Banyan Cay Resort & Golf Club breathes new life into the former President C.C. in West Palm Beach

By Katharine Dyson, Special Contributor

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The grass is hardly settled in on the fairways of the renovated Eagle Course at Banyan Cay Resort & Golf Club -- the former President Country Club -- and already there are plans afoot to do yet another makeover.

Banyan Cay Resort & Golf Club - Eagle Course - 3rd hole
No. 3 at Banyan Cay Resort & Golf Club's Eagle Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
Banyan Cay Resort & Golf Club - Eagle Course - 3rd holeBanyan Cay Resort & Golf Club - Eagle CourseBanyan Cay - hotel rendering
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Tucked into a pricey piece of real estate along Congress Avenue north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, this 245-acre enclave has a new name and new owners. It is anticipated to be the city's largest redevelopment since CityPlace.

Surrounded by expensive condos and houses known as the Lands of the President, the once exclusive club is undergoing dramatic changes. The President Country Club debuted in 1968 with two courses designed by William F. Mitchell enjoying a strong loyal membership for many years until it all started to decline around 2007. The course and clubhouse were sold to Palm Tree Golf Management L.L.C. in 2011 for $11 million.

Banyan Cay: New ownership

The new owners completed a major renovation of the clubhouse and brought in Robert Trent Jones, Jr. to give the south course, the Eagle, a massive makeover hoping to attract new members and revitalize the club. That was not enough, and once again, the property went up for sale.

In late 2015 it was purchased by Banyan Cay Development for $26 million, and already the north course -- once known as the Patriot Golf Course, an old Florida-style track -- has been leveled to make way for a 119-acre commercial zone with a British Colonial-style low-rise hotel, 145 single-family homes, condo tower and a 15,000-square-foot spa.

The old clubhouse has been torn down making way for a 20,000-square-foot, British West Indies-style clubhouse and a low-rise resort hotel designed to complement the clubhouse. The resort will contain banquet rooms, restaurants, pool, spa and tennis courts, while the clubhouse will have a grill room, locker rooms, pro shop and other golf facilities.

Currently developers are talking seriously with Noble House Hotels & Resorts about developing the hotel and are considering partnering with a waterfront property to give homeowners access to a private beach facility.

Home buyers will have club memberships included in their purchase, and dues will be part of their annual fees. They may choose from a variety of plans ranging from social to full golf privileges.

Plans call for a more user-friendly course at Banyan Cay

Banyan Cay Development understands the Eagle Course is penal for the majority of recreational resort golfers who are mainly looking for a fun, enjoyable round. The rolling, well protected greens are fast, some have severe undulations and fairways slope to the lagoons; and there are many bunkers, carries and water hazards.

"We are planning to make the course more user friendly and are talking to several architects about doing the work," said Sam Bauer, president of Banyan Cay Development.

Already more than 400 trees have been relocated to open up the course. The updated course is expected to be fully completed by May 2017 but will remain open for play throughout the process. The clubhouse is also expected to open in 2017, while the hotel is slated for 2018.

Banyan Cay: Future plans

Architectural plans will need to be approved, and the emphasis will be on building a variety of styles, including British West Indies, Craftsman, Modern, traditional, etc.

"We don't want a cookie-cutter look to our neighborhoods," Bauer said.

Owners will not be able to rent their homes themselves but will be able to do so through an arrangement with the hotel. The intention is that about 90 percent of the homeowners will be permanent residents.

There are 94 single-family lots that will sell from $600,000 to the north on the site of the old Patriot Course; 61 sites for custom homes with about half-acre lots; 200 condo units will be located in a 20-story building where the top floors will have ocean views looking out to Singer Island and beyond.

The square footage is still to be determined, but Bauer anticipated the condos will start in the $500,000 range. Estimated to be about a $280 million project, when built out, there is expected to be 350 units.

Katharine DysonKatharine Dyson, Special Contributor

Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.

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