MGS Experiences: Panther National

Justin Thomas has been interested in golf architecture since he was a little kid mapping out golf holes on napkins.

But he wisely prioritized his playing career over one in course design, which has worked out pretty well so far for two-time major winner and 2017 FedEx Cup champion who boasts more than $55.1 million in career earnings.

It wasn’t until Dominik Senn wanted to reimagine and reinvigorate the Florida golf experience that Thomas was able to live out his childhood dream.

Senn, a former Swiss professional alpine skier, is the founder of 4SENN, 4sports & Entertainment AG and Centaur Golf International AG. He reached out to Jack Nicklaus, who then contacted Thomas. After moving almost two million cubic yards of earth to create a links-style layout in Palm Beach Gardens, Panther National was born.

“It was a learning experience for me more than anything,” Thomas said. “The further along we got in the design process, the more comfortable I became voicing my opinion. To put my name alongside Jack with how incredible this course turned out is something I am very proud of and a milestone of my golf career.”

Playing Panther National

Barely a month after christening Panther National with an exhibition match between Thomas and pals Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, Morgan Hoffmann, Erik van Rooyen and Lexi Thompson, I arrived on the property … after a minor navigational snafu: my rideshare driver didn’t know where to take me. The course was so new it wasn’t yet geocached on Google Maps but no harm, no foul, as I still found it plenty of time before my tee time. This won’t be an issue in the future because a) Panther National reps said they were working on remedying the issue and b) it’s a private club so members will be more than familiar with navigating the property.

With construction of 200-plus estate homes and more amenities still in progress—more on that later—the route in wasn’t the prettiest but that completely changed once I got onto the course.

In typical Nicklaus fashion, Panther National begins with a “relatively fast, simple start” with a par-4 that plays 402 yards from the black tees. Sandy waste areas and/or water come into play over the next eight holes, highlighted by the par-4 fifth and its island green. Even though it’s one of the larger greens on the course, being surrounded by water still makes it very intimidating and nerve-wracking.