By Steve Pike
Osprey Point Golf Course, Palm Beach County’s newest public golf course, has been an early hit with players looking for another tee time option. Osprey Point General Manager Steve Hill said the facility — on Glades Road 2.5 miles west of U.S. 441 in suburban Boca Raton — has been operating at near-full capacity since it opened in early November.
“I wish we had more times available,’’ Hill said.
That early success could be a harbinger of a good winter for the more than 110 public and private golf courses in Palm Beach County. Public courses near or in the coastal communities include the Delray Beach Golf Club, designed by the legendary Donald Ross, Red Reef executive course in coastal Boca Raton, Park Ridge Golf Course in Lantana, Lake Worth Municipal Golf Course and the Palm Beach Par 3 in Palm Beach, which reopened last year after an impressive renovation by former Masters and U.S. Open Champion Raymond Floyd.
Like Osprey Point, the Palm Beach Par 3 uses environmentally friendly Seashore Paspalum grass, which is resistant to saltwater, and keeps its deep green color even in the winter.
“It’s a beautiful course and it’s in beautiful shape,’’ said course manager Alan Brown. “I think our play is up about 45 percent since May and we’ve got a lot of specials and teaching programs planned for the winter.’’
Through this past September, rounds played in the county were down 7.6 percent year-to-date, according to Golf Datatech, the Kissimmee-based company that tracks rounds played nationally. Rounds played in Palm Beach County this past September were up 2.3 percent compared to September 2009, so that could bode well for winter play across the area.
Osprey Point is one of only a handful of golf courses that have opened across the nation this year.
“We’ve experienced some economic issues that have affected disposable income,’’ said Paul Connell, golf operations supervisor for the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, which operates four other golf facilities. “A lot of our facilities are built with the future growth of the county in mind.’’
That includes the growth of the game of golf, which has slowed the past decade. In that regard Osprey Point, like the department’s 27-hole Okeeheelee Park facility in West Palm Beach, has a large practice area, as well as a four-hole and six-hole “loop,’’ so time-pressed golfers have an alternative to playing nine or 18 holes.
“I live in East Boca but I think it’s nice to have a course on this side of the county,’’ said Raymond Miller, who had just finished a round with his 12-year-old son. “It’s a good course — might bring me out a couple more times. And it’s good to see the county do something with the land instead of let it just rot away.’’
Osprey Point has 18 of its 27 holes —the Hawk and Raven — open for play. The other nine-hole layout — the Falcon — is expected to come online within the next few weeks. Any 18-hole combination of the nine-hole layouts, each designed by Roy Case, plays approximately 6,800 yards and to a par of 72.
The centerpiece of South County Regional Park, Osprey Point Golf Course is another example of the Parks and Recreation Department’s ability to turn disturbed land into a natural and recreational space.
Before development the land was used for farming and shellrock mining. The area had been overgrown with Brazilian pepper and other invasive exotics.
The department worked with environmental groups and officials with the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge to reduce the need for irrigation. The department also applied to Audubon International to certify the course as an Audubon International Classic Signature Golf Course.
“I don’t think you’ll find many courses in the country that have done as much for the good of the environment than what’s here at Osprey Point,’’ Hill said.