Courses

The next high-end private oasis is in the works from this celebrated design team

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July 09, 2024

There was a time not too long ago when Central Florida was an afterthought for great golf. Too flat, too monotonous, too boring. Streamsong’s success has thoroughly rebuffed that notion, and now an ultra-exclusive private club, High Grove, seeks to further redefine the region’s golf potential.

High Grove, located in Venus, Fla., will feature 36 holes designed by Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner of Hanse Golf Design. High Grove, which is being developed by Ryan Hanks, is the latest private club to involve Colin Sheehan and Bert Guy, who—either individually or together—count Ohoopee Match Club in Georgia, Tree Farm in South Carolina, Fall Line in Georgia and Childress Hall in Texas among their projects.

Construction of High Grove is scheduled to begin in December 2024 with a grand opening slated for November 2025. The two courses will be built on over 1,200 acres of citrus groves, which sit atop large sand dunes that offer 60-70 feet of elevation change.

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Citrus groves will be incorporated into the design of both courses at High Grove.

“Outside of being along the ocean, we cannot think of a better natural site for golf in the state of Florida,” Hanse said. The site is centrally located about two hours from numerous hubs, including Orlando, Tampa, Naples and Jupiter.

The site gets its tumbling topography from sitting on the southern end of the 100-mile-long Lake Wales Ridge, an ancient sand dune formed millions of years ago. The dune will not only provide Hanse and Wagner plenty of design options, but the sand-based soil will allow for firm course conditions that characterize many of their finest designs.

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High Grove is designed as a destination club, where members and guests can stay overnight in one of 54 rooms.

“High Grove is one of the most interesting and unique properties we have seen throughout our travels around the world,” Wagner said. “With about 60 feet of elevation change, the property sits on a prominent pure sand dune that will allow for firm-and-fast playing conditions reminiscent of links golf.”

In addition to Hanse and Wager, High Grove has secured the current director of golf at Merion G.C., Scott Nye, as the director of golf at the new club. Frank O’Rourke, most recently director of agronomy at The Park West Palm and formerly at Seminole G.C., will join the club as the director of agronomy.

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O'Rourke (left) and Wagner (right) survey the site of High Grove, which is scheduled to open in November 2025.

It’s a lineup of elite talent in their respective fields as High Grove seeks to deliver an understated luxury experience. The facilities, including 54 rooms and a modern clubhouse, will be rustic in style and designed to allow members a serene getaway from the outside world. It is anticipated that most members will use High Grove as a destination club, with most members and guests staying for one or two nights.

In keeping with heart of links golf, the two courses, 7,100 and 6,500 yards respectively, will be walking only with a caddie program available. “The key word for both greens and bunkers will be ‘unpredictable,’ ” Hanse said.

Unpredictable. Also an apt description for the rise of Central Florida as an elite golf destination, but High Grove is the latest example that maybe we had it wrong all along.