Lone Palm

With the world shut down I figured it’s time to shed light on perhaps the most exclusive, secretive, and special golf and fishing club in the world:  Lone Palm Club.

You’ve likely never heard of it.  Lone Palm’s members prefer it stay that way.

But SEC Banter was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to Lone Palm in early February, before the coronavirus craziness ensued.

At risk of jeopardizing future invites, I am compelled to share details.  Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Lone Palm Club:

–  Perched on a small island off the south Florida coast near the Bahamas, Lone Palm occupies formerly disputed territory claimed by Spanish admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles.

– Menendez de Aviles and his ship of Spanish missionaries were marooned on the island around 1563.  Noting the single palm tree that stood on its sandy shores (there are hundreds today), the missionaries named the island “Palma Solitaria,” or Lone Palm.

– Countless ownership disputes ensued over hundreds of years, but Lone Palm’s modern lineage is traced to Thomas William Edward Harkins Mansfield IV, an early 20th-century oil and later media baron who purchased Lone Palm as a retreat from brutal northeast winters.

– Today, while still unclear whether the island is a U.S. territory or simply its own nation-club-state, it remains accessible only by boat.  A small, well-maintained landing strip (that’s how LPC’s members prefer it) for private aircraft is a short boat ride away, on a Club-owned ferry, of course.

– Upon arrival at the Club’s dock, you’re warmly greeted by Freeman, the longtime steward who grew up on the island as one of a small handful of permanent residents, all of whom are Club staff.

– Freeman embodies the Club’s nod to a bygone era.  In a modest office just off the open-air Club entrance, Freeman tends to the Club’s affairs, his landline the only technology by which to communicate.  Members must make all club arrangements through him, by phone only.

– On the desk sits Freeman’s small, spiral-bound notepad that essentially serves as a history of LPC and its members’ exploits:

  • “Mr. Simmons, party of 4, bonefishing, 8 am.”
  • “Mr. Stanwyk, party of 8, 10 am tee time, late afternoon cocktail cruise.”
  • “Mr. Harkins and lady friend, two bottles of Casamigos to room, do not disturb.”  And so forth.

–  Accommodations are casually understated yet luxurious, and quite comfortable.  The recently-completed Shore Cabins have proven popular among the membership, though longtime LPC honchos favor rooms in the Mansfield wing off the main clubhouse.

– Lone Palm Club’s 18-hole course is said to have been designed by no less than 10 vaunted architects from the golden age of golf architecture.  The result is a masterpiece, the front nine beginning near the golf shop on a small peninsula jutting out over the ocean, then winding its way inland and ever slightly uphill, and finally revealing Lone Palm’s splendor on the back nine.

– The finishing three holes, a par-5, par-3, and par-4, feature sweeping Caribbean vistas with the 18th green’s bunkers blending seamlessly into the fine, white sandy beaches near the salty sea, rumored to be the site of “Palma Solitaria” when Menendez de Aviles and his missionaries arrived.

– Course conditions are nothing short of extraordinary, with lush fairways, blinding white bunkers, and greens faster than Oakmont’s.  The Club is said to have a state-of-the-art desalination plant on or near the island used to irrigate the course.

– I could devote this entire piece to Lone Palm’s bonefishing program, but perhaps that’s best saved for another day.  Suffice it to say the expansive flats surrounding LPC are host to massive bonefish and the Club’s guides are world-class.  An itinerary of morning bonefishing followed by afternoon golf is so common it’s been dubbed the “Lone Palm Loop.”

– Members do not pay dues in the usual sense.  The Club simply divides its total operating costs at the end of year and sends each member a bill on a pro rata basis.

– Joining Lone Palm is, as you might expect, quite an endeavor.  If a member nominates a candidate for membership and the candidate is rejected, the member must resign from Lone Palm.  The most recent member who was forced to resign nominated Elon Musk.

– Evenings at LPC usually begin with cocktails and dinner in the Reef Room.  The small bar’s signature drink is the Lone Palmer, a rum-based concoction named for Arnold Palmer who, on a visit (he was not a member) swore it was the best drink he’d ever had.

– Members and guests congregate post-dinner in Saltaire, the Club’s open-air pavilion complete with full-service bar, a massive fire pit, and a sand dance floor.  Lionel Richie plays New Year’s Eve concerts in Saltaire in odd-numbered years; Hall & Oates play even years.

– Overall, I’m afraid this humble write-up doesn’t do Lone Palm justice, as there are many aspects of the Club I haven’t covered, but I hope it gives you a sense of the place.  Incredibly, during my visit I shot a personal best 74 and caught at least ten bonefish over 12 pounds each.  It just seems to bring out the best in everyone.

– I’d share pics but the Club has a strict no-photos policy (ample Wifi is available only in the Shore Cabins and Mansfield wing, otherwise no devices are permitted on grounds).  I was told the quickest way to receive a prompt escort off the property is to pull out a phone and snap a few pics, so I refrained.

Meantime, I just received a text from my Lone Palm host:  “LPC this New Year’s Eve after we make it through this shit, book it.”  In that case, 12-pound bonefish, 2-over par, booze cruise with a Lone Palmer, and Hall & Oates here I come!

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