The Bear’s Club was inaugurated in 1999 by Jack and Barbara Nicklaus and is the result of Jack’s dream to create a world-class golf course in his own South Florida backyard.
Naturally, the Bear’s Club is a private facility for members and their guests to enjoy, so you’ll need to befriend a member, or perhaps get an invite from the Golden Bear himself to play here. The Bear’s club is home for the Nicklaus family and was voted one of the world’s elite private club experiences by a leading glossy magazine.
The course at the Bear’s Club opened in 2000 and is routed across a natural pine-clad sand ridge but Jack added a few other ridges to create a more interesting landform for his design. Incorporated into the design are special high-banked bunkers with special sand (imported from Ohio) that won’t wash out during Florida’s heavy thunderstorms.
“Living well is the best revenge” is a quote used by Sotheby’s International Realty, promoters of the Bear’s Club (the quote was originally by English poet George Herbert). Naturally Sotheby’s want to sell the exclusive estate properties so we decided to quote their Bear’s Club golf course description to appropriately whet the appetite: “Amid the splendor of an extraordinary natural environment, a championship golf course has been carved, incorporating a sweeping interlace of fairways, preserve areas, wetlands, cypress heads, tall pine and lakes. Jack Nicklaus has masterfully created a design that takes into consideration the character of the land and the sensitivity of its ecosystem.”
Both times I played from the ‘Championship’ tees, which offers a Par 72, 7164-yard layout, with a rating of 74.5 and a slope of 146. The uniqueness of the course starts from the first hole, where the tee location from the tips is integrated into one of their pristine putting greens, which brought the same uncomforting thought to me each time I played it- “please do not chunk this drive!” The course itself is a serious test of golfing ability, presenting almost no room for error. The rich native vegetation, old oaks, pines, cypress trees and wetlands areas offer a very intimate surrounding, with hardly any holes giving views of any previous or upcoming holes and has a truly private feel. The collections of medium to large undulating greens are designed to punish even the slightest of miss placed approach shots and demand precision. They are rounded off at the edges and feed into hollows and chipping areas, which puts an awful amount of stress on your short game to keep away those card destroying bogies.
Overall The Bear’s Club is one of THE toughest and well maintained golf courses I have ever played, with a memorable collection of par 5’s, especially that of the mind blowing 18th, which lends such a perfect finish to an amazing golf course. The long pear-shaped green is tucked into the elbow of a lake, which takes out the option of going for the green in two and has a generous bailout/layup area to the right. Just beyond the green and water sits the striking stone façade of the grand Tuscan style clubhouse, which no photo can do justice. The Mediterranean theme is apparent throughout the property, from the club house to the breath-taking multi-million dollar residential properties located around the golf course. I hope to play this club again at some point during the future, with the aim of not losing a ball (Easier said than done… Trust me).