For many residents and visitors in SW Florida, golf is their passion in life. So, we decided to provide this synopsis of the Naples Daily News (NDN) Dream 18 Series of Golf Holes. The newspaper put together a 12-person panel of local pros, amateurs, instructors and architects to select SW Florida's best 18 golf holes. Visit the NDN website for the complete story. You can also visit Greg Hardwig's Breaking Down the NDN Dream 18 and Beyond for his take on the committee, its choices and examples of other good golf holes in SW Florida, that were not chosen for the Dream 18 Series. It's a worthwhile read!
The First 9 of SW Florida's Best 18 Golf Holes
Ranked No. 1, TwinEagles Golf Club, Hole No. 18 - The Talon Course
This Jack Nicklaus and son Jack II designed course offers what is considered to be the best golf hole in all of SW Florida. The Talon Course has hosted the ACE Group Classic, Naples' Champions Tour event for eight years; from 2002-06, and again from 2012-14. Many of the Champions Tour's players' chances for winning have ended on the Par 4, 18th hole at TwinEagles. Just ask Duffy Waldorf, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin or Bernhard Langer. All lost the tournament in the past while playing No. 18. The hole was the second-hardest finishing hole on the Champions Tour in 2013. Credit its bunkers and the water for making the hole such a great challenge. www.twineagles.com
Ranked No. 2, Calusa Pines Golf Club, Hole No. 16
Dana Fry and Dr. Michael Hurdzan designed the award-winning layout of the Calusa Pines course. The unofficial highest point in SW Florida looks down on a demanding Par 3 hole. "It's probably one of the prettiest, most picturesque holes I've played anywhere," said PGA Tour player and Ft. Myers resident George McNeill, a member at the club. "The elevation change - the hole drops 80 to 85 feet," said McNeill. "What makes it very unique is how high the elevation change is," said Champions Tour Player of the Year Rocco Mediate, who also is a member at the club. On this hole, precision is a must and if the wind blows, the bunkers, pin placement and the water become even more of a challenge. www.calusapinesgolfclub.com
Ranked No. 3, Talis Park Golf Club, Hole No. 10
The Greg Norman and Pete Dye designed course opened in 2006, with perhaps its most notable feature being a huge wall of vegetation on the west side of I-75. It guards quite a layout, which includes the Par 4, 422 yard long, 10th hole. Former Major League Baseball player and current ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk, a Naples resident, has played Talis Park a number of times. And he's not a huge fan of the deceptive fairway bunker, which is well short of the green, but doesn't look like it from the fairway. "I see the pin behind that little bunker, and I think if I slide it over the bunker, I'm tight," he said. "Then you get up there, and you're chipping, and you're like "Oh, crap." The green complex and the surrounding bunkers make the approach a daunting task. www.talispark.com
Ranked No. 4, The Club Pelican Bay, Hole No. 9
The Arthur Hills designed course opened in 1980. It may be the first Southwest Florida golf hole seen on national television as The Club No. 9 at Pelican Bay was the 18th hole during the Champions Tour's Aetna Challenge, which was played on the course from 1988-90. "It was designed to be a tough finish," said John Carroll, who was the professional and/or taught at the club for 28 years. "Demanding tee shot, demanding second shot, and requires good putting on top of everything else. It's the type of hole that, if you let it intimidate you, it will," Carroll said. They say good golf holes are ones that you're thinking about before you even get on the course. This is one of those holes! www.theclubpelicanbay.com
Ranked No. 5, Hideout Golf Club, Hole No. 4
Hideout Golf Club was established in 2000. It was designed by renowned architect Kelly Blake Moran and was built with the purpose of providing a course that was challenging to a scratch golfer, yet enjoyable and playable for the high-handicapper. This mission was accomplished. Hole No. 16, the 14th at Naples National Golf Club, was called by member and Champions Tour player Fuzzy Zoeller, the shortest par 5 in history. Hideout Golf Club member and ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk echoes that description for the Hideout's No. 4, a Par 4 that measures almost 362 yards. "It's a narrow fairway approach and a mounded green, high in the front and low in the back...you can have a wedge in your hand and you can make 10, and you feel like an idiot." www.hideoutgolfclub.com
Ranked No. 6, Bay Colony Golf Club, Hole No. 18
The Bay Colony golf course was designed by Robert von Hagge in 1996. The 18th hole is a Par 4, 440 yard, slight dogleg to the right, with water all down the right side of the fairway. Getting into position off the tee to try to take the water out of play as much as possible is the key. The green kind of goes at an angle diagonally from left to right, and is protected by bunkers in the front and to the left. So, a right pin position is especially difficult, particularly if the tee shot isn't in the correct spot. "They can make it easy or hard, depending on what they do with that pin," said John Lee, a Imperial Country Club professional and member of the voting committee. "If they start sticking it on the right, or the right back, it becomes a much more demanding hole." www.baycolonygolfclub.com
Ranked No. 7, West Bay Club, Hole No. 16
West Bay Club's Par 4, No. 16 is a difficult hole. No kidding! Pete Dye designed it that way. "It's such a tough hole,” said Naples resident and golf course architect, Gordon Lewis. "It may be beyond more than difficult." It starts off with a tee shot over a water hazard. And, there's also water down the left-hand side of the fairway. Then likely a long second shot or maybe even a layup, to an elevated green over the wetlands. Get on the wrong place on the green, and a golfer could be facing a steep downhill putt, depending on where the pin is set. "I love that shelf," Lewis said. "When you get up to the very top, you can see forever, and it's very cool. I make a point to take a breath. It's just a beautiful sight looking up over all of those wetlands leading up to the Gulf." www.westbayclub.com
Ranked No. 8, Country Club of Naples, Hole No. 15
The Country Club of Naples, which was Big Cypress Golf & Country Club when it opened back in 1962, is the fourth-oldest golf course in Naples, behind the Beach Club, Hole-in-the-Wall, and Palm River, which was completely renovated as LaPlaya several years ago. That's the back-in-time part. But its Par 3, 15th hole almost seems to be in a different place entirely. The course was originally designed by Bill Diddel and was recently re-built and restored by Gordon Lewis. The 15th hole is "the second-hardest hole on the golf course," said Charlie Murphy, who has won the club championship multiple times. "That's kind of unusual for a Par 3." There is a forced carry over a lake, but the water stops 25 yards or so short of the green. The green is larger than it looks from the tee, again mainly due to all of the trees. "You just see this chute that you've got to hit the ball through." While the green is fairly large, 60 yards long and 40 yards wide, "you've got to miss it to the right," Murphy said. "If you miss it left, then you're pitching back up to the right, and you can't stop the ball." www.ccnaples.net
Ranked No. 9, Imperial Country Club, Hole No. 9 - The East Course
Imperial's East is a 40 year old Arthur Hills designed golf course. No. 9 is a Par 4 hole that plays 445 yards from the tips, and used to have more for the golfer to think about off the tee. Until Mother Nature decided to intervene. A set of pine trees were down the right side until the early 1990's; they weren't victims of a Hills renovation, "a hurricane or tropical storm knocked them out," professional John Lee said. "It's a real player's hole,” said Mary Jane Hiestand, a 2013 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur semifinalist and member of the voting committee. There are multiple challenges to this one. Not only hitting a good drive, but hitting it in the right place is a big key to having a good chance at the green. There's water all the way down the left side. "And the second shot is into an elevated green, from sometimes a downhill lie," Hiestand said. The hole is a definite challenge from beginning to end. www.imperialgolfclub.org
OK, that's the best nine golf holes in our area according to the Naples Daily News selection committee of experts. You can view the second 9 holes at SW Florida's Best 18 Golf Holes - The Second 9 Holes. For more information about SW Florida golf courses visit our SW Florida Golf Guide. For an explanation of the various golf club membership options available for joining a golf club, visit our Florida Golf Club Information page.
Excerpts and Photos Courtesy of NDN and the Selected Golf Clubs.
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Page Authored by Benjamin Dona of Gulf Coast Associates, Realtors