- Binks Forest Golf Cub here in this upscale village just west of West Palm Beach is called a “renovation” of the original Gene Bates/Johnny Miller design from 1990, but it’s really a reclamation project. Carved out of the Big Blue Forest in central Palm Beach County, the course was dormant for more than five years before it re-opened in November 2007.
Dormant? Few courses in the country have been as dead and buried as long as Binks Forest and brought back to life in such a careful and resourceful way. Binks Forest (7,116 yards, par 72) opened this past November as one of the few high-end, daily fee courses in Palm Beach County.
Four hurricanes and a bug infestation robbed Binks Forest of many of its tall pine trees, but there are plenty to frame the fairways that have essentially kept the same layouts from pre-2002. Bates rebuilt the greens and tee boxes, re-shaped and added some bunkers.
“There aren’t two holes out here that are alike. It’s such a unique property,” said Greg Schroeder, director of marketing for Binks Forest. “Just look around the area at the courses around this area have gone dormant (two within five miles in the past six years). This is truly special.”
When Binks Forest opened in 1990, it was hailed as one of the nation’s top daily fee courses, one of the few in South Florida that could complete with Tom Fazio’s Emerald Dunes Golf Course (now private) just a few miles to the north. A former private hunting ground of developer Bink Gleason, Binks Forest had a name designer – Miller – a name location – Palm Beach County – and even had a PGA Tour event – the Sazale Classic, a team event than in 1990 featured the likes of Miller, Jack Nicklaus, Fuzzy Zoeller and a young Fred Couples.
Couples, who lived in nearby Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, and Mike Donald teamed to win the event. Couples remains one of only a handful of players ever to reach Binks Forest’s 563-yard, par five 17th hole in two shots.
But Binks Forest held the Sazale Classic for only that one year because the tournament lost its presenting sponsor. A series of owners ran the once proud into the South Florida sand. In early 2002, Sarasota-based Peninsula Bank foreclosed on Binks Forest Golf Club.
To its credit, the bank attempted some upkeep on the golf course to appease the village’s code enforcement officers, but Binks Forest continued to decay.
Then along came Aquila Property CEO Jordan Paul. A graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, a Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and unabashed fan of part-time Wellington resident Bruce Springsteen, Paul first played the course with a business client in 1995.
“I had never seen a course like it in Florida,” said Paul, who at the time was executive vice president of Ocwen Financial Corporation in West Palm Beach, “Being from New England, I played on tree-lined fairways all the time, but I was blown away with Binks Forest.”
In May 2007 Aquila closed with Peninsula Bank on the sale of Binks Forest for a price believed to between $8 million and $10 million.
Aquila and KemperSports are renovating the 30,000 square-foot clubhouse, which they expect to have fully operational later this year.