This is an article I wrote a few years ago about golf on and around Sanibel. It is reproduced here, with my 2011 updates, from Times of the Islands Magazine, with their permission.

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Golf Galore
by William Ernest Waites

Anytime is tee time in Lee County

It’s been said that Southwest Florida has more golf courses per capita than anywhere in the world. Tough as that is to verify, it’s made even more difficult by the phenomenal growth of the area, with two of the nation’s fastest growing counties. Lee County, for example, has seen 31.5 percent growth since 1990 according to the 2000 census. People come for the sun, the water, the beach—and the golf.
For year-round and seasonal residents, there are dozens of country club communities built around golf courses. Typical of the most posh and plushest is the Bonita Bay Club. This private community in Bonita Springs offers members and their guests five 18-hole courses. Membership is restricted to residents of the prestigious community. The developers of Bonita Bay now are developing another community in The Brooks, again with multiple courses, and homes ranging from $500,000 to $5 million.
Those of more modest means or who are operating on tourist time also have ample opportunities to smack the dimpled orb. The Lee County area boasts 47 public and semi-private golf courses ranging from championship par-72 layouts such as Gulf Harbour Yacht & Country Club to executive courses including Bay Beach Golf Club. Those arriving by plane see first-hand evidence of this cornucopia of courses. WCI's 18-hole Gateway Golf & Country Club course, which practically abuts the airport, can be seen from the airplane window. Designed by the legendary Tom Fazio and bearing a four-star rating from Golf Digest, it is as enticing from the air as it is formidable on the ground.
Driving west on Daniels Parkway, people pass one entrance sign after another inviting them to buy homes in the community or play there. Courses range from the friendly Cross Creek Country Club, an executive course open to the public, to the tony Fiddlesticks Country Club, where château-like homes overlook 36 of the area's best-tended greens and fairways. You must be a member or guest to play.
Heading south on Interstate 75, one encounters more new and future golf course communities. One of the newest, sitting on the southern boundary of Florida Gulf Coast University, is Grandézza (formerly known as Grande Oak). This 18-hole course and surrounding community is being developed by Hardy Development Group, which also has two excellent private courses just a little south of Lee County. The Grandézza course was designed by Darwin Sharp III with an eye toward providing a course that is both challenging for the scratch golfer and fun for the high-handicapper. Membership is open primarily to residents, but while the community is in development, nonresidents are welcome.
One of the most attractive and playable courses in the area is the city-owned and
-operated course in Cape Coral, Coral Oaks Golf Club, which sits among some of the oldest oaks in the area. These stately trees shelter well-kept greens of Eagle turf and well-watered fairways for 18 strenuous holes designed by Arthur Hills. Those who live in Cape Coral receive a discount on play at Coral Oaks, but the course is open to the public year-round at very attractive rates. Incidentally, Coral Oaks is one of several courses that rent clubs through their pro shops, so even if you don’t take clubs with you, you can play.
Another municipal course is operated by the City of Ft. Myers at the Ft. Myers Country Club, one of the first golf courses in the area. Jack Johnson, who lives with his wife, Linda, in a South town & River, reminisces about the days in Lee County when he was a boy. "“I remember when there were only two courses in the entire county - Ft. Myers Country Club and the nine-hole course at South Seas Resort on Captiva. They seemed to meet the need. Nowadays, even with all the new courses and golf communities, you have to scramble during season to get on the tee before dusk,"” he says with a smile.
The Johnsons play year round at Cypress Lake and always look forward to the off-season, when a sizable percentage of the population heads north, making it easier to get a tee time.
The course at Ft. Myers Country Club, which was designed by Donald Ross, has a sister course on the east side of town called Eastwood. Some regular players say the Eastwood Country Club course, designed by Robert VonHagge, is one of the most engaging clubs in this area. It plays longer and wetter than Ft. Myers Country Club. As city-run facilities, both are open to the public at very reasonable greens fees. Numerous other semi-private courses are sprinkled north of Ft. Myers such as the 18-hole Heron's Glen Country Club and the Burnt Store Marina & Country Club.
Pine Island has Alden Pines Golf Club. At just under 5,000 yards from the men's tees, it's a short, but ruggedly natural, par-71 course that is characterized by its remoteness. Of course, the more famous island in the county also offers golf, but on a limited scale. Sanibel has two public-private courses and one extremely private golf enclave. The latter, The Sanctuary, can be played only at the specific invitation of a member. If you know Sanctuary residents, work on them for that invitation. It is a beautiful, natural, island course with great views throughout.

Of the two courses available to the public on Sanibel, The Dunes is the older, more challenging one. This is a course defined by water, with half the total acreage devoted to lakes. The narrow, serpentine No. 10 fairway must be reached over water. Seeing it from the elevated 10th tee in front of the clubhouse is a harbinger of the golf that awaits you throughout the 18-hole, par-70 course. This is a course filled with island ambiance, ample wildlife, and is a delight to play—notwithstanding the requisite investment in extra balls to complete 18 holes.

The other public course on Sanibel is at Beachview Country Club. It was a nine-hole course until 1990, when nine more holes were added. Despite its name, it does not have a view of the beach, although there’s plenty of water from the Sanibel River and sufficient sand traps to make you wonder. Because it is a little less known, it may be easier to get onto in season. Off-season, you should have no trouble getting tee times at either course.
Ft. Myers Beach on Estero Island also has an 18-hole course, Bay Beach Golf Club, at its southern end. It is a par-61 executive course and a well-kept secret.

Shell Point Village, a self-contained retirement community just east of the Sanibel Causeway on SMcGregor Boulevard, has an 18-hole course. Mike Mongovon, director of golf, says it always will be open to the public. This could be part of a marketing promotion to introduce the community to retirees who could be prospective new residents. But that's as good an excuse to play as any.

Excellent golf opportunities can be found out east, as well, such as the aforementioned Gateway course. This is an excellently maintained course used primarily by the residents of Gateway who are members. During the summer months, it also opens up to non-member play. With the investment the community has in the course, you can be sure it will be well-kept.

Also in the eastern part of the county, Westminster Golf Club provides an enjoyable golfing experience. This 18-hole course was built from the ground up on land that was open but wooded. The result is a course that makes few compromises with the terrain and has straightforward play.
The Bonita Springs area also boasts the Bonita Springs Golf & Country Club, Hunters Ridge, Spanish Wells, and the executive-length Bonita Fairways and Country Creek Club.

Richard and Loretta Pinkett, Ohio residents who spend winters in Bonita Springs, rave about the golf options they have. "It is great to be putting on a lovely green carpet here while our friends up north are sitting in front of the fireplace cleaning clubs and knitting head covers," jokes Dick. "I am relatively new to the game," Loretta adds, "so I appreciate the opportunity to play with so many courses around. There seems to be something for everyone, regardless of skill level."

This is only a sampler of the great golf that awaits residents and visitors in Southwest Florida. With some four dozen public and semi-private courses and more coming, there are plenty of places to get your fill of golf under the Lee County sun. If you’re still eager to play after the sun goes down, Summerlin Ridge Golf Course, just off Summerlin Road at Pine Ridge Road, offers executive golf under the lights. With four par-4s and 14 par-3s, it's a chance to brush up your short game while the competition sleeps.
Some people say the area's main attractions are the gulf waters and sands. Golfers say you can find all that on one of the splendid, emerald-colored courses they call “the real golf.”

Where to go
The Lee Island Coast Visitor & Convention Bureau lists the following public and semi-private golf courses:

Championship Courses

Alden Pines Country Club, 239/283-2179
Beachview Golf Course, 239/472-2626
Bonita Springs Golf & Country Club, 239/992-2800
Burnt Store Marina & Country Club, 239/637-1577
The Colony, 239498-5528
Coral Oaks Golf Course, 239/573-3100
The Dunes, 239/472-2535
Eagle Ridge Country Club, 239/768-1888
Eastwood Country Club, 239/275-4848
Ft. Myers Country Club, 239/936-2457
Gateway Country Club, 239/561-1010
Golfview Golf & Racquet Club, 239/489-2264
Gulf Harbour Yacht & Country Club, 239/433-4211
Heritage Palms Golf & Country Club, 239/278-9090
Herons Glen Country Club, 239/731-4520
Highland Woods, 239/498-0553
Hunters Ridge Country Club, 239/947-6467
Lake Fairways Country Club, 239/731-5220
Legends Golf & Country Club, 239/561-7757
Lexington Country Club, 239/437-1442
Lochmoor Country Club, 239/995-0501
Olde Hickory Golf & Country Club, 239/768-3335
Pelican's Nest Country Club, 239/947-4600
Pelican Sound Golf & River Club, 239/498-9979
Royal Tee Country Club, 239/283-5522
San Carlos Golf Club, 239/267-3131
Shell Point Golf Club, 239/433-9790
South Seas Plantation Golf Course, 239/472-5111
Spring Run Golf Club, 239/949-0707
Stoneybrook Golf Club, 239/948-3933
Westminster Country Club, 239/368-1110

Executive Courses
Bay Beach Golf Club, 239/463-2064
Bonita Fairways, 239/947-9100
Cape Coral Executive Golf Club, 239/574-4454
Country Creek Country Club, 239/947-3840
Del Tura Country Club, 239/731-7814
El Rio Golf Club, 239/995-2204
Hideaway Country Club, 239/275-5581
The Landings Yacht, Golf & Tennis Club, 239/482-0242
Pine Lakes Country Club, 239/731-5822
Riverbend Golf Course, 239/543-2200
Sabal Springs Golf Club, 239/731-0101
Summerlin Ridge Golf Club, 239/432-0000

William Ernest Waites is a freelance writer from Ft. Myers.