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.
use you "back browser" to return to About
Sanibel. Thank you.
by William Ernest Waites
Anytime is tee time in Lee County
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
-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
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.
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
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.”
The Lee Island Coast Visitor & Convention Bureau lists the following
public and semi-private golf 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
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
Ernest Waites is a freelance writer from Ft. Myers.