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Following is a hole-by-hole description of the golf course.
Hole #1—The opening hole has a visually intimidating appearance, with the mound on the right side of the fairway blocking the view of much of the fairway inside 150 yards from the green. A straight tee shot that favors the left center of the fairway is the more conservative route and provides a nice angle to attack this relatively small and undulating green. A more aggressive tee shot challenging and carrying the mound on the right will shorten your approach, but if you fail to clear the grass mound on the right side you will be left with a challenging second shot. Distance control on your approach is a must to this green, which slopes from back to front. Putting from above the hole will make for a difficult two-putt.
Hole #2—The second is a straightforward hole with a generous fairway. Anywhere in the fairway to the left of the right fairway bunker will play nicely. The second shot is to a wide but not very deep green, which is guarded by a front right bunker. Bailing out short left will leave you with a relatively basic pitch or chip shot. If you happen to go long and your ball finds the new collection area, remember that it takes a lot of skill and practice to play the Phil Mickelson flop shot. The wise play is the bump and run through the fringe, or even to putt the ball.
Hole #3—This great tee setting requires an excellent drive to a relatively narrow fairway, with water and a fairway bunker to the left and the preserve to the right. Even though the fairway bunker on the left has been softened, it is still not the place to be. Longer hitters may want to go for this green in two shots, but with the preserve bordering the entire right side of the fairway and the green set out into the preserve, the shot is all carry. The wise play is to lay up on the left center of the fairway, leaving a straightforward pitch or short iron from a good angle. From this position, be sure to choose your club wisely, as the green is more than 40 yards deep and a ball on the wrong end will leave a challenging two-putt.
Hole #4—Don’t let the length of this picturesque short hole fool you. The tee shot requires a lay-up off the tee, since there is water to the left and the preserve to the right. Your target should be the bridge to the right of the green. With the expanded tee, which has been moved slightly closer to the preserve, you should have a better view of the fairway. The iron shot to this island green will demand precision. Even though the hole is short, there is little margin for error and plenty of potential trouble.
Hole #5—With the addition of the new championship tee, all I can say is you had better swing hard and hit it solidly, because at 210 yards to a slightly elevated green it will take an exceptional shot to find the green. It was probably the most difficult par 3 on the course before the added length, but I believe it is now as good a par 3 as you will find anywhere. Three is a great score!
Hole #6—With water to the left and the preserve on the entire right side of this hole, your tee shot should be between the cluster of palms on the left and the fairway bunker on the right. The two new fairway bunkers on the left side of the fairway will more than likely get some traffic. The bunkers are shallow, enabling you to hit a long club to advance the ball down the fairway. But remember that the fairway gets pretty narrow, so caution is advised. If you do happen to hit the ball into one of the new bunkers, I recommend a slightly more conservative shot that favors the right side of the fairway. The second shot will have to deal with fairway bunkers on the left and right approximately 150 to 165 yards from the green. The approach shot is to a green guarded by a surrounding preserve and a bunker on the right. Any ball that ends up a little left of target will more than likely roll into the new collection areas. If your ball finds one of these areas, see the advice listed for hole #2.
Hole #7—This is a terrific short hole that demands a precise approach to a narrow but long green that angles from front left to back right. The green is guarded by bunkers left and a preserve short and right. In addition, the new bunker flanking the right side of the green will certainly catch its share of balls. If your ball finds the bunker, just remember that it probably would have been in the hazard prior to the renovation, so be content that you can find your ball and play it without having to take a drop. The smart line of play is to the center of this green. Any hole location to the right of center is a “sucker spot,” so don’t be tempted to aim for it. There is little room for error here. If you walk away with a par you will have a better score than many.
Hole #8—This is a hole with genuine character. It is a long par 4 with water on both sides of the entire hole and a deep fairway bunker guarding the right side of the fairway. The safest tee shot is either short or to the left of the fairway bunker, which will set up a medium to long second shot with water looming in front of and directly to the right of the green. Longer hitters may wish to challenge the fairway bunker on the right side, and if they successfully carry the bunker’s steep lip they will be rewarded with a significantly shorter approach into a very tricky green. Any approach that comes up short or lands on the right fringe is likely to find the water, so playing long and slightly to the left on your approach is the way to go.
Hole #9—This long par 4 requires a solid, accurate tee shot targeted to the right of the bunkers on the left side of the fairway. The approach shot will be played to a deep green protected by water and a bunker on the right side. The lip of the fairway bunker on the left side and closest to the fairway has been lowered slightly, so players who find themselves in this area of the bunker may have an opportunity to hit a longer club and get close to or on the green. The green is deep and narrow, so an accurate approach shot is a must. A grass bunker on the left provides options for pitching, chipping, or putting.
Hole #10—This picturesque hole requires a tee shot over a preserve to a generous fairway. The best view of the green comes from the left side of the fairway. The approach shot requires a little more distance to an elevated green protected by bunkers on both sides. Any ball that lands on the front right portion of the green is likely to funnel off the false front.
Hole #11—This straightaway par 5 requires a good drive to a generous fairway that leaves options for the second shot. It is more interesting because of the cross-fairway bunkers that traverse the entire fairway 75 yards from the green. A lay-up shot short of the bunkers is the safest play and will leave only a relatively short approach to this narrow and deep two-tiered green, which is guarded by bunkers to the left and right. The green has two distinct levels: the front upper and the back lower. It is imperative to land the ball on the right level to have any chance of sinking your putt. When the hole location is on the rear level, be careful not to land the ball on the down slope that separates the two levels, since the ball would have little chance of holding the green.
Hole #12—This expansive fairway allows a straightforward tee shot with water right and trees left. From the new championship tee you will have an intimidating look down the entire length of the lake that flanks the right side of the fairway. In order to have the best angle to the green you definitely want to favor the right side of the fairway while avoiding the newly positioned right bunker. The second shot presents a real challenge to a diagonally shaped green well guarded on the left by a mound and bunker. A shot that is a little short right of the green will give you a chance to score.
Hole #13—From an elevated tee over the preserve to a double-tiered green sloping left to right, this scenic hole is a stern test. The green is well bunkered and the bailout is short right. Beware of the rear left hole location behind the bunker, as any shot hit to the left will be in big trouble.
Hole #14—This challenging tee shot provides the opportunity for longer hitters to challenge the right hand fairway bunker and leave a short approach with the best angle, but the prudent play is to the left of the fairway bunker to the widest part of the fairway. The green is dissected by a steep bank that separates it into distinct sections. The rear left portion of the green is a small flat surface guarded by a deep bunker in front. The right two-thirds of the green has quite a bit more slope, and it is imperative to stay below the hole.
Hole #15—This par 3 requires the right club selection to a green protected by bunkers all around. Even though the green is larger than its predecessor, it is important that you hit a precise shot, because with the green’s added undulation long putts will be challenging.
Hole #16—A spectacular view awaits the player on this short but testing dogleg left, which is guarded by a preserve on the right and a lake on the entire left side of the hole. Your target is just left of the two right fairway bunkers. The farther down the fairway you hit your tee shot, the better angle you will have to play to this back-to-front sloping green. Be careful of left-side hole locations because the water looms only a few feet to the left of the putting surface. In general, an approach that favors the right center of the green will play nicely.
Hole #17—This long dogleg left is the most challenging hole on the course if not in Southwest Florida. The longest hitters may be able to carry the fairway bunkers on the left, but for most players the tee shot demands a shot targeted between bunkers on the left and the preserve on the entire right side of the hole. The approach to the green requires a carry across the preserve area that crosses the entire fairway to an elevated green. The green is narrow and wide and slopes from back left to front right.
Hole #18—Our finishing hole is a spectacular dogleg right that is guarded by water along the entire right side of the hole. A large fairway bunker off the tee will direct you left unless you are long and decide to take the more direct route to the green. This requires a long carry over water to reach the fairway on the right side of the bunker. The smart play is to the left of the fairway bunker, where your second shot should be a lay-up approximately 100 yards from the green. Be sure to have good distance control on your approach to this large elevated peninsula green. Any balls coming up short will find either a watery grave or the expanded pot bunker directly in front of the green. The back of the green is well guarded by bunkers and mounds. The final hole is an excellent test for all players and brings eagles as well as “others” into the equation.