(April 2011) Renowned golf course architect Rees Jones has created a championship golf course that proves both interesting and challenging. Each hole offers a new experience. Elevation changes – relatively unknown in southwestern Florida – as well as unique water hazards which are incorporated into the indigenous Florida foliage, makes Naples Grande a joy to play year-round play.
Unfortunately, Naples Grande is not accessible to all golfers – technically it is a private club but is also available to guests staying at the Naples Grande Resort. The course has been given 4.5 stars by Golf Magazine, voted one of the “10 Best New Golf Courses in Florida” by Travel & Leisure Golf and is one of North America’s Top 100 Resort Courses, as rated by Golfweek Magazine.
Playing from the back tees the course measures 7,078 yards, with a course rating of 74.9 and a slope of 144. For the average golfer this is a little long, but no so long as to overwhelm the big hitter. A portion of the course was designed around a 30-acre quarry which provides a picturesque backdrop for one of the more challenging golf holes. Another water hazard is a brook that comes into play on three of the holes. Also, to the best of my knowledge, Naples Grande is the only course in the area that does not have any houses abutting the fairways making it a nice, serene adventure in golf.
The practice facilities at Naples Grande are top notch. There is always a staff member on or around the range that can answer any questions. A “two-sided” grass driving range can accommodate the largest of golf outings. There is also a large practice green that features several undulations; getting you ready for the treat that lies ahead.
The Clubhouse offers a warm, comfortable facility where guests can unwind with their favorite adult libations or enjoy an appetizer or meal in the dining room. You will also find both men’s and women’s locker rooms and a pro shop with the latest equipment as well as logoed attire. The Naples Grande staff offers exceptional, personalized service to ensure a memorable, first-class golfing experience.
Number 5: Par 4, 383 yards. A shot aimed between the two trees bordering the fairway will provide a clear approach to the well bunkered, elevated putting green. Accuracy off the tee is important; anything to the far right or left may be blocked by cypress trees. Your approach shot is to an elevated green that is large and pretty darn flat. Par here is likely.
Number 9: Par 5, 536 yards. This is a true risk/reward par five that doglegs right along a lake. Cut off as much as your distance will allow off the tee. Long hitters may have a shot at reaching in two although the approach can be treacherous; water fronts the green and there is only a bit of room long. Beware of the large tree that blocks the path to the green near the 100 yard marker. The green slopes slightly back to front towards the water. This is the most scenic hole on the golf course.
Number 11: Par 4, 421 yards. This is a long par 4 that plays narrow off the tees and doesn’t get a whole lot wider on your approach shot. The hole is pretty straight forward; the fairway is bordered by trees and traps right and water left. The hazard juts in towards the fairway about 130 yards from the green, and the approach here is demanding. The green is slightly elevated and very receptive to high approach shots.
Number 15: Par 4, 379 yards. This somewhat short par 4 doglegs right over a 100 yard long bunker complex. If you have any thoughts about trying to clear the bunker off the tee, think again! It’s probably close to 300 yards to carry. The best play is to hit left to avoid the bunker and then have a mid iron to a large, elevated green. Fool around on this hole and you can give back a couple of strokes quickly.
Number 16: Par 5, 560 yards. This hole is handicapped #2 and for good reason. Sixteen presents one of two peninsula greens in this group of finishing holes. This long par five hole is a true 3-shot par five that beacons for a tee shot and layup to the right center. If you are playing along the left side of the fairway, the layup shot can be very intimidating as it is guarded by a long row of bunkers, leaving an approach shot that will be fairly short but must navigate a rock wall left of the green. Play it safe and smart here. The green complex features a fairly large green that slopes left to right with a nasty pot bunker in front. Good luck!
Number 18: Par 4, 423 yards. Number 18 is a beautiful closing hole; hopefully you saved your best tee shot for last. Your tee shot should favor the right center of the fairway that slopes right to left. There is a large bunker right and a water hazard defined by a rock retaining wall on the left making for a tough approach shot. The green complex consists of a large, elevated green with bunkers on the right and water left.
Last Word: Naples Grande is one of, if not my favorite course in the Naples area. The holes are challenging and seem to play differently with each visit. The greens are always in great shape and are very puttable; not too fast and not too slow. The maintenance crew does a great job of keeping this course in pristine condition year round; not just “in season.” Whatever your skill level, you will definitely find Naples Grande a challenge. Check them out online at www.naplesgranderesort.com or give them a call at (888) 722-1267. Naples Grande will be closed during the summer to redo all of the greens.