Grove XXIII - Michael Jordan - Bobby Weed Golf Design - Written by Andrew Gegg
In 1971, a sophomore in high school convinced his father to convert family owned bean fields into a driving range. Using construction techniques he had learned from his father, a passion for golf design was born in the young man. Designed by Bobby Weed, the “Weed Hill Driving Range” served Columbia, SC for 40 years. Little did he know that he’d go on to develop, design, and build courses around the world, Weed Hill will forever be his starting point.
The development of the Tournament Players Club (TPC) Network, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2020 is a major accomplishment for Bobby Weed Golf Design. “Stadium Golf” was ahead of its time and has stood the test of time. TPC venues have since hosted 400+ professional events. He was fortunate to have designed and renovated TPC Sawgrass (Stadium and Valley Courses), TPC River Highlands, TPC Summerlin, TPC Las Vegas, TPC Tampa Bay and others. Following his 13 years with the PGA TOUR, Bobby Weed Golf Design (BWGD) has designed and built many golf courses that have been recognized among the best in their respective categories.
This reputation and recognition must have been a factor when Michael Jordan decided he wanted to build Grove XXIII. Both had deep roots in the Carolinas. Bobby and Jordan became friendly during BWGD’s 2015 renovation of Medalist Golf Club, where he was a member.
For Bobby Weed Golf Design, “transforming a flat and landlocked agricultural property (formerly citrus grove) into a world-class golf course was a monumental undertaking.” The course routing proposed was uniquely different from other architects, something that hadn’t been seen before. Notably, the “Every Ball Counts” (EBC) 4-acre practice facility concept was revolutionary. Working in conjunction with Darren May, we utilized ShotLink data to accurately re-create the most challenging shots on the PGA TOUR.
Defined “driving corridors” were constructed with widths of 27 to 33 yards. Separated by ridges, these mimic PGA TOUR fairway dimensions.
Laid out in 25-yard distances from 50 to 200 yards and divided into sections that reflect rotating tournament pin placements.
Five hitting “zones” that allow members to refine 35- to 90-yard approach shots off contrasting lies and slope angles.
An 80-foot-wide, manicured green is segmented into four quadrants. Slopes of 1-4 percent allow players to practice breaking putts at numerous speeds.
Grove XXIII’s course design twists in a double-helix routing that can be played in four nine-hole combinations, and in shorter three- to six-hole loops. This flexibility across this 226-acre parcel stems from the clustering of greens and tees and cross-over holes. “A unique “crossover” at the 5th and 14th tees allows members to play continuous internal circuits.”, Bobby said when asked about the uniqueness of the layout. These elements increase the chance of presses and “emergency holes” within individual matches. The two nines also encircle the site in opposing rotations, with the ever-visible, elevated clubhouse in the background. A continuous perimeter maintenance trail encompasses the entire property, such that maintenance traffic can enter the golf course from the outside perimeter.
A plethora of “half-par” holes demand intelligent risk taking, especially in the finishing stretch, where players encounter a deliberate sequence of short and long par 3s, 4s and 5s. In addition, two deep drainage canals bordering the property were repurposed for one of the rarest attributes in golf: long, dead-straight hazard lines. The vast openness of the site (and lack of trees) creates an inland links-style feel that accommodates the ever-changing S. Florida trade winds.
A continuous sward of zoysia grass runs throughout the entire course, flanked by native grasses that mimic the former citrus grove surrounds. Ken Weyand, director of golf at Grove XXIII and his team keep the club in stellar shape.
The ultimate goal for Jordan was to, “create a private membership experience like no other.” The golf course was designed to play firm and fast, with special features that produce dramatic matches. Mr. Jordan also sought the world’s best practice facility with state-of-the-art technology. He became arguably the greatest player in NBA history by how he pushed himself in the practice arena. Bobby Weed Golf Design was asked to build a practice venue so challenging that it would exceed what one would experience on the golf course.
While you may never see this course or play this course, just know that it’s one of the most unique designs ever built in one of the most difficult environments to build a golf course. Bobby Weed Golf Design continues to impress the world with jaw dropping golf course construction.