The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, one of the true crown jewels of Florida Gulf Coast hospitality, now has a golf course that measures up to the rest of the AAA Four Diamond beachfront resort.
The $9 million complete redo of the 100-acre golf course site was recently opened to universal acclaim. Noted golf course architect John Sanford of Jupiter, Fla., with a great deal of input from golf great Jack Nicklaus, designed a completely new layout on the site of the 1927 course that had become obsolete over the many years.
“Honestly , it was old , tired and not well maintained,” recalled Sanford. “It was overly vegetated and had poor drainage like most of the classic old course issues.”
General manager Jason Parsons, who has overseen the entire resort operation for seven years, knew something had to be done.
“We were getting guest feedback telling us the resort was great but we don’t want to play your golf course,” he recalled. “We knew it was time to do something. We had been putting band aids on it for the last three years.”
The reaction from hotel guests has taken a 180-degree turn according to Parsons. Now we have golfers coming in and saying,
‘Wow the golf course is fantastic. It has now gone right to the top of the list as far as highlights.”
Although Sanford did most of the heavy lifting on the redesign and construction management, Nicklaus had a lot to say and had a special and sentimental reason for being involved in the golf course at Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club.
Nicklaus’ family used to winter vacation from Ohio at the resort and as a child Nicklaus first broke 40 at NBHGC. It actually meant so much to him he kept the scorecard and has it displayed at his museum at Muirfield Village in Ohio.
Nicklaus would make periodic visits to check up the progress of the construction by jumping in his private jet, Air Bear, to make the 19-minute flight from Palm Beach to Naples. In a departure from his usual design philosophy of designing difficult courses, Nicklaus actually had Sanford tone it down here and there.
“Being back at The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club is like a walk down memory lane for me,” Nicklaus said. “Returning to the same course where I broke 40, with my father by my side, brings back a lot of very special and very fond memories. At the same time, I am enjoying the opportunity to work with John (Sanford) on this rebirth, if you will, of a wonderful layout.”
“We are very proud and excited about the opening of our dramatically renovated and redesigned championship golf course,” said Parsons. “The redesign is a unique collaboration between the greatest player of all time Jack Nicklaus, who also is one of the world’s most distinguished and celebrated golf course designers, and the very talented John Sanford. It really has been a pleasure to see them collaborate on this new, par-71 course, which features five tees, ranging from 4,800 yards to over 6,900 yards.”
Designing a resort golf course that will accommodate the more casual resort guest yet be a challenge for the better player is a bit trick for an architect.
“The course has been redesigned to challenge the best players but also be enjoyable for all golfers,” Sanford said. “The redesign takes advantage of the sandy soils so the course will play ‘firm and fast.’ The ball will roll out so tee shots will be longer and approaches are open to accept running shots to the greens. The greens are gently contoured to allow for multiple hole locations but have continuous movement that will challenge all skill levels. Many of the large trees were cleared to ‘open up’ the course and various types of palm trees have been planted to extend the beachfront character of the resort.”
Rich in hospitality and tradition, The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club has been part of the Naples community since 1946.
Owned and operated by the Watkins family for three generations, the resort also features: 1,000 feet of soft white-sand beach; the world-class spa; the fitness center; the Mary C. Watkins Tennis Center with six Har-Tru courts; Beach Kids Club, a complimentary daily recreational program for children ages 5 to 12; retail shops; beach rentals; 34,000-square feet of meeting space; and, a variety of picturesque outdoor venues for receptions and events.
In addition, the resort features multiple restaurants and lounges. The selection includes: the signature beachfront restaurant HB’s on the Gulf; Broadwell’s, serving breakfast daily and providing panoramic views of the golf course; and the Seminole Store, which serves deli sandwiches, ice cream, gourmet coffees and desserts.
Its Sunset Beach Bar & Grill has been recognized as the “Best Place to View a Southwest Florida Sunset,” and was named “Naples’ Best Beach Bar” by Travel Channel.
Guest rooms and suites feature cool tropical-colored linens, fabrics and carpeting; flat-panel televisions; patios or balconies (with a view of the Gulf, the golf course or the lush resort interior); coffee makers; and refrigerators.
Situated just blocks from Naples’ renowned shopping districts of fashionable 5th Avenue South and historic 3rd Street South, the resort is also within minutes of shopping at Venetian Village, Waterside Shops, Bayfront and Tin City.