Seeing the Game Through a Different Lens

“From the start, the vision was clear: to create a golf experience unlike any other found in South Florida.” — Jack Nicklaus


PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA: Expectations had been building for the opening of Panther National, a Jack Nicklaus/Justin Thomas collaboration, and Palm Beach County’s first new private golf community to open in close to two decades. “Eighteen months ago, we faced a conundrum,” reported Tom Dyer, director of golf. “Business conflicts were going to limit Jack Nicklaus’s thumbprint on the design as we entered the home stretch. So, our developer/owner Dominik Senn met with Jack’s team for a resolution.

“Dominik is a former Swiss Alpine Ski racer who has an infectious positive personality. I often refer to him as the Tony Robbins of golf,” said Dyer. “When he sets a goal, he is determined to accomplish it. The end result? I think Mr. Nicklaus has been on the property for more site visits and tweaks to the golf course than just about any other course that carries his name.”

Two generations of golfers combined their best recommendations during the design of Panther National. “Jack and Justin Thomas [JT] became like family during construction,” revealed Dyer. “Mr. Nicklaus expressed that his mentorship with Pete Dye at Sea Pines in South Carolina was a similar experience to shepherding JT through the design process. They both have different perspectives that created a masterpiece. Jack sees the game through the air and favors bunkering that runs side to side. JT has a preference for the ground game and bump and runs. Take our 11th hole, which was originally going to be a long par-5 and a three-shot hole, no matter your playing ability. With JT’s input, the fairway was molded with a ‘speed slot’ that could allow a perfectly placed drive to gain an extra 100 yards off the tee, allowing you to go for the green in two.”

Panther National looks at golf with a different lens that likely would send shivers down the spine of USGA executives in New Jersey. “Our golden rule is as long as your fun doesn’t interfere with the fun of fellow members, enjoy!” exclaimed Dyer. “Our culture is relaxed and inviting. If you want to play in an untucked tee shirt, enjoy. If you want to play a sixsome, as long as you can keep up the pace, have at it.”

Right Place/Right Time

“I’m real estate focused around a superlative club and amenity program,” exclaimed Frank Weed, CEO at Panther National. “After moving three million cubic yards of dirt, we created a master plan unlike any in our region. We were careful to have homes separated from the course by lakes, providing an open feel all will appreciate. We have the best experts in our real estate team at Panther National. Their wealth of knowledge helped create this successful community.

“Our home buyers are like-minded individuals who share a passion for an active, healthy lifestyle, where they can build a home for their family,” continued Weed. “Our first group of Signature Estate Homes, now under construction, feature clean lines and environmental modernism architecture.”

Perfecting “The Hang”

Dominik Senn has filled many a passport during his career. As president of 4Sports & Entertainment, he traveled frequently between Switzerland and America. “My portfolio of golfers who I represented was extensive,” recalled Senn. “Notable players included Edward Molinari, Justin Rose, and Peter Hanson. Since most had relocated to The Sunshine State to train and compete, my wife Dorte and I decided to make the move to South Florida.

“Initially, we rented a home at several of the private golf clubs that are well known in the area,” continued Senn. “Yes, the weather is great, but the combination of stiff regulations, golf that looked the same, and clubhouses that seemed depressingly dark became turn-offs. Several of my athlete clients felt the same way, so I decided to build a golf community that would be compared to The Bear’s Club [in nearby Jupiter] on steroids. The goal was to design a course with a links style [common in Europe] and massive dunes [what you might find in Scotland]. Then, we would pair it with Michelin-inspired dining, bountiful and healthy options uncommon in the U.S., and facilities that we would call ‘lounges’ versus ‘restaurants.’

“Combining the best concepts of Jack, JT and myself bridges the generational divides. Jack [Nicklaus] was an easy choice as a co-architect. Deciding the other partner required more work. I interviewed three current PGA Tour players, all big names, and when I talked with JT, I could see the fire in his eyes. Ultimately, he became a consultant, co-designer, and investor.”

As Dominik and Dorte scouted sites from Jupiter to Key Largo, they agreed Palm Beach County was the best fit. “For a club like Panther National, we knew we needed to attract a high-end, cosmopolitan clientele,” reported Senn. “When we found this site, everything came together except for a name. Dorte was on the property and discovered panther tracks, an elusive, endangered animal more in common with house cats than with lions or tigers. After confirming they were indeed panther tracks, Dorte recommended Panther National as our name. Perfect was my reaction!”

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