This Southwest Florida town loves to boast about its fabulous golf courses. Take a peek at the top five you should play
Resort courses are known for their enticing challenges that make the course not only a test of your skills, but also fun to play. Most have the input of big name golfers-turned-designers who leave their signatures on the fairways and greens. The resort courses in Naples have all that plus the advantage of being located in one of the top golf-vacation destinations, where ever-sunny skies and year-round lush tropical foliage make the collection of manicured greens even more impressive.
Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort Naples
Greg Norman likes to call the resort’s Tiburón Golf Club home when he visits Naples. After all the Australian pro designed the course. Besides creating plenty of challenges that attracted the PGA Tour, he preserved the surrounding wetlands that sit on the northernmost tip of the Everglades, resulting in certification from Audubon International. Golfers can choose from two courses and five tees. On the Gold Course, which measures 7,288 yards from the tournament tees, the par-3 12th hole has an intimidating stacked sod wall bunker and water to the front and left of the green, creating challenging, yet fun, play. On the Black Course, which measures 7,005 yards, highlights include the par-5 18th hole, where not only a dogleg but a fairly large coquina waste area and spectacular lake run the length of the right side.
The Ritz-Carlton golf resort is clearly a golfers’ retreat, but after a good game who doesn’t love a spot by the pool or a stool at the bar where you can compare notes. And if you’re a seasonal player who hasn’t picked up a club in a long time, you just might want to book a massage at the spa. Rooms are traditional luxe with goose-down comforters, Frette bed linens and views overlooking the sprawling fairways. Although the resort is set three miles from the beach, a shuttle will whisk you to the Gulf waters when you’re ready.
Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club
A family-owned resort, the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club remains under the watchful eye of the Watkins family, which means there’s a lot of TLC. In 1946 Henry B. Watkins Sr. bought the original hotel and 9-hole golf course and today grandsons Michael and Henry Watkins run the property. What began as the first 18-hole course in Naples, set across the street from the Gulf, has been redesigned and refurbished over the decades, with the fairways last spruced up in 2011. Locals love this course, which ranks as one of Southwest Florida’s best public courses, and repeat guests, especially the ladies who like the 5,142 yards from the red tees, find it a must-play. Its holes run so close together that you might want to ditch the golf cart. Doglegs around lakes and towering palm trees make it a challenging and pretty course.
Besides golf, the resort has tennis facilities, a family pool along with an adults pool, and Naples’ only sunset bar that actually rests on the edge of the beach so you can dig your toes into the sand, drink rum and Coke and watch the sun disappear into the horizon. The rooms have a relaxed tropical vibe that you won’t find in most other Naples’ hotels. Lime green and shades of blue play up fish and sea coral patterns on throw pillows and bed linens, and wooden plantation shutters add a touch of beach-cottage style to the decor.
La Playa Beach & Golf Resort
Perfectly manicured fairways flanked by Florida’s mangroves give the course at La Playa Beach & Golf Resort a mesmerizing effect, mirroring the exquisite landscaping that surrounds the hotel. An early morning tee time almost guarantees sightings of turtles, ibis and anhingas. The Bob Cupp-designed 6,900-yard, par-72 course is surrounded by a gently sloping terrain and 14 lakes and water features. It also has a David Leadbetter Golf Academy for anyone who wants to spend the whole day in this natural setting honing their game. Just a nine-minute ride from the resort, the course welcomes morning golfers with fruit and pastries—a nice touch.
Golfers who prefer more intimate resorts book at La Playa, which was elegantly refurbished in 2010. Think crystal chandeliers and floral patterns in the lobby. Rooms boast canopied beds draped by white privacy sheers hanging to the floor and bathrooms with tub- side windows looking out on the Gulf of Mexico. Plenty of palm trees wrap the pool area, and nestled in between them are cabanas, with deep-cushioned recliners, ceiling fans and a teak dining table and chairs, where you can spend the entire day.
Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa
Just south of Naples, Marco Island is a gem of a vacation destination, often in the shadow of more popular golfing spots. But for any player looking for two great courses to challenge their skill set, the Marriott Beach Resort delivers big time. Considering that the island borders on Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, a region of the Everglades brimming with wildlife, golfers can expect to play on fairways where bird-watching can easily become a second pastime. The Rookery, which actually means bird sanctuary, is a course nestled in shallow wetlands where waterfowl thrive, and its 7,100 yards promise generous fairways and oversize greens. The course also has five tees. Its sister Hammock Course is another natural beauty; it attracts players of all levels with its greens that offer a variety of approach shot options.
The resort is spacious, so if you’re traveling with non-golfers, they will be just as happy as you are on this tropical island. There’s something happening on the resort’s 3.5-mile crescent-shaped beach any time of day, from morning power walks to daytime paddleboarding to sunset finales. You can choose a guest room in the towers with floor-to-ceiling windows and a door that leads to a balcony for magnificent Gulf views or opt to be just steps from the beach and pool with a stay in a lanai suite, a one-story unit that feels like a cottage on the water’s edge.
Naples Grande Beach Resort
The Naples Grande Golf Club at the Beach Resort was designed by Rees Jones to retain those parkland features appreciated by the more traditional golfer. It’s one of the area’s few courses that’s not in the shadows of looming residential homes and high-rises, so golfers can definitely enjoy the green space—Florida pine hammocks, live oak and grand cypress trees. Played from the back tees the course measures 7,078 yards, but isn’t as intimidating as one would expect. Navigating the waterways is a part of the design and challenge of this course. For those who want a lesson, the Durland Golf School offers instruction.
One of the nicest things about staying at the Waldorf Astoria Naples is the boardwalk hidden in the thick mangroves that skirts the property. A morning stroll to the beach, past Tarzan-like vines and giant ferns and through a shady tunnel of tangled branches, puts you in touch with Florida’s nature. The views from the top floors overlook Naples’ waterways and canals, where red-tiled roofs poke out of thick greenery and watercraft line the docks. Consider booking a room with a coastal view, not only for its panoramic vista but also for its generous size at 465 square feet. Crisp white linens and neutral tones give the décor a relaxed airy feel that’s perfect for a Florida stay.