Golf capital of the world? Naples, Florida is rich with courses

By Travel ArticlesJune 19, 2012, 10:30 pm

NAPLES, Fla. -- Any place that proclaims itself the 'Golf Capital of the World' will have some backing up to do.

From mid-January to early April, golfers won't find too many places on the continent with a better combination of sun and sand (bunker and beach) than Naples. During high season, tees sheets can be packed until mid-afternoon, traffic up and down Tamiami Drive (U.S. 41) thickens and many restaurants require reservations. It certainly lives up to its nickname during that time of year.

Naples, a city of roughly 22,000 people, has the second-most golf holes per capita than any other community in the country. Dozens upon dozens of golf courses stack up from one gated community to another, stretching from Estero and Bonita Springs into Naples. Collier County, where Naples resides, offers more than 70 golf courses alone. The recession hit the region particularly hard, but the local golf scene seems to be on a slight upswing.

The poster child for the comeback has to be the rebirth of TwinEagles. The 36-hole club shuttered for a period in 2010, but new owners, the Ronto Group, are working to revive the place. They hired architect Steve Smyers to transform the former Aerie Course into the new Eagle Course, which will host the CME Group Titleholders, the season finale of the LPGA Tour, in November. In February, the club's Talon Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus and his son, Jack II, hosted the 2012 ACE Group Classic, a Champions Tour event held there previously from 2002-06.

Where to play golf in Naples

The Gold Course at the 36-hole Tiburon Golf Club hosts the Franklin Templeton Shootout (aka the Shark Shootout), a silly season event for PGA Tour pros every December. Naples Grande Golf Club is a Rees Jones design affiliated with the Waldorf Astoria Naples. The layout climaxes with several holes along a 30-acre lake on the back nine.

Architect Gordon Lewis remains a household name in southwest Florida. He designed the Spanish Wells Golf and Country Club, a private club in Bonita Springs; the 7,314-yard Stoneybrook Golf Course in Estero (with Jed Azinger) and Panther Run Golf Club in Ave Maria, a playable Troon Golf-managed course with great greens 30 minutes inland from Naples.

Old Corkscrew Golf Club in Estero and the TPC Treviso Bay in Naples play as the region's toughest bullies. They're both on gorgeous natural sites without houses to interrupt the view. They're ball-gobbling beasts that are still a treat to play. Treviso Bay, which hosted the 2009 ACE Group Classic before financial troubles hit, was designed by Hal Sutton and Arthur Hills, who earned the nickname 'the Mayor of Naples' for all his work in the area.

Bonita Bay East showcases 36 holes of Tom Fazio golf with the Sabal Course and Cypress Course. Valencia Golf & Country Club boasts a nice reputation, too.

Where to stay in Naples

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, the only beachfront hotel with a golf course on site in Naples, has undergone roughly $55 million worth of renovations since 2000. The renovation of all 317 guest rooms and suites and the addition of a new pool complex have created more comforts for guests.

Naples is the only golf destination with two Ritz-Carlton properties: The 295-room, Mediterranean-themed Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples next to Tiburon and the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort, a high-rise with 450 rooms three miles away. The beachfront property boasts a much larger pool scene and three miles of beach on the Gulf of Mexico.

The Waldorf Astoria Naples and the Edgewater Beach Hotel have undergone extensive transformations in recent years. The Waldorf, formerly known as The Registry Resort & Club from 1986-2006 and the Naples Grande Beach Resort for several more years, received a multimillion-dollar renovation during rebranding. New are the modern lobby, Strip House steakhouse, Golden Door Spa, 474 retooled guest rooms and 50 refurbished Bungalow suites.

The LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort in Naples and the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs offer golf packages as well. The Lely Resort Golf & Country Club boasts two courses and on-site vacation homes and condos.

Naples dining

If golf is the No. 1 sport in Naples, then dining out is a close second. Restaurants and bars line U.S. 41. Comparing the best restaurants is like comparing the best golf courses: Everybody has a different opinion.

You might be pointed toward Bonefish Grill or Pincher's Crab Shack for seafood. Chops City Grille and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse compete for top steakhouse honors at Coconut Point in Estero (Chops has another location in downtown Naples, as does Bonefish).

Seasons 52 in North Naples serves wonderfully fresh healthy meals, bookended by treats: flatbread pizzas as appetizers and mini-deserts in large shot glasses after the main course. A handful of independent establishments have banded together to form Naples Originals, a marketing alliance filled with great places throughout the area.

Naples off course

There's a whole new game in town, just north of Estero. Featuring a replica of the famous Green Monster, the JetBlue Park at Fenway in Fort Myers began hosting the Boston Red Sox for spring training this season.

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico that lap the sandy shores along Naples are perfect for swimming, fishing and boating. Naples is less than two hours from the heart of the Everglades National Park, where swamp boat rides and alligator tours rule.

Families can try the Naples Zoo, a community staple since 1919, or a round of miniature golf. Professional spenders gravitate to shopping districts like Fifth Avenue and the Gallery Row in downtown Naples, nearby Tin City or Coconut Point, a massive outdoor center in Estero.

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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”