Ninety-three. That’s the number of golf courses in Naples, Marco Island and Collier County, home of Florida’s Paradise Coast. In fact, the county has more golf courses per capita than any other in the nation. Because of the high demand for good quality golf, no matter where you choose to play or live, the golf club management companies and developers continue to upgrade and deliver an outstanding selection of excellent tracks and service.
Paradise Coast visitors, especially those staying in one of the many fine resorts, have access to courses affiliated with their hotel—plus others made available through cooperative agreements between properties. The golf-obsessed vacationer can cover a lot of fairways and greens, plus some roughs and bunkers as well, with very little driving distance in between.
For those players staying in places other than the course-affiliated resorts, the Paradise Coast has a good selection of public access courses. Plus–from May to October many private “members only” facilities welcome outside play from the general public with reduced green fees.
No matter how you get here, plane, train, or automobile, your best bet is a stay and play at one of the many fine golf resorts with great ‘out of season’ golf packages.
“Your best bet is to fly in, stay at a resort and play at a private facility with great golf deals,” says Anthony Schmid, Director of Golf for the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, with two championship courses– Rookery and Hammock Bay. “Our courses get a lot of avid golf groups that belong to private country clubs up north. When the cold returns and the snow starts falling they want to be down here.”
Northerners, especially first-time visitors, will enjoy premium courses that reflect the native Florida terrain with creative designs, ample challenges and superior service. Soft green turf from the Florida Bermuda grass allows for smooth fast greens, balls easy to play from the manicured fairways and courses that are kept in immaculate shape.
As golf has grown on the Paradise Coast, a sport that was once concentrated during the winter “high season” has become a year-round visitor activity. Schmid says, “Hammock Bay, for instance, will accommodate around 200 rounds a day during the tourism season and 120 or so during Summer and Fall.
September and October are really good times to come if playing a whole lot of golf is what’s on your mind.”
Each season has different characteristics. “In the summer months, we see a lot of families enjoying the Paradise Coast,” says John Chapman, Director of Golf at the Rees Jones designed Naples Grande Golf Club, part of the Naples Grande Beach Resort. “Maybe mom and the children will go to the beach while dad plays a round, and then the family meets up for lunch. During the holidays, we have a lot of kids taking lessons from our teaching pros or at the Durland Golf School at the Golf Club. The peak season is our busiest with resort visitors and golf parties, and we get a lot of corporate groups playing rallies and the like.”
Another golf front ‘stay and play’ hotel is the hidden gem just north of downtown, La Playa Beach & Golf Resort, that prides itself on fine dining, luxurious accommodations and a remarkable golf course a few miles away, redesigned by Bob Cupp from one of the oldest Naples golf courses from the ’50s. This boutique resort is my personal favorite because of its intimacy, location on the Gulf of Mexico, and extraordinary staff.
If you are looking for that personal touch with everything you need a couple of steps away, La Playa is the place.
Regardless of your golf desires, you can absolutely get your golf fix in Florida’s Paradise Coast.