Golf Trip Dispatch: Modern gems and a venerable classic in southwest Florida's Lee County

By Brandon TuckerJanuary 17, 2013, 7:16 pm

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. – With a championship tee slope/rating of 77.6/153, Jack Nicklaus-designed Old Corkscrew Golf Club may be the toughest course I've played in Florida. 

But after navigating 36 holes here on a sunny, balmy day in early January, all I could think about was that Old Corkscrew may be the quietest play I've ever experienced in the Sunshine State. 

Located in Lee County between Naples and Fort Myers, Old Corkscrew highlights a part of the state with bountiful, natural appeal. Stay south of the county's largest cities, Cape Coral and Fort Myers, and development is vastly reduced, while nature preserves and green corridors, not to mention a wealth of golf courses, abound. 

Old Corkscrew is set beside a 16,000-acre nature preserve, void of any surrounding residential or commercial buildings. No matter what set of tees you play, you'll be taking on a sophisticated set of Nicklaus-designed greens that yield plenty of tough pin positions that dangle over water hazards and deep bunkers. It's so quiet out here, the splunk of a wet golf ball seems to echo throughout the entire 275-acre property.

Closer toward the gulf coast, the top public-access rival in the neighborhood is in Bonita Springs at Raptor Bay Golf Club. Within a whiff of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve and steps from the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort, gulf breezes and birdlife soar overhead. Opened in 2001 and designed by Ray Floyd, most greens are raised and multi-tiered - and fast. But most unique element to the design is there are zero traditional bunkers, only larger, waste areas that swarm green surrounds. 

Fort Myers Country Club

Across the street from Raptor Bay is The Colony Country Club, which offers a more traditional Florida-style design but with wall-to-wall paspalum turf that's a joy to hit off. But as swanky as the new clubs in southwest Florida are, a taste of the old school can be found in the heart of Fort Myers at Fort Myers Country Club. Minutes from the historic Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Estates, this Donald Ross-designed classic was a haven for the elite in its heyday. Today, it's a city-operated course that attracts 200-plus golfers daily.

Despite the fact there are countless championship-caliber clubs in the immediate vicinity, it's still home to one of the area's more prestigious events, the Coors Light Open, which will host the 51st staging this spring. Featuring a field of top area amateurs and pros, the near-100 year old course still shows its teeth, thanks largely to small, crowned greens. Such winners of this city institution include Dana Quigley and Lee Janzen. 


View tee times around Fort Myers and Naples


After golf sporting events: Boston Red Sox spring training and the Florida Everblades

JetBlue Park

Southwest Florida's peak golf season coincides with baseball spring training. In Fort Myers, the Boston Red Sox have a brand new home, JetBlue Park at Fenway South. It's one of the MLB's largest spring ballparks, seating up to 11,000 fans and even has its own 'Green Monster' in left field.

If you're not in town during spring training but still want live sports, Ft. Myers added a new ECHL hockey team, the Florida Everblades, that has a strong local following. Or, for gambling, you can head to the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Racing and Poker in Bonita Springs.

Stay and play in Bonita Springs: Hyatt Regency Coconut Point

Hyatt Coconut Point

Golf is so close to the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point you can see it from your guest room, not to mention gorgeous views of Estero Bay beyond the fairways. Guests at the 451-room resort receive preferred rates at Raptor Bay, as well as limited access to private Colony Golf & Country Club. Among resort grounds are a large pool, multiple restaurants, spa and 24-hour fitness center. Guests can also take out complimentary bicycles and kayaks or even boat rentals for exploration. 

For something more affordable and closer to the airport, the Holiday Inn Express is a relatively new property with spacious guest rooms full of modern furnishings, plus a bar with daily happy hour. It's also across the street from the Gulf Coast Town Center, which has a collection of restaurants and bars. 

Good eats

In an area where most clubs and resorts are on the fancier side, a real good dive restaurant can be found at the Fish House, which has both indoor and outdoor seating beside a canal, plus a market open during the day if you want to cook your own. The menu has such staples as Lobster tacos or oysters and grouper prepared in a variety of ways. Or, the Fish House will also cook the fish you catch out on the waters should you have a good haul.

For a more elaborate, multi-course meal, make a night out of a dinner at Angelina's Ristorante. The floor-to-ceiling wine tower dominates the center of the restaurant, which warns diners they may need a few minutes to select the perfect bottle or two for the table.

Getting to Lee County

Lee County and Bonita Springs is serviced by Southwest Florida International Airport in Ft. Myers, a large domestic airport that serves most east coast and midwestern domestic hubs as well as Toronto on WestJet.

More travel information to Fort Myers and Sanibel Island can be found at FortMyers-Sanibel.com.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”