Back in the dark ages, when players still knew the swing weights of their irons, Jack Nicklaus set up shop in North Palm Beach, in South Florida and near the Atlantic, and Arnold Palmer did the same in Orlando, in the center of the state, amid the orange groves.
Ever since, players, hundreds of them, looking to live in a state with warm weather and no state income tax, have been heading to one place or the other. Tiger Woods started in Orlando, in a development called Isleworth, which was founded by Palmer. Next year Tiger is planning to move to Jupiter Beach, up the strand from Nicklaus. There’s a lot of speculation about where he’ll play and practice. The list of spots is long and growing.
Only a few miles from PGA National, and about a 25-minute drive from Jupiter Beach, is a new course designed by Raymond Floyd called Old Palm Golf Club. A security guard must open a massive steel gate before you can enter the place, and the driving range is super spiffy, with three full-length practice holes beside it. Floyd has granted playing privileges there to Jesper Parnevik, Camilo Villegas and Brett Wetterich, among a few others.
“I can’t have an open door,” Floyd said last week. “I have to keep it very select.”
But he would welcome Woods, although he hasn’t had that conversation with him yet. Maybe this year at the Masters.
Nicklaus has a private course, also with a state-of-the-art range, called the Bear’s Club, that would be slightly closer for Woods. Luke Donald practices and plays there on a layout that is extremely demanding. Asked if Tiger might head there, Jack’s son Gary, a co-chairman of the Honda Classic, smiled and said, “An invitation has been extended. A response has not been received.”
There’s a bunch of other places nearby, including the Medalist, a club founded by Greg Norman; McArthur, a club conceived by Tom Fazio and Nick Price; and Dye Preserve, a private course way off the beaten path designed by Pete Dye. Mark Calcavecchia, Will MacKenzie and Steve Marino, among others, play and practice at Dye Preserve. Plus Jesper. He plays everywhere, and many of the younger Swedish golfers who live in South Florida follow him.
Tiger’s wife, Elin, is Swedish, and the Swedish connection to greater Jupiter is part of the reason the young Woods family — Tiger, Elin and baby Sam — is moving. “Tiger would be welcome here,” said Ryan Garrity, the understated head pro at the Dye course. “We’re not actively pursuing him.” It’s also possible that Tiger would build something for himself.
A lot of the touring pros send their kids to the local private academy, the Benjamin School. But the coach there, Toby Harbeck, has learned not to get his hopes too high. Jack and Barbara Nicklaus have 11 grandchildren in the school now. Not one is playing golf there.
“Can you believe that?” Harbeck asks.
The wait for Sam Woods begins.