Private but playable: The Fox Club in Palm City, Florida

International flavor, low-handicap culture make it a player's course
The 18th at The Fox Club is a par 5 that hooks around a lake, inviting heroic second shots over the water to the two-tiered green.

PALM CITY, Fla. - Martin and Palm Beach Counties comprise one of the most golf-crazy areas in the world. The sheer number of courses is overwhelming. Just spend a few minutes on Google Maps looking at all of them and you'll get some idea.

The Fox Club kind of sits off by itself a little bit, a few miles west of the ocean and up against an inland stretch of I-95, before the highway swings back east toward the tony communities of Hobe Sound and Jupiter. This puts it at a slight geographical remove from the communities and clubs of Palm City, Stuart and points south.

It's also at a bit of an ideological remove. Originally called Cobblestone, the course opened in 1990 - the first design in the career of architect Roy Case - and for a while was said to be a winter hangout for certain members of organized crime from the Northeast. There's even a story about a former member's jilted wife driving the family car in through the front door of the clubhouse.

Whatever the early days were like, The Fox Club is a decidedly low-drama club now. In 2004, it was bought by a group of investors former Northern Irish golf pro Eoghan O'Connell, and renovated at O'Connell's direction, as well as that of Darren Clarke. Under its new ownership and name, The Fox Club came to become one of a handful of area clubs frequented by professional golfers, particularly the over-50 set. Larry Laoretti, Gene Sauers and Fred Funk are a few of the PGA Tour Champions set who have been linked to the club over time.

One of the newest members of The Fox Club is Jesper Parnevik. Swedish meatballs are on the menu in the clubhouse restaurant. This is not entirely coincidental, as in the last couple years, the club came under the ownership of a new group, one that includes retired Detroit Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg.

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The new Swedish influence has not supplanted the old regime, but merely further diversified the vibe. The Fox Club's Director of Golf is Mark Murphy, an affable Irishman who won The Big Break: Ireland in 2011. Murphy oversees a membership that includes several low-handicappers; the Wednesday and Saturday Stableford games are birdie-fests on a course whose back tees don't stretch too far (about 7,100 yards), but offer up a stern test.

Bottom line: This is not your stereotypical South Florida Club.

The course

The island-green par-3 15th sits in a peaceful corner of the property.

The culture of The Fox Club is distinct; the course, somewhat less so. O'Connell and Clarke expanded some fairways and reworked some bunkers in 2004, but the course does have familiar South Florida features. "Whatever you do, keep it in front of you," said one experienced player I talked to. He was right - accuracy off the tee is a must. The par-4 sixth is not a long hole, but with a slightly offset left-to-right running fairway that is scarcely more than 25 yards wide at any point, it can fray the nerves of a wild hitter. This is one of the reasons why elite competitive players laud The Fox Club - if you can drive it straight there, you can hit fairways anywhere.

If you can get yourself in play, scoring chances do appear as long as you don't force the issue (patience: another virtue of competitive golf). The very first hole is a 500-yard par five with a small elevated green, but one where contours can help gather an approach shot close to the cup. Gamblers will have to wait until the eighth, a fun double-dogleg par five with water in play on every shot and an ivy-covered bridge connecting two sections of fairway, to roll the dice.

"Fairways and greens" continues to be the motto all the way around the course, culminating at a final candy cane-shaped par five that curls around a lake, with hazard lining both sides of the tee shot landing area. Bold tee shots are rewarded with the chance for a heroic carry across the lake and a potential eagle or easy birdie chance. But less-skilled players have to tack the long way around, in which case making par can be a struggle.

My favorite aspect of The Fox Club course is the greens, which tend to be more undulating than most in South Florida. One odd exception: the third green, which is both the biggest and the flattest on the course. The short par-4 second green has three distinct sections, requiring three different wedge approaches. The par-4 16th has a long, skinny putting surface that swells up about three feet in the middle; the approach plays totally differently depending on whether the pin is on the front or back (you'd better pray for it not to be in the middle, on top of the ridge).

Along the ninth fairway sits a four-bedroom lodge that sleeps up to six golfers and is available for $600 per night. Guests who stay there (reservations are available by contacting the club) receive playing privileges at the course, and a chance to enjoy the unique culture of the place. If you bring your A-game, you'll have a good time.

This four-bedroom lodge at The Fox Club is available for overnight stays by non-members, who can then book rounds at the course.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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In a cross wind #10 is a Bear !

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I lived in S Florida from 1993 until 2003. When “Cobblestone” went semi-private, I made a trek(~60 miles) to play the course and it immediately became one of my favorites. I made multiple trips up there to play and exposed a lot of my friends to the course and everyone LOVED the golf course. The article fails to mention that originally 18 could be played either way around the lake. The three shot way to the right or conceivably, the two shot way to the left. Standing on the tee, looking left, you could see about a 300 yard carry to a tiny landing area and then another forced carry to the putting surface. By the time I started playing the course, it had already been taken out of use, but it was always interesting to consider. It went private again as “The Fox Club,” and I was devastated. I would encourage everyone to go play the golf course. It was/is one of my favorite tracks ever. When Larry Laoretti won the US Senior Open, he lived on the course and was frequently seen in his cart, stogie in his mouth, driving around the course. Go play it. You’ll enjoy it.

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I to played cobblestone back in the 90s. my bachelor party we all played a round and i used to dive it for golf balls i to am happy it back in play. Headed there tomarrow, but i cant remember all of the names of the holes. Do you remember any ? Or where to look for them

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Private but playable: The Fox Club in Palm City, Florida