Comedian Bob Hope, architect George Fazio and motor industrialist William Ford decided that southeast Florida should have an exclusive, private golf club and so Jupiter Hills was born. George and his nephew Tom Fazio designed both 18-hole courses at the Jupiter Hills Club. The Hills layout came first in 1970 and was followed by the Village course in 1978.
The course at Jupiter Hills which scoops the accolades is the Hills courses and it can be stretched out to a whopping 7,344 yards against a measly par of 70. It’s set on some of the highest ground in Florida between the 3,000-mile long Intracoastal Waterway and Jonathan Dickenson State Park.
The Hills is Fazio’s all-time favourite course and one to which he made subtle but regular improvements over time. Even Fazio cannot pick his favourite hole on the Hills course but perhaps the most cunning hole is the par three 11th which has six tees and can be stretched from a little more than 100 yards to around 200 yards. Multiple tees are not unusual, but it’s the varied angles of approach to the long narrow green that make this par three so special.
Elevation change is the most outstanding characteristic of the course, especially given Florida’s pancake flatness. Jupiter Hills is indeed quite hilly with a 60 feet variation between its lowest and highest point. With holes routed across this unusual site between acres of pine, oak and palmetto, it’s no surprise that Jupiter Hills is so well regarded and so fiercely protected by its ultra-exclusive membership.
Tom and Logan Fazio did a spectacular job with the most recent renovation of Jupiter Hills Club (Hills Course) which re-opened in November 2020. Taking a great course and making it even greater is no easy task. One thing you get with Tom is his drive to always improve whatever he does, you will find no man more passionate about his work.
Few pieces of land in Florida can be truly be called “unique”; almost all Florida land is relatively flat and that creates quite a challenge for golf course architects to build courses that keep the same level of interest as those around the rest of the United States where the land is more rolling and easy to work with.
For starters, Jupiter Hills is situated on some of the most interesting and rolling terrain Florida has to offer. Combine that with brilliant routing and design work by George and Tom Fazio back in the 1970’s and you already had a special golf course, especially for Florida.
Fast forward to 2021 and the work that Tom and Logan Fazio most recently did at Jupiter Hills gives the members and those lucky enough to play there a spectacular course that can hold up against any regardless of what state a course may be located in. As for Florida golf, Jupiter Hills is as good as any.
What makes Jupiter Hills so special you ask? That is an easy answer…everything about it!
I last visited Jupiter Hills almost five years ago. Upon returning last week, my memories were vivid from my last visit. I recall the holes were very well separated from one another and the green complexes were moderate in size with a handful of strong pin position locatons on each. On some holes, the penalty for missing the fairway was winding up in palmetto bushes that lined the fairways and came into play if you sprayed the ball too much.
On the old version of the “Hills” course, I distinctly remember hitting a beautiful 4 iron to the uphill par-3 9th green last time and walking up to the green to find that my ball hit a downslope and did not hold the green. Moreover, I recall the 13th hole being perhaps a little bit too easy and feeling like you’d expect a birdie on the 13th most of the time and be quite disappointed if you did not make one.
After carefully studying this renovation, there is not one single change that I don’t love. Many of those palmetto bushes that I referenced have been removed and replaced with open sandy areas called “sandscapes”, which create majestic views and trust me when I tell you, it’s rare in the state of Florida to be able to use the words “majestic views” when referring to most golf courses.
Standing on the 1st tee, you have to marvel at the beautiful views of what’s ahead. You get a great feel for the course right here on the first tee. An elevated tee with sandscape waste areas right in front of you, you know that you are in for a treat that will be captivating. Astutely, my host pointed out that one of the biggest changes made by Tom and Logan was that some of the entry ways to the greens allow more run up shots that in the past and that was noticeable right here on the very first hole. Even so, the 1st green still has plenty of challenge as it is huge with a distinct back section that has a modest backstop for shots that may be hit just a little too far or shots that are low and running through the green. As one of my playing partners lucked out and noticed his 3rd shot to this par 5 was originally about 15 feet past the pin, yet when he walked up to the green he was pleasantly surprised to find his shot had funneled to about 6 feet from the hole!
The 2nd hole is noteworthy as having one of my three favorite greens on the course, along with the 8th and 13th. The 2nd is a lengthy par 4 and while you can bounce a approach shot onto the green if you take a precise line, this very deep green plays very differently based on where the pin is placed. The expanded green sections and additional pin placements here are superb. If you find a back left section or back right section pin on this hole, it comfortably adds a solid ½ shot of difficulty to the hole compared to a front or center of the green pin placement. These pin positions are totally fair but add a whole new challenge whereby a par would be a great achievement and bogeys are far more likely. What’s fun about a green like this (and many on the new Hills course) is that you feel like you are playing a different hole each time you find a new pin placement. You will never find this course boring.
Some of the other big changes came on the 8th, 9th, 13th and 17th holes.
The 8th has a brand new green complex that is one of my favorites on the course. It’s an angled two tiered green that runs diagonally from right to left and has a really cool side and back slope that helps keep approach shots right around the green and if you get lucky may even funnel your ball towards the hole or center of the green depending on the pin placement on a given day. The hole is much more open looking now and standing on the tee you just feel so secluded and peaceful.
The 9th hole green has been expanded and the area fronting the green now has two really well placed bunkers that are great to look at but a real brut to wind up in. This time around, I hit a towering 6-iron that found the dead center of the green and held the green perfectly. Thank you to Tom and Logan for that great upgrade here at the 9th. I carefully studied the left side of the green that previously tilted from back to front and now that area has been both softened and expanded to better receive long shots. Additionally, a really nice and modest collection area is over the green, a great improvement.
The 13th hole is a really fun par 5 with my favorite green on the course. If you can navigate the proper angle off the tee and hit it far enough, the hole is reachable in two for a longer hitter. But just having the distance to reach in two, no longer does you much good unless you are very precise. Not only is the 13th the most interesting green on the course but it’s now the hardest and requires the most strategy. If you decide to go for the green in two, you surely better be accurate from wherever you are approaching the green. By my count, there are 4 distinct sections to this green and I would not even describe them as quadrants because the green doesn’t have a cookie cutter design (to Tom’s credit, few Fazio greens ever do). I hit a huge drive here, my best of the day actually, and only had a 4 iron into the green. However, I missed my approach shot one yard to the right, wound up in a well-placed bunker and was fortunate to only have 15 feet for birdie from there. A two-putt par and I left the green slightly disappointed, musing that I surely better not miss in that bunker again. What’s great about this green is that if you lay up to a wedge distance, you have fun shot no matter where the pin is trying to carefully hit your approach to the section where the pin is cut. If you do find the right section on your approach shot, there is a good chance you will have a great birdie opportunity. This is one of the most fun Fazio holes I have ever played, I just loved it.
Standing on the 17th tee, if you had previously seen the hole, you immediately notice something is radically different. What is it? Well, the entire left side is cleared out and now features a beautiful looking wide open sandscape waste area. Even so, that does not mean from the elevated tee on a windy day that this is an easy fairway to hit. I would imagine it takes a couple of times playing this hole to pick the line that works best for your ball flight and distance. Missing the generous fairway to the right is not ideal and will almost surely prevent you from going for the green in two. What’s fun about this hole is that the green looks unassuming from afar, but when you get close you realize that it has plenty of movement to it and again, you need precision to make a birdie on this par 5.
Worth noting is that the sand in the bunkers at the Hills Course is brand new and superb, with incredible consistency. What’s also new is all the green surfaces which are designed to hold up year round for championship conditions which are fast and firm green, something few courses are able to achieve.
Congratulations to Tom and Logan, as well as the entire wonderful membership at Jupiter Hills for their great achievement.
There is a debate among members of Jupiter Hills as to whether they have the superior course in southeast Florida. There are ten to choose from ranging from The Bear’s Club, McArthur, The Medalist, Indian Creek, Loblolly, Loxahatchee, Trump West Palm, Dye Preserve, and of course, Seminole.
Jupiter Hills sits at the top of Seminole Ridge with the clubhouse situated at the highest point located just off A1A. It is wedged between the highway, Johnathan Dickinson State Park, County Line Park and the railway lines. The clubhouse terrace on the second floor has a wonderful view over the course, although the longer view is marred by large satellite dishes. There are two driving ranges as there are two courses with the Village being the other course designed by Tom Fazio. I have not played the Village.
Much like Seminole, which moves into the higher dunes twice and the lower dunes twice, the Hills course, designed by George Fazio, utilizes the high dunes multiple times, beginning with the first tee shot, and the picking it up again with the second shot into the sixth green.
Waste areas are plentiful on the Hills course, nearly on every hole except the par 3’s which have large bunkers. In the waste areas one can also find palm trees, ferns, and bushes.
In my opinion, the Hills course is the most difficult course in the area due to the severity of the elevation changes and the green sites. It is one of the more difficult courses I have played even though I hit nearly every fairway. Simply put, there are more elements for one to consider and if a shot is poorly executed, a chance for recovery is lessened. Indeed, from the back tees the course rating is 77.2 (versus a par of 70) with a slope of 150.
We played the Blue tees at 6637 yards with a rating of 73.4 and slope of 145. The par from these tees is actually 72. The gold tees (not the championship tees) are 7020 yards with a rating of 75.6 and slope of 148 (par is also 70). I will reference only the gold and blue tees.
The course is scenic due to the elevation changes and there are several very good holes. The Seminole Ridge does not mean it goes merely up and down, there are various shelves, mounds, and hollows as the fairway rolls out in front of you whether rising or falling.
The greens are of the appropriate size and are very smooth with some having severe slopes due to being situated on a hill. The green side bunkers are large and often deep but are fair.
The easiest part of the course is the beginning from holes 1-6. Possibly the easiest hole is the first, a par 5 of 536/524 yards playing downhill as a slight dogleg left. The green is slightly raised and large. As long as one stays out of the waste area, this is a fairly simple hole.
The second is a longer par 4 at 446/424 yards which played into the wind for us. We had only a medium breeze and were thankful for it. There is a large waste area down the right side nearly all the way to the green. The green is surrounded by four bunkers. It is rated as the hardest hole on the front nine, although I think several holes later are more difficult.
The third is a medium length par 3 listed at 174/160 but with a back flag and the wind it can play 185. The hole is visually disguised. From the tee one notices a small island with palms trees hiding part of the right side of the green. The green sits fairly close to the pond’s edge and looks skinny. However, when one arrives on the green it is actually very large.
Four is the other easy hole on the front side, a short par 5 of 537/508 yards playing flat as a dogleg right. There is a huge waste area down the entire right side (shared with the second). The waste area is also on the left but ends with three bunkers on the left as you near the green. The green has four bunkers at the front and sides which is why I think the first plays a bit easier as the bunkers at that green are at the rear.
Five is the last of the “flat” holes for a while. It is a mid-length par 4 at 431/403 with waste areas, trees, and bunkers throughout. A real complication to this hole, somehow rated index 13, are the two bunkers all around the green. While the green is flattish, those bunkers catch a lot of shots. If one is not confident of hitting the green in two, the best chance for par is to lay up to avoid the bunkers.
At the sixth hole, the course gets very interesting as it is the beginning of playing into the dune ridges. While it seems to be a straight hole, the green located uphill is to the right of the fairway with six bunkers awaiting a weak second. The hole is not long at 377/365 but does play a club more due to the elevated green. The green has swales and tilts throughout it and one can use the swale as a backstop when the pin is on the front/middle left. It is a very good hole and my favorite on the course.
Seven is either a love-it or hate-it hole. It is nearly a 90 degree dogleg left hitting over a waste area that seems longer than it is. One does have to be aware of carts coming down the hill behind the tee as they cannot see you on the tee until they are nearly there. Two carts came down just as I completed my backswing and the result was a shot pulled left into the trees and waste area. While I found my ball, the best I could do was to putt down into an opening of the waste area. I do not know if the club can remove some of the trees to provide the people coming from the ninth hole with a chance for a view of the tee, or perhaps the members should always station a member of the foursome on the cart path, but it is a problem. As to the hole, a shot from a longer hitter can easily go into through the fairway into the parallel eighth fairway, which sits much lower with a line of trees between you and the elevated green. If one does manage to hit the perfect drive, this 420/403 hole has another elevated green that is fronted by a bunker, a bunker left and right and one behind to a green that is diagonal to you and quick back to front. It is the eleven index and I thought the hardest hole on the course. Perhaps one learns how to play it, or knows when to hit the tee shot. I found the hole to be nicely routed but unfair.
The eighth, playing as 413/376 from an elevated tee over a valley to a level landing area followed by another valley before a big rise, plays at least two clubs longer. Much like six and seven, one cannot be short here or the ball will come back down the hill quite a way. There is a bunker right and left and three behind. This is rated the seven index and on many courses it would be the one index. I liked the hole.
The ninth is the hole most often photographed as the famous par 3 uphill at 192/173 going over a waste area with two front bunkers. The green slopes away from you so a shot that carries the waste area and bunkers might run through the green. It is rated the 15 index and is one of the more difficult par 3’s I have played. It is another good golf hole.
That is four hard golf holes in a row, yet the tenth is almost the same level of challenge. The elevated tee on this 408/392 hole hits into a fairway tilted right to left. The farther left one goes the more uphill the second shot is. There are three bunkers here in front to a large green that has a spine running through it around 2/3’s of the way. It is the 12th index hole and unless one hits a drive 250 down the right side, it is another difficult golf hole.
One goes uphill to arrive at the tree used for the club logo. As you step on the par 3 tee of 190/183 you look behind you and see another par 3 that is almost a mirror image to the hole you are about to play, with the difference being eleven has its pond on the right and fourteen has its pond on the left. Both holes play downhill. It is a really cool feature of the golf course. One wishes they could linger a bit on the tee. There are three bunkers on eleven to a green that has another smaller spine in it. It is rated the highest index hole on the course, as it is likely everyone struggles on this hole.
Twelve is a longer par 4 at 441/392 that bends to the right with waste areas to either side. This is one of only two flat holes on the back nine. Thirteen is also flat at 545/510 and represents a birdie or par chance despite the presence of waste areas on either side and six bunkers surrounding the entire green.
You climb the sand dune again for the fourteenth, a longer par 3 of 219/198 with the pond on the left and a single bunker to the right. The green is angled away to the left but the hole plays one-two clubs less depending on the wind as it is downhill. As mentioned, it is a lovely part of the course.
Fifteen is a lovely cape hole with a plaque highlight one of the Jupiter Hill pros making an ace on this 416/401 hole from the 401 tee carrying his drive over the pond. The green is elevated and blind from this tee making the ace even more impressive. A bunker on the water at the middle of the fairway is a good guide point for the tee shot. Longer hitters will want to go just to the left of it while shorter hitters want to hit no more than 10 yards to the right of it. This is the number two index due to the carry over the water and the green which is very quick back to front.
Sixteen is substantially uphill and has one of the more visually excited views on the golf course with six bunkers lined up on the left side on the fairway as you approach the green. There are two bunkers behind the green. The approach shot can require as many as one-three additional clubs on this 341/326 hole. It is not a pushover due to the guess one has to make on the distance required to land on the green. Going through the green leaves a very fast downhill chip.
Seventeen is the last par 5 playing downhill from the tee and then level on this dogleg left. A waste area is down the entire right side and there are three bunkers at the green. The green is tiny and very tilted back to front. It is difficult to hit the green from in front. This is a sneaky hole in that it seems straightforward yet it is the number four index.
The finishing hole plays uphill towards the clubhouse at 420/393. The hill is not quite as high as it is on the sixteenth but is still at least one additional club. The green is fronted by six bunkers and one cannot miss to the left due to the waste area and trees. It is a large green and more sloped back to front than it appears. Once again, like many of the holes on the Hills course, it is rated the number ten index, but on other golf courses it would be the number one index.
My criticisms of the Hill course are relatively few. It is a difficult walk as I am doubtful if anyone ever walks it. Secondly, many of the holes are very difficult for the average player; even the flat holes are not easy. It is one of the most difficult courses one will play. At times it goes too much towards difficulty rather than fairness. Perhaps the greens located uphill in the dunes are too high up. Does the golf course have too many long waste areas? It is a golf course for players who are in normally in control of their ball or do not care at all what they score. Very good players will enjoy the golf course more than the average player concerned about their score.
The positives are that the course is exceptionally well routed and the conditioning is superb. There are some wonderful vistas from the course at several stages. The player gets a chance at various types of shots into into the green or near the green. The greens are excellent and varied. The location, size and conditioning of the bunkers are very good.
Is it the best course in southeast Florida? I would put Seminole ahead of it for several reasons such as a better balance between fairness and difficulty. I like a course offering views across the course rather than primarily of the hole one is playing. Finally, Seminole has the better greens. I might even put McArthur ahead of it but it is a close call.
One should try to play the Hills course. It is memorable and a true test of golf. The members should be very proud and happy to be a member at this club.