New high-end golf courses taking shape in Martin County as sport sees surging interest

'Each golf course is going to have its own personality,' former USGA CEO Mike Davis says
Posted at 3:12 PM, Feb 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 15:14:24-05

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — Palm Beach County is often referred to as the golf capital of Florida.

But just to the north of the county line, there is a golf boom underway with several high-end courses in development in Martin County.

Mike Davis, the former CEO of the United States Golf Association (USGA), is part of the team developing Apogee, a private club that will have three 18-hole courses west of Hobe Sound.

One course that is already open is located along the St. Lucie Canal. The others are being built north of Bridge Road and west of Interstate 95.

"Each golf course is going to have its own personality," Davis said. "There's three different design teams, and we're doing all the construction in-house."

WATCH: Hear more from former USGA CEO Mike Davis on the new courses, state of golf today:

Former USGA CEO Mike Davis shares why Martin County selected for high-end golf course

While there will be villas for members to stay in, there will be no houses built.

"We've got two owners, Michael Pascucci and [Miami Dolphins owner] Stephen Ross," Davis said. "This is a legacy project for them."

The search for the right property for this 1,200-acre project began five years ago.

"This was, in our view, the premier piece of property," Davis said. "We were just lucky enough to get it."

Davis said the location along the St. Lucie Canal allows the course to do its part to help the environment by drawing in freshwater that otherwise heads east into the estuary and can lead to algae blooms.

"Essentially, we're water farming. We've got almost 170 acres of lakes when we're all done," Davis said. "It's a way to cleanse the water. We're putting nutrients on our golf course that we're otherwise not having to use."

Davis said golf right now is in a great place.

"If you look from a macro standpoint, golf is growing internationally," Davis said. "It's growing in the United States. It's growing in Florida. It's growing in southeast Florida and these counties."

The numbers back up those statements.

According to the National Golf Foundation, Florida has opened more golf courses in the past five years than any other state, and 2023 finished with the most rounds played in history. It was the fourth straight year that more than 500 million rounds were played in the U.S.

Tom Hurley lays out how the Atlantic Fields golf course and project will benefit Martin County.
Tom Hurley lays out how the Atlantic Fields golf course and project will benefit Martin County.

East of I-95, and north of Bridge Road, another golf course is taking shape. This one has a luxury housing component.

Tom Hurley said Atlantic Fields will also host a championship golf course and 317 homes on 1,500 acres.

He added that golf received a big boost during the pandemic.

"All of us during that time were looking for things to do outside and away from people and social distance, and golf is really the ideal sport for that," Hurley said.

That combined with the migration of people from the northeast has led to an increased desire for golf at all levels.

Atlantic Fields, which became viable after a new "Rural Lifestyle" zoning category was created, plans to donate an equestrian facility that will allow added public access to Atlantic Ridge State Park.

But Hurley said the defining legacy could be the tax revenue this project will create for the county.

"It's going to be, $40 or $50 million of incremental tax revenue every year with virtually no services required," Hurley said.