Design Notes

Greg Norman opens Florida’s Shell Bay

Tom Doak revives Michigan’s High Pointe; Brian Curley debuts Vietnam’s Stone Highland

Shell Bay Club — Miami, Florida
Shell Bay Club's 18th hole.

The wait is over.

After nearly two decades since the last private golf club opened in the Miami, Florida, area, real estate development firms Witkoff Group and PPG Development unveiled The Shell Bay Club in October. Anchoring the club is a 7,254-yard private championship course designed by World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman.

The golf offerings also include a 12-acre practice facility and a nine-hole par-3 course. This 150-acre enclave is a last-of-its-kind opportunity in the Miami region for water-accessible, new development of this scale. There is also a partnership with hospitality brand Auberge Resorts Collection to bring a boutique resort and bespoke residences to the destination.

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“The course at Shell Bay is one of the most unique, pure golf experiences I have ever designed,” Norman said. “Completely isolated from its surroundings, the walkable layout will capture the true essence of the game with immaculately conditioned fairways, sweeping sandbelt-style bunkers and contoured greens that test every club in your bag. It will be a place where you can totally immerse yourself in the game.”

The course features a purposefully sustainable design set within an isolated environment between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. Golfers will be tested with a variety of risk-reward shot-making options alongside water challenges most prevalent from the championship tees.

At 7,254 yards, it offers one of the longest courses in South Florida with a slope rating of 148 and a course rating of 76.1. Complementing the championship course is a Par 3 course where players experience tactically entertaining concepts including punchbowl, Redan and double plateau greens.

The Bays is a state-of-the-art practice facility and beyond the training facilities, The Bays also offers a tranquil al fresco dining experience for members at the chef’s open kitchen, featuring a menu of comfort food favorites and signature dishes rotating weekly. The chef’s kitchen marks the first concept in Shell Bay’s culinary program, with a larger dining venue to follow once clubhouse construction is complete.

“Golf is the most undersupplied asset in the Miami market, and consequently, Shell Bay is a generational opportunity to create the first new private course in the area in 25 years,” said Alex Witkoff, co-CEO of Witkoff Group. “A project like this can’t be replicated.”

Tom Doak has conjured up from the dead his first solo design, High Pointe Golf Club in Williamsburg, Michigan, near Traverse City. Designed as a public course in 1989 when Doak was 26, the course achieved Top 100 status a few years later, but eventually experienced hard times and closed after the 2008 season.

MI Local Hops purchased part of the property and repurposed much of the front nine to grow the prime ingredient in beer as the region is a hotbed of craft breweries. The remainder of the layout sat fallow, overgrown, but not invisible — until now.

Florida entrepreneur Rod Trump pursued the old plot as a passion project. Convinced of Trump’s sincerity, Doak agreed to take another bite of the apple and bring back a sentimental favorite in his hometown.

Most of the new front nine is formed from a parcel east of the original course where Doak had once routed another nine holes. The majority of the old back nine has been resuscitated and will function as holes eight through 16 on the new course. Old 10 and 11 will now be holes eight and nine, with new 10 and 11 being fresh creations.

The new High Pointe will be a high-end private club. A soft opening of a portion of the course will take place later in 2024, with the full opening and clubhouse slated for 2025.

Brian Curley's reputation in the Asian market continues to grow with the opening of Stone Highland Golf & Resort in Vietnam. Located north of Hanoi, it represents the first 18 of a planned 36-hole complex for the Truong An Golf Company, which also created the Curley-designed Stone Valley Resort.

“The mountainous site is unique in that it is located near a vast area of flat rice fields," Curley told “The property abruptly stands out above the fields and features tall, very steep mountainous slopes with a significant amount of rock, yet we were able to craft holes that challenge players with creative solutions to elevation change and cross slopes.”

The northern edge of the property is 330 feet higher than the low point, necessitating severe cut slopes in the design.

"This is one of the most difficult sites I have ever dealt with but the result is a number of holes with massive top-of-the-world views over the vast valley floor,” said Curley, who has seen his share of challenging sites in Asia, where he is prolific. "The front nine certainly was most difficult as it was rocky terrain within the heart of the mountain grades, while the back nine is on much more golf-friendly land, as holes march along the lower toe of the slope. My first design intent was creating adequate width and from there, to craft holes with memorable features, especially with a wide variety of green complexes."

Curley’s second course at Stone Highland is well underway. While the terrain it occupies is less relentless, it will nonetheless deliver handsome vistas from lofty perches.