple tired green. I disliked the layout, bunker placement and trees on this hole but greatly admired the green.
18. Par 4 - 472/400. This hole has no bunkers off the tee as the fairway is narrow. A pond cuts across much of the fairway and fronts the green. Players lacking courage or length can play short or down the left away from the pond. The green is backdropped by three bunkers which one must avoid as the recovery shot is very quick away from the bunkers. There is a large depression that almost becomes a ridge on the middle to right side of the green. It is an excellent green. The hole itself is not unique as I felt I have played this hole on other courses about fifty times or more.
High Ridge is a lovely course very much defined by its physical beauty and its its excellent greens. It is a much better course from the two sets of longer tees. If in the area, it is a course one should seek out to play,
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.