Seminole Golf Club ready for its (unexpected) close-up

The maintenance team at the prestigious South Florida venue has had just three weeks to prep for tomorrow’s TaylorMade Driving Relief charity event.


Seminole Golf Club
For the first time, a national TV audience will get a look at the elite Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., as it hosts a charity match May 17 to benefit those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event also marks a big step for the return of live sports in the time of coronavirus. Photo courtesy of the USGA

On April 24, Seminole Golf Club was abuzz with maintenance projects, including tee construction sodding and the transferring of 17 coconut palm trees. That activity was clearly visible at the private facility in Juno Beach, Fla., but Seminole assistant superintendent Andrew Wilson couldn’t have seen the other big development that was coming. “It was three weeks ago today when we found out. This was out of the blue for us,” Wilson told GCM Friday. “At first, there was a sense of excitement. Then, you go to work.”

And what was that breaking news? You’ll get to see for yourself on Sunday.

For the first time in its history, Seminole will host an event on national television, making its debut for the TaylorMade Driving Relief charity event, which will be the first live high-profile golf event since March 12, when the Players Championship was canceled.

The skins game format will feature Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Matthew Wolff, and is set for 2 p.m. Eastern on NBC, Golf Channel, NBCSN, Sky Sports and other PGA Tour global media partners. The event is supported by United Health Group to raise money for the CDC Foundation and the American Nurses Foundation in the battle against COVID-19.

Seminole is an exclusive club that was built by Donald Ross in 1929 and is esteemed for its staying power in the Golf Digest biennial rankings of “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses.” Currently at No. 12, it has been ranked each time since the list was established in 1966 (its highest rating was No. 8). Seminole is where golf legend Ben Hogan prepared for the Masters, and it was also frequented by Arnold Palmer. Another major champion, Henry Picard, served as the club professional at Seminole for 26 years. Numerous sources have reported that six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady has become a member.

TaylorMade Driving Relief
Seminole golf course
Seminole Golf Club was founded in 1929, and golf greats Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer shaped their games there. The club is scheduled to host the Walker Cup next May. Photos courtesy of Andrew Wilson

Hal Hicks, a GCSAA Class A superintendent and 42-year member of the association, started at Seminole in 1989. Wilson, a 10-year GCSAA member, has been there for a year. Hicks and Wilson had expected 2021 to be the year of Seminole’s worldwide introduction — it will welcome the Walker Cup May 8-9, 2021. “Next year was supposed to be our coming out party,” Wilson says.

Hicks and Wilson plus their crew got this weekend’s party started immediately. “We’ve had three weeks to prepare. We wish we had more time to get some of the detail things done, but I think we had a good game plan from the start,” Wilson says. “We know we’re going to be watched around the world, on a course not many people have seen. We’ve just tried to do the best we possibly can do to be sure we’re ready. I think it will be received well by people watching and they’ll take it to heart and appreciate it.”

Seminole features Champion bermudagrass greens, TifGrand bermudagrass tees, and 419 bermudagrass fairways and rough. Three years ago, the 18-hole course’s bunkers were redesigned by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. The course is known for its generous fairways, fast greens, sand dunes, and wind that can create havoc from the adjacent Atlantic Ocean.

NBC and the PGA Tour are currently occupying about one-quarter of the maintenance building, Wilson says, and the maintenance crew will watch on-site Sunday, on call in case of an emergency on the course. When asked how he was feeling on the brink of Seminole’s TV debut, Wilson laughed. “I think my girlfriend is more excited than I am,” he says.

Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.