Grade 'A' Architecture - Shell Bay

The 13th and 14th at Shell Bay

Repurposing a previous golf property from the original existence to a new outcome is no small feat. 

Matters get complicated when having to deal with the shape of the property, the total amount of acreage involved and the inherited necessities in dealing with the characteristics of the property and how it can be re-formulated into a new master plan for the property.  

Think of it like a huge complicated puzzle where all the pieces must fit together in a manner that’s sensible and enhanced.

The recently opened Shell Bay is a great example. The exclusive southeast Florida club was the former home for the Diplomat Golf Course designed by Joe Lee.

Fast forward to October 2023 and a new Greg Norman layout is now operational. The 150-acre site was purchased by the Witkoff Group and PPG Development. 

The “new” private layout stretches to 7,254 yards and plays as a par-71. The course rating from the championship tees is 76.1 with a slope of 148. Needless to say, those venturing for the full test had best be ready to play.

In addition to the 18-hole main layout there is a 12-acre practice facility and nine-hole par-3 layout in concert with a repurposed practice area that offers a state-of-the-art facility for club fitting and instruction. 

When you arrive at Shell Bay the hectic and frenetic pace that lies outside the entrance melts away. The periphery of the property has been adroitly shielded providing golfers a total oasis of peace.

One of the challenges Norman faced was accounting for golfers having to cross Atlantic Shores Boulevard twice.

Given the snug fit of the property Norman smartly opted to include double-greens at three different intervals. This crafty solution works well. Maximising the versatility of the created holes and providing sufficient spacing between them.

The concept of double-greens is not a new design element. The Old Course at St. Andrews features such an inclusion on all but four putting surfaces.

The inclusion at Shell Bay is refreshing – adding a dimension that does not compromise the respective hole quality produced.

At Shell Bay one finds double-greens at the 3rd / 5th, the 11th / 15th and the 12th / 14th holes.

The 12th is one of the best two-shot holes at Shell Bay. Unlike much of the course which follows a north/south and south/north direction the 12th works a line of play to the east. Headwinds and crosswinds off the nearby Atlantic Ocean are not uncommon.

Success at the 12th is determined by understanding where the pin placement is located and then executing correctly to get into the best position off the tee. 

When the pin is placed on the far-left side the best angle for the approach comes from the right. However, players need to be mindful of a penalty area lurking nearby on that side.

When the pin is located on the far-right side the best approach angle comes from the left side of the fairway. The 12th green is shaped like the letter “T” – with a small target in the front section and then expanding outward with two possible locations to the extreme left and right sides. There is a penalty area for those too aggressive with approaches when encountering a rear pin position.

Given the compactness of the site, Norman added a short drivable par-4 at the 13th before coming to the par-3 14th.

The penalty area situated off the back of the 12th is now a concern to the right of the green at the 14th.

A cluster of bunkers is located to the left for players bailing out to that side. Golfers need to be ever mindful when the pin is located in the narrow strip of land that connects the two holes. When placed there it takes a jeweller’s touch to calculate the precise distance and direction for the ultimate reward.

The usage of double-greens is often carried out primarily for aesthetic purposes with little provided on the shotmaking side. That’s not the case here.

The singular green for the 12th and 14th holes provides a smartly carried out routing plan that secures the best possible usage of the property. Linking two individual holes as one calls upon golfers to make needed adjustments in tandem with the soundest of executions.

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Landing Page - Shell Bay Club