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.
Date: May 29, 2021