In the early 1960s, Dick Wilson was commissioned to fashion a challenging golf course at Boynton Beach on the southeast coast of Florida. The founder members of Pine Tree Golf Club gave Wilson a fairly unremarkable but large tract of dairy farmland to work with. In 1962, Pine Tree Golf Club hit the headlines after Ben Hogan declared that Pine Tree was the greatest flat course in the world. Since then, the club has gone from strength to strength.
More than forty years later, Pine Tree Golf Club remains prestigious, traditional and intensely private. Also, the course still represents a precise challenge and is considered to be one of Wilson’s finest designs.
Despite the flat topography, Pine Tree is a strategic test, which asks serious questions from even the best golfers. Bold, irregularly shaped and thoughtfully positioned bunkers are the hallmark of the course but sadly you’ll need to befriend a member to play Pine Tree. We can all dream.
Others have weighed in so I will keep my comments brief. I am not a fan of Florida golf but there are certain places that avid devotees of architecture need to see firsthand. Pine Tree is clearly on the short list.
The Wilson style can often overpower other sites he worked with but here in Florida and most specifically at Pine Tree his design motif works very well here.
Among the first things that capture your attention is the "clean" look of the course. It helps to have turf conditions that truly maximize the design elements. There are trees but they don't really envelope the course - they simply frame it well.
The key thing that pushes Pine Tree up the leaderboard for me is the quality of the approach shots one must play. The targets are often elevated -- set on angles -- and well defended. When the pin is cut tight to whatever side it's placed the need for utter precision is called upon. Being so near the Atlantic Ocean often means a hefty dosage of wind that can really destroy the flight of any approach that is not executed with top tier precision.
Pine Tree is a pure shotmaking delight. There are no gimmick holes and Wilson did include the silly mounding that came to many other southeast Florida courses in the years to follow.
Achieving hole quality on land that has almost no elevation change of note is no small feat. Far too often architects opt to be "creative" and the end result is like someone going in for plastic surgery and coming out looking worse than what they were when they started,
The dog-leg right 7th is one of the finest holes you can play in Florida. It's simple in its presentation but a true beast in what it requires -- especially when played into any serious wind or crosswind.
The inward half of holes starts with a hole that can play as a par-5 for members but a par-4 for low handicap types. A quality drive and approach are once again called upon.
The 12th is first rate long par-4 -- often played back into the prevailing wind there's water on the left side of the drive zone but it pays to come as close as possible without making a ball donation. The green is set on an angle and just over the same water.
I have always been a fan of the par-3 13th -- the amount of sand would have you think you're in the movie, "Lawrence of Arabia!" The angling of the green is also testament to Wilson's brilliance. When you get some serious wind blowing and the pin is cut to the far right rear area it takes a wonderful marriage in terms of proper club selection and trajectory.
The 14th and 15th are both relatively short par-4's but each plays in a different direction so whatever wind pattern encountered will be different. These two holes provide an opportunity to pick up some momentum but nothing about them is easy per se.
When you reach the par-5 16th it's hard to fathom how a 666-yard par -5 could have been created when people were using persimmon woods and original blade irons. Often the wind is with players but even with that assistance it takes three quality shots
The concluding 18th is a strong hole. Can often play into the prevailing wind and the key is avoiding the bunkers that bracket the fairway. The green is defended by water which must be carried with the approach but again it is the angled green that places a high priority on shaping the correct shot to find the putting surface.
Pine Tree is often forgotten by many. That's regrettable. The design is well routed -- constantly moving about so adjustments are central to one's success or lack thereof. Flat land can be a heavy anchor for any course to carry but Pine Tree does so admirably. For those fortunate to garner an invitation it's one to savor.
M. James Ward
Terrific layout, well manicured and beautiful bunkering. Nice mix of hole lengths in a few stretches, lot depends on the wind.... I think they have 6 diff tee boxes so pick the right one to have more fun! Great shape all around! Nice green complexes on the whole course and in great shape today.
Some very cool architecture and history await the golfer lucky enough to find themselves on Pine Tree. The first tee has a plaque with a Ben Hogan quote calling it "the best flat course in the country", and this may be so.
The beauty of Pine Tree is that you can make double bogey from anywhere on the course. On three of the first five holes I had wedge in and made 5 or worse because the green complexes are firm and angled so as to not forgive a less than perfect shot.
I really loved the "runway" or "landing strip" tee boxes. One even goes 170 yds and really allows for the maintenance crew to change how the hole will play that day.