The Sanctuary Golf Course was designed by the nationally acclaimed golf course architect Arthur Hills and opened for play in 2005. Mr. Hills has described this course as his “island masterpiece” while at the same time describing the property as “elegant, exquisite and rare.” The Sanctuary is a private equity facility golf course with an “Accompanied by Member” guest policy. You will find The Sanctuary Golf Club next to the world-renowned J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The course meanders through nature preserves and lakes, and provides panoramic views of mangrove forests and Pine Island Sound. Golfers who are lucky enough to play this beautiful, private course often encounter a wide variety of wildlife and birds that call Sanibel, FL home.
The practice area at The Sanctuary is second to none; how often do you see a stretching machine at a golf course?
The Sanctuary features a beautiful golf shop that offers a wide variety of men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel from companies such as Tommy Bahama, EP Pro, Fairway & Greene, Tail, and Garb. They stock a wide array of golf clubs and golf balls from some of the industry’s most recognized manufacturers, as well as many novelty and gift items.
Number 1: Par 4, 386 yards. This slight dogleg left plays 386 yards from back tees. Long ball hitter should choose a line over the palm trees on the left. This will leave a real short approach shot. For the rest of us, hit your tee shot out right of the palm trees; that will leave an approach shot of around 150 yards. You will be shooting to a large, flat green that is well guarded by a large bunker on the left. Anything left of the bunker is in the conservation area. Par is a great way to start your round at the Sanctuary as things start to get more difficult.
Number 2: Par 4, 344 yards. This is a very narrow driving hole; the rough on the right side and out of bounds come up real quick. The fairways are well bunkered with a massive bunker in front of the green which eliminates any type of bump and run. Your best bet is to play into the green from the right side of the fairway. Make sure to take enough club on your approach shot to reach the back of the green. The green is large and features many undulations.
Number 4: par 3, 187 yards. This is Arthur Hill’s signature hole and in golf terms it is a gorgeous hole. Because of the prevailing winds, club selection is the key to this tricky par 3.
Number 5: Par 4, 331 yards. Although not a long par 4, it can prove to bring a thus far good round to a grinding halt. Course management is at a premium. You can hit driver or 3 wood off the tee; just hit it accurately. You’re best to play up the left side of the fairway. Your second shot will be over a small wetland area.
Number 6: Par 5, 518 yards. Number 6 is the first par 5 on the front 9. It’s a slight dogleg left that offers a wide open landing area off the tee but narrows a bit on layup. The green is narrow and long; long enough that it can be a 2 or 3 club difference depending on wind and pin placement. It’s well guarded by bunkers. This hole will yield birdies to players with a good short game.
Number 8: Par 4, 392 yards. This hole requires a long carry over wetlands off of tee. On this hole there is a premium on straightness off the tee. Your second shot also requires a carry over a small wetlands area on the right. The elevated green is large, well undulating and well guarded by bunkers and waste area.
Number 9: Par 5 569 yards. Number 9 is the longest of the par 5 holes at The Sanctuary. It’s a dogleg right with water on the right that guards the bird rookery; the water will come into play off the tee as does out of bounds on the left. There are a few well placed fairway bunkers on the left side however the really opens up on your layup shot. The green is fairly small compared to others thus far and is well guarded on the right side by bunkers.
Number 10: Par 4, 370 yards. Although a relatively short hole, the tee shot looks very intimidating. It looks like the woods and rough are coming into play. There also appears to be a lot of mounding in the fairway. A smart golfer will consider a layup off the tee and a slightly longer approach shot. From the back tee, your best line is to aim at the big mound on the right. Beware of the conservation area that juts out in front of the green on theft side. Par is a good start to the inward nine.
Number 13: Par 4, 407 yards. The featured attraction on number 13 is the fragrant Joewood trees that frame the tee box. The best thing you can do off the tee is get the ball in the air; the longer it stays in the air the better. Woods left and a conservation area on the right make the tee shot intimidating to a less seasoned golfer; the fairway bunkers on right really come into play off tee. A good drive will still leave a shot of about 150 yards to a large elevated green flanked by bunkers. With the fairway sloping right to left, an approach shot with a slight draw will do wonders for your scorecard.
Number 14: Par 5, 518 yards. If you are playing from the back tees, you will find yourself faced with a long carry over the water. In fact, water comes into play on your first two shots. Keep it left off tee to open up fairway; two lakes that are not visible off the tee come into play. Your 2nd shot will be a long layup to get to the open areas. You must avoid the strategically placed bunker on the green side of the lake. Take your par and walk away proud.
Last Word: If given the opportunity to play the Sanctuary, do NOT pass it up. This ultra-private course on Sanibel Island near Ft. Myers FL offers a rare chance to encounter Florida’s beauty and splendor at its best. In the event you are playing bad just take a look around; you’re playing among multi-million dollar mansions – which for the owners are typically winter homes. The course is adjacent to a bird sanctuary and you are not likely to see this much natural wildlife on a golf course again. The course plays along some of Southwest Florida’s finest waterfront.
The course is very challenging and meticulously maintained; you will see grounds people working feverishly to keep the course immaculate. Although the course is not real long – hey the island isn’t that big – it will provide a formidable challenge for even the most seasoned golfer. Unlike many Florida courses you will find a lot of mounding and rolling terrain in the fairways which leads to uneven lies.
The greens are in terrific shape and, even though many feature quite a bit of undulation, they are quite readable. For more information on joining The Sanctuary Golf Club, you can visit them online at www.sanctuarygc.net or give them a call at 239-472-6445.