Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Cypress Lake – A Dick Wilson Masterpiece

Cypress Lake2Founded in 1959, Cypress Lake Country Club is Fort Myers’ oldest and most historic private golf club. It’s one of the few golf courses in Southwest Florida where walking is encouraged year round. Hall of Famers Patty Berg, Gene Sarazen, and Herb Graffis have called Cypress Lake home and the club’s members lay claim to more than 120 PGA Tour titles.

Dick Wilson is the course architect behind Cypress Lake. Mr. Wilson is better known for other designs such as Shinnecock Hills in New York, Arnold Palmer’s home course of Bay Hill in Orlando, the Blue Monster at Doral, and La Costa in California to name a few. The design pretty much remained intact until 2001 when it underwent an extensive redo at the hands of well-known Florida architect and resident Ron Garl.

Some of the many amenities at Cypress Lake include an impressive short game area that features a large, elevated green as well as a massive sand bunker, full length driving range and practice putting green. Added amenities include 6 lighted tennis courts, suites for private functions, and a full-service clubhouse that offers lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Certified pros are available for both tennis and golf lessons for both beginners and professional wannabes. Members will find a variety of activities and events to satisfy even the most discerning lifestyle.

Cypress Lake3The course has five sets of tees, and can be played from 4,745 yards to 7,033 yards. Its water, sand and trees combine to make for a challenging round of golf as well as subtle beauty. In keeping closely to the original design of the layout, Ron Garl has managed to use much of the water, sand and natural Florida vegetation to provide not only an aesthetically pleasing golf course but one that will also challenge golfers of all skill levels and abilities. When Cypress Lake first opened in 1959, it was ranked as one of the 200 toughest courses in the world. Today, it is much more player friendly with a course rating and slope from the championship tees of 74.5/134.

Although you will encounter many residential dwellings as you play the course, there are technically no homes on it. The houses you pass are parts of other communities around the perimeter of Cypress Lake. The wildlife does however find it an agreeable home site. Golfers find themselves sharing the course with such creatures as ibis, egrets, great blue herons, and every so often an alligator. You may also spot several species of large turtles as well as the resident ospreys.

Memorable Holes

Number 2: Par 5, 450 yards. Keep the ball on the left side of the fairway and you can take the creek out of play more easily. Playing up the left side will take the water on the right side out of play on your layup. It’s not the longest par 5 you will ever play and long ball hitters can easily get home in two. The multitude of golfers will make this a three shot hole and cap it off with a short approach shot to an elevated green surrounded by hazards. Number 2 is a short but challenging hole.

Number 4: Par 3, 160 yards. A challenging par 3 with a little bit of everything – water, sand and decent length. The hole plays slightly uphill and can prove a formidable challenge when playing into the wind.

Number 11: Par 4, 322 yards. There is really no need to hit driver on this hole. After a good tee shot, you will have a short pitch to an elevated green well protected by bunkers. The green slopes back to front so being in front will leave an uphill putt. Although it’s a short par 4, it is by no means a gimmee.

Number 13: Par 3, 145 yards. According to the scorecard, this is supposed to be the easiest hole on the course although I would be willing to bet that many members would disagree. The hole plays slightly uphill over water with a massive, deep bunker between the water and the green. To make matters worse, the green is not that deep and slopes back to front. Par is really a good score here.

Cypress Lake1Number 18: Par 4, 424 yards. This is one of the nicer finishing holes in the area. It’s an ever so slight dogleg left framed by a group of bunkers on the left side at the corner of the turn. More bunkers on the left side of the elevated green make accuracy a must on approach. A good drive down the right side of the fairway will still leave a long approach. It will take two good shots to get on in regulation. Par is a good score here and makes the 19th hole that much more enjoyable.

Last Word: Cypress Lakes is an impressive country club right near the heart of Ft. Myers. To me, one of the nicer features of the course is the ability to walk it year round. As a golfer in Florida, we are often spoiled by the constant use of golf carts. Granted, many of the courses down here do not lend themselves to being walked and the summertime temperatures can make walking a health hazard, but the layout of Cypress Lakes makes this a feature that needs to be considered when making a decision on joining a private club. Initiation and dues are quite reasonable (as is the case at most clubs given the current economy). The membership may be a little elderly compared to other courses in the area, but there seems to be a push on here to attract a younger crowd.

As for the golf facilities, Cypress Lakes boasts a top-notch short game area and putting green. The full length driving range allows you to hit every club in your bag with targets to aim at for just about each club. The layout in many respects is your typical Florida course. While there is only so much you can do with palm trees, sand and water, Ron Garl has done a great job with the redesign keeping much of what the original architect had in mind. Many of the greens are elevated and you will have to negotiate over or around water on just about every hole. The course has a good mixture of long and short holes. The par threes can be challenging depending on how the wind is blowing which can in turn be helpful on a couple of the par fives when they play downwind. A few holes have longer than normal carries over water from the tee. Fortunately, you can refer to the scorecard to see how far you need to hit it based on the tees you are playing from. The scorecard also has a detachable page that shows the shape and depth of the green and gives pin placements based on a 1, 2 or 3 pin placement. This can be helpful if you do not have a GPS or laser rangefinder.

My favorite part of the course was the greens. Many featured subtle undulations and most of them sloped from back to front, one of Dick Wilson’s trademarks. They seemed to be hard, yet held very well and rolled true to form. The front of the greens are often open, however a rear pin placement can sometimes be tricky to reach. The sand was hard in many of the bunkers however that is more a product of the current weather conditions rather than course maintenance. All in all, the course is very well maintained and staffed by friendly, knowledgeable people.

For membership information, you can visit the website at www.cypresslakescc.com, or give them a call at (239) 481-3222. This is an historic course in Ft. Myers and should be played if you have the chance.

David Theorethttp://www.thegolfinguy.com
David Theoret has been in the golf and golf travel industry for over 12 years, primarily selling online advertising. For the past seven years, he has also been a golf writer, reviewing golf courses, resorts, destinations, equipment, golf apparel, and training aids – the latter of which never seems to help. What started as a dream years ago, by God’s grace, became a reality in 2015 when The Golfin’ Guy editorial marketing company was founded. Working together with golf course designer Ron Garl; David’s articles and reviews have been posted on many golf travel, equipment, and apparel websites.

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