In Palm Beach, residents spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to join some of the country’s more expensive golf clubs, such as the Everglades, the Breakers, and Emerald Dunes. Valets park members’ Porsches as caddies set up their golf bags on the driving range. After the 18 holes are up, bartenders have members’ favorite drinks prepared. While this grandiose service has long been the norm for the town’s moneyed golfers, a newly opened municipal course has taken over as Palm Beach’s buzziest golf hangout.

The Park, located in West Palm Beach and opened last April, costs a tiny fraction of the private clubs’ price of play. With only greens fees, West Palm Beach residents pay as little as $80, and out-of-state residents pay $220 per round. It has enticed golf-obsessed .1-percenters such as real-estate mogul Barry Sternlicht, private-equity titan Henry Kravis, and Charles Schwab, who founded the eponymous brokerage firm, as well as P.G.A. Tour golfers such as Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. In April, Barack Obama played a round at the Park.

“Within 25 or 30 miles of Palm Beach, I think we’ve had members from just about every golf course you can name,” says Dan Stanton, the Park’s co-founder and a retired Goldman Sachs partner.

Payton Smith, a real-estate agent in Palm Beach, thinks the über-wealthy have taken to the Park—which has caddy service available, as well as an outdoor bar—because of its informal, shirt-untucked atmosphere. “In clubs that have memberships, there’s a lot of rules. [At] Everglades Club, you can’t bring a cell phone in,” he says. Meanwhile, the Park “makes you feel like you’re at a nice club without the rules.”

The Park’s 190-acre site was previously home to a run-down, long-neglected golf course. Around 2020, Seth Waugh, the silver-haired and tanned chief executive officer of the P.G.A. of America, visited Keith James, the mayor of West Palm Beach, to discuss revitalizing the property. Although there had been talk of a commercial development on the city-owned land, James gave Waugh and a small cadre of cohorts, including billionaire publishing scion Dirk Ziff, the go-ahead to come up with a different plan.

The Park’s co-founders formed a nonprofit and raised $56 million for the project—which, along with its main course, also includes a nine-hole par-three course, a putting course, a driving range, and an elegant restaurant—from around 140 people. (The Park declined to share the donor list.) Florida’s pandemic-era real-estate boom benefited the project. “A lot of people had relocated [to Palm Beach] and may have had their portfolio of charities in New York or wherever they came from,” Waugh tells me. The new residents “were looking for something locally that they could buy into.”

The Park “makes you feel like you’re at a nice club without the rules.”

Stanton, who led the fundraising effort, said most of the money was raised within four months of the kickoff. Of the 100-plus donors, 30 people gave $1 million, according to Waugh. “We didn’t want anybody over a million dollars because we didn’t want anybody to feel more ownership over anybody else,” he says.

As part of the carrot for giving, the well-to-do donor group has access to morning tee times and twice-a-month skins games, where players with the best scores win money. The tee times are given back to “the people,” so to speak, if donors skip out on the reservation or opt to hack on their private courses.

Gil Hanse, the golf-course designer who restored Westchester’s famed Winged Foot Golf Club, is behind the 18-hole course. Unlike most Florida courses, where scorecards are hurt by water hazards, this walking course harkens back to golf’s earliest days, with open fairways, sprawling sand, and no bodies of water in sight. Stanton describes it as a “one-ball course” because golfers are unlikely to lose them.

Gil Hanse, who restored the Winged Foot Country Club, pictured here, designed the Park.

While the island of Palm Beach is home to scores of billionaires, the median individual income hovers around $30,000 just over the bridge, in West Palm Beach. “It’s always been one side of the bridge or the other side. This has brought the island over to the mainland, as opposed to the other way around,” says Waugh, who also belongs to Seminole Golf Club, where Tom Brady is known to play.

As part of the Park’s community-outreach program, West Palm Beach families can drop their children off at the location after school to receive homework help and play the sport at no cost. With enrichment opportunities for children and access to anyone, the Park is the rare course where players who have golfing bags emblazoned with private-club logos are spotted alongside teenagers in flip-flops and twentysomethings chipping on a par-three course.

“This is a more upscale version of any public course that you ever will see,” Smith says. Even so, members of private clubs are unlikely to give them up.

Andrew Zucker works at a television-production company in New York City