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There are only a handful of golf courses in the Lakeland, FL area and only a couple of those are private country clubs. One of those courses is Lone Palm Golf Club, a private club founded by George Jenkins, the patriarch of the Publix Supermarket chain. The club is sprawled across nearly 400 acres of serene Florida landscape and is a joy to play for both seasoned golfers and beginners alike.
The history of Lone Palm Country Club is as interesting as playing the course itself. As the story goes , Mr Jenkins (affectionately known to those around him as Mr. George) set out with the goal of creating a golf club where he and his friends could play. It was the early 1960's, and, although he relied on his friends for advice, Mr. George bore the idea of Lone Palm from start to finish. His desire was for Lone Palm to be unlike any other country club. Shortly after construction began in November of 1963, it soon became apparent that there weren't enough investment dollars to make the club a reality. Undaunted, Mr. Jenkins dug deep into his own pockets and personally funded much of the project.
The name "Lone Palm" originated with an enormous palm tree that was planted in front of the clubhouse. This palm tree was said to have been so incredibly large that it required police escort from Miami, FL to Lakeland.
The club officially opened on March 8, 1965 at a cost of approximately $300,000 (approximately $2.2 million by today’s standards). A few months before the official opening of the club, Mr. Jenkins held the first Men's Club Championship. Only four men played in that tournament, and they were his closest friends. Mr. George made it clear that he wished to be Lone Palm's first club champion and you can still find his name on the first Men's Club Championship trophy today.
Forty five years ago, Mr. George Jenkins set out with the mission of creating a place where he and his friends could play a great game of golf, relax, eat good meals, socialize and have fun in atmosphere supported by a friendly staff. To this day, that is exactly what you will find at Lone Palm Golf Club; Mr. George would be proud.
Lone Palm plays 6,987 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 73.6 and a slop of 131 from the back (green) tees. The course was designed in 1965 by legendary golf course architect, Dick Wilson whose work includes Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill in Orlando, FL. In 1995 the course underwent a renovation by Steve Smyers. Lone Palm has played host to many professional, amateur and charity tournaments throughout the years.
With long fairways and numerous bunkers, the course requires both distance and accuracy from players of all levels. Since no two fairways are next to one another, the course's path takes golfers through 18 holes of differing scenery and playing environments.
Lone Palm also offers members a newly-renovated driving range with two driving areas, a chipping green and beautiful putting green. The practice areas open at 7:30 am and close at dusk daily, giving members plenty of time to work on all aspects of their golf game.
In addition to golf memberships, Lone Palm also offers social memberships and an exciting calendar of events throughout the year.
Memorable Holes (All yardage is from the Blue Tees)
Number 1: Par 4, 347 yards. A gentle dogleg left with trees and water on the left side and out of bounds on the right – although you need to push it way right to go OB. If a draw is in your shot repertoire, this is a good time to show it off. A well-executed tee shot will leave a short pitch to a slightly elevated green protected on both sides by bunkers. The green on the left side slopes off towards the water so be wary of any shots that find the left side of the green.
Number 5: Par 5, 489 yards. This dogleg left par 5 sweeps around trees and wetlands on the left side as well as water on the right side off the tee that can easily come into play. The large fairway bunker on the left side needs to be avoided as the fairway narrows on your layup shot in order to set up an easy pitch shot uphill to the green which is protected on the front left by a large bunker with a grass island in the middle. Although it is a good looking hazard, it can wreak havoc on your scorecard.
Number 9: Par 4, 405 yards. The cart path can really help out in getting your drive close to the green on this long, sweeping dogleg left. I was lucky enough to hit it and ride it all the way to a 320 yard drive! A good drive (not on the path) out the right side of the fairway will leave a mid-iron to an elevated green that again is well-protected by sand. Number 9 is a good finishing hole for the outward nine!
Number 11: Par 5, 536 yards. This long par 5 provides the first view of civilization in the form of homes in the Lone Palm subdivision! A couple of strategically-placed fairway bunkers seem to gobble up balls off the tee as well as on layup shots.
Number 14: Par 4, 399 yards. A straight and narrow par 4 with a water canal all the way down the right side and woods and sand down the left side. Your best bet here is to hit two straight shots to a slightly elevated green.
Number 18: Par 4, 437 yards. This dogleg left par 4 is a good finishing hole. It’s a long dogleg left that has a narrow landing area situated between two fairway bunkers off the tee. Long ball hitters will have no problem flying the bunkers off the tee; the rest of us may want to consider laying up short of them. This will leave about 200 – 220 yards to the green which is surrounded by sand.
Last Word: You’re likely to hear a lot of birds chirping as you start your round at Lone Palm. That’s because the island in the middle of the lake left of the first hole is almost like a bird sanctuary with literally hundreds of bird calling it home. From that point on, your round becomes rather peaceful and serene. No houses can be seen on the front nine; just the back of the Publix corporate offices on the second hole.
As for the golf course, it is always in immaculate condition. The fairways are perfect and well defined; water hazards and sand bunkers are well trimmed and raked. The greens are fast and putt well; most have very subtle undulations. There are no hidden surprises as you play the course – what you see is what you get. The course is very player-friendly for golfers of all skill levels and abilities. The practice facilities include a full-length driving range, a short game area and a beautiful practice green
Lone Palm is a private club, so outside play is rather limited. My advice is to call the pro shop at (863) 499•5481 and see if they may be able to accommodate you and your group – you never know! Of course, as a member, you can play it anytime you like! For membership opportunities, contact Mallory Bronson at (863) 499-5480. To learn more about becoming a member of Lone Palm Golf Club, visit their website at www.lonepalmgc.com.