At first glance, the question is this: What does West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County need another golf resort? This part of South Florida already is the self-proclaimed “Golf Capital of the World,’’ with more than 110 private, public and resort courses.
So why Banyan Cay Resort & Golf in West Palm Beach’s northeast side? The primary answer is that the resort and private club promises to be different than other area private clubs and resorts. The second answer is the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, the carrot in the growth plans of the 250-acre resort community.
West Palm Beach-based Banyan Cay Dev LLC paid $26 million for Banyan Cay in 2015.
Nicklaus, who lives just a few minutes away in North Palm Beach, created Banyan Cay from two previously existing golf courses. The new Banyan Cay course plays from 4,800 yards to more than 7,200 yards long, so there is challenge enough for every golfer.
As one expects in South Florida, there is plenty of water, but there also is plenty of room to hit the ball off the tee. The rolling greens are typical Nicklaus of a Nicklaus design; and the sod bunkers scattered through the course give the course a decidedly non-Florida look that is good to see.
“Banyan Cay is a piece of property that had plenty of room and opportunity to take a course that first opened in 1969, redo it, and make it into a modern-day golf course and something special,’’ Nicklaus said. “It’s got a lot of excitement, but at the same time, it is very user-friendly.
“I’m delighted for people to have the opportunity to play a golf course that will have a lot of challenges, but also one that can be played in an easier, fun way.’’
But even with the proven Nicklaus name, given the stagnant at-best condition of golf these days, and what can be argued as an oversupply of courses in Palm Beach County, Banyan Cay Resort & Golf is a bold undertaking, but one that ownership is confident will work not only for what it is (and will be when the 150-room hotel, managed by Noble House Hotels & Resorts, opens in 2019) but for what it is not.
“We don’t have a dress code,’’ said Jennifer Haynes Williams, director of marketing for Banyan Cay. “We don’t have a food and beverage minimum. And we’re not an equity club.
“We’re trying to change the flavor of the club’’ experience in Palm Beach County.’’
With the exception of the golf course, many of those flavors are still being created. The 9,000 square-foot clubhouse, for example, is under construction and scheduled to open later this year. Plans call for a tennis center, 22 resort villas in addition to the hotel, 94 single-family homes, a 179-unit condo tower and 52 custom-built homes.
The golf course, now open only for member play, will be open for to resort guests, as well, when the hotel opens. Noble House currently manages La Playa Beach & Golf Resort in Naples, Fla., as well as other high-end resorts in Florida, Colorado, Washington and California.
Williams won’t divulge membership details to Banyan Cay except to say that membership currently is “considerably lower’’ than other clubs mainly because the hotel isn’t yet built. She said the club currently has slightly more than 100 members, with a cap in the range of 225.
Noble House, Williams said, believes Banyan Cay’s location in a “re-charged’’ West Palm Beach neighborhood, and its close proximity to Palm Beach International Airport and a growing downtown will attract leisure guests for the hotel, along with members and those want to call the community home.
“We are looking for a younger demographic,’’ Williams said. “And we definitely want to position Banyan Cay in the whole aspects of guest hospitality. We want people to feel like they can come from work to have dinner and not bring their jackets. We want them to bring their families. We want it to be a relaxing, casual, family place.’’