I just returned from a golf trip to Naples, Florida. Spent three days playing three different golf courses with members of my Tee Club from Massachusetts. We had a great time and enjoyed every minute of our adventure—between golf, shopping on Fifth Avenue and dining at some of the area’s best restaurants, everyone had a fun time.
Maybe it was the fact I was coming down with a cold, but my game was “off” most of the weekend. We don’t play for money. In fact, although we are all good competitors, the prizes are more often socks or club towels or caps. So I wasn’t heartbroken when, at the final dinner I didn’t bring home a “trophy.” Still, the trip was a very valuable experience for me as a golfer. I learned a lot about grass and how the type of grass on a golf course can make or break your golf game. Let me explain.
Our first round was played at Hammock Bay Golf and Country Club. It’s a great course with wide open vistas, forgiving fairways and bunkers that are challenging but not impossible. Built in 2004, the course was designed by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy and has tees from the championship Black Tees (6,912 yards and a slope of 134—difficult!) to the Green Tees (4,876 yards and a slope of 116.) The course was crowded that day and with four groups of four women playing, it was decided the Green Tees were the best choice to keep play moving. Our group had little trouble keeping up with the guys just ahead of us and play moved right along. One advantage was the type grass they use at Hammock Bay. It’s a Sea Dwarf Paspalum, which is a type of turf new to the golf industry. According to the club’s website, this grass can be nourished by using both fresh and salty water, placing less demand on the area’s drinking water. Not only that, but at Hammock Bay, this Paspalum grass is the only type they use from tee box to green!
What was the practical effect on the course itself? It was a mixed blessing. Balls hit into the fairway had a moderate amount of roll. (I would have liked to see more of that.) But balls that were hit a little off center and landed in the rough were caught up in the dry, short grass and were easy to locate. As I am one of those golfers who more often than not finds herself hitting a slice or hook, it meant I could almost always find my ball. More than anything, the grass helped us all play better.
On the second day of golf I was not so lucky. We played at Greg Norman’s course, Tiburón. If you want to experience one tough day of golf, take yourself to Naples and play the Black Course! (We found out later from the pro that the Gold Course at Tiburón is a little less demanding — not that it would have made much of a difference.) This course is home to the Shark Shootout which is a competition for top professionals including most of the participants in this year’s Ryder Cup. In fact, it is considered to be one of the premier post season events for the PGA. (I’m very glad I did not know this before attempting to play this course.)
Tiburón is a beautiful course to play, with water, stacked sod wall bunkers and native grasses throughout the course. At moments I got the impression I might have been playing on an island! But the beauty of the course does not take away from its challenge. I’ve looked at the Tiburón website and tried to find the type of grass they used in creating the golf course, but was not able to lock down that information. Let it be said, whatever grass is used, the fairways were very fast and the greens, even faster. If you were not accurate with your fairway shots, your ball went flying off into the rough. Even the best of our group lost a ball or two to the wild bushes and water. As far as final scores are concerned?… don’t even go there. I may play Tiburón again, but I need to improve my game a lot more before I make the attempt.
The third and final course we played was Lely Flamingo Island Club. This course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. is beautiful and challenging with bunkers and water everywhere. The fairways are wide, the greens large and undulating, and the weather was perfect for our round of golf. Only real trouble in which some of us found ourselves, was when someone hit into the coral rock around some of the water and greens. It’s tricky retrieving a ball when there are alligators around!
This course has been rated one of the best in the USA by Golfweek and consistently gets rave reviews from golfers, including those in our party.
Three days of golf in Naples has spoiled me. As cool fall days lead to cold winter days here on the Cape, memories of golf in Florida will keep me looking towards the spring and a new season of golf!
Have you ever played one of these great golf courses? Share your experience or recommend a great golf destination you have played.