An introduction to Naples
In southwest Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico and in Collier County, lies the city of Naples. Due to the number and quality of golf courses in Naples, some consider this the golf capital of the world.
This is a city incredibly popular for its vibrant dining scene with over 700 restaurants serving all kinds of regional influences.
Due to its location on the coast it has a tropical savanna climate with pleasant weather all year round, no wonder it is popular for golf. Aside from golf, there are gorgeous beaches and this is a hotspot for fishing and dolphin spotting.
See also: What are the best golf courses in Florida?
Of course, we can’t talk about Naples without talking about the Everglades, of which the vast wetland area is just south of the city. Any trip here is due the obligatory diversion down into this unique habitat, with hundreds of options for excursions on offer to satisfy your alligator spotting.
Within Naples itself, the city is modern and full of energy. One of the main tourist attractions is the Naples pier which was built in 1888. This beloved landmark, the symbol of Naples, is a fantastic place for a casual stroll and to admire the sunset. There is also the incredible Botanical Gardens, a huge plot containing hundreds of stunning native flora species and impressive cultivated gardens.
The area is incredibly popular for golf and there are just under one hundred 18-hole golf courses around the Naples area. A small proportion are open to the public, the best of which you can discover in my post public golf courses in Naples.
Let’s have a look at the best golf courses in Naples.
The best golf courses in Naples Florida
Naples National Golf Club
And so we kick off this list with arguably the best course in the area, the superb Naples National. Designed by the design duo of Michael Hardzan and Dana Fry, the brains behind the equally fantastic Calusa Pines we look at later, the course opened for play in 1992.
Located to the southeast of downtown Naples and a couple of minutes south of Alligator Alley, the National course is literally bordering the alligator habitat of the Everglades. So it goes without saying water is going to come into play, and on several holes this is more than just part of the scenery with carries required to reach the putting surface.
Aside from water and wetlands, the course is surrounded by cypress and pine trees with immense sandy waste-areas a feature on most holes. There is quite a juxtaposition as the scrubby run-offs contrast the immaculately pristine playing surfaces.
In fact, this is quite a prominent feature of Naples National that regardless of when you visit, expect the course to be in superb unparalleled condition. Carpet-like fairways and tee-boxes, lightening fast greens, you name it. As this is a member’s club, getting a tee time here won’t be easy.
Tiburon Golf Club (Black)
A relative newcomer to the scene within Naples, Tiburon golf club is part of the luxury 5-star Ritz-Carlton hotel onsite. There are 36 holes to enjoy with both courses designed by the legendary Greg Norman. The course which gets most recognition is the superb Black course, which opened for play in 1998.
Like so many courses in this region, water is an ever-present hazard laying ominously in wait for stray shots. So much so, water hazards come into play on pretty much every single hole. If that wasn’t enough, there are huge sandy waste areas amongst which the many natural pines are dotted.
After initially struggling to gain any recognition, that has changed and over the years. Now the Black course at Tiburon is quite rightly regarded as one of the best golf courses in Naples.
The condition is superb with barely a leaf out of place. And what is more, this is open to guests unlike many of the other private courses we tend to find.
Hole in the Wall Golf Club
This private member’s club just north of downtown Naples has been around since 1957 and over the years has had many a facelift. The original course was designed by Dick Wilson but aspects of the course have been trifled with by many architects including the great Robert Trent Jones Sr.
Elements of the club are quite unique and quirky. For example, there are no tee times, members walk up and tee off at any time they like. Likewise, the entrance to the clubhouse is literally through a ‘hole-in-the-wall’.
As for the course itself, it largely runs through an enormous expanse of wetlands which has conservation at its heart. There is ample wildlife and indigenous vegetation. It is also quite unique in as much as there is no property surrounding the fairways, a curse of many courses in Florida.
At 6,600 yards, it is not a test of length but instead a pick and place where strategy and patience is rewarded.
Hideout Golf Club
A golf course which defied the trend of the time in not selling out to be surrounded by residential property, and what a great decision it was as this is now one of the few golf courses in the region where it is just golf and nature.
Opened at the turn of the century in the year 2000, the golf course architect here was the unheralded but massively underrated Kelly Blake Moran. Given a brief to design a golf course that was accommodating to all levels of golfers, but challenging enough for lower handicaps, the team did a sterling job.
They’ve designed a championship golf course which is an absolute ball to play, with huge carries over water, greens surrounded by immaculately designed and contoured bunkers. At times there are tee boxes that literally sit surrounded on all sides by sand. Aesthetic and pleasing to the eye, it is.
The fairways are wide and not overly penal, it is the approach shot where many a scorecard is hurt.
Calusa Pines Golf Club
And so onto Calusa Pines, the highlight of the Naples golfing scene and a truly special course which opened quite recently in 2001. This course is a bomb to play, and that opinion is clearly shared by many a golf writer and golf connoisseur as Calusa Pines is not only regarded as one of the best golf courses in Florida, but one of the best courses in the United States.
This is a pretty impressive feat for a golf course which opened this side of the millennium. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry were the inspiration behind the layout here and as is true of many of their collaborations, the course here is epitomized by vast areas of sandy run-off with numerous pines interspersed throughout.
Not only is this a special course, it is also a special site. When building the course tons upon tons of rock were blasted and shifted to create huge lakes and impressive elevation changes. So many courses in Florida are flat, and this design feature is a welcome change from the norm.
The site is also defined by hundreds of oak trees, palms and pines with huge bunkers coming into play. Sadly for the average golf tourist, Calusa Pines is an intensely private club, so befriending a member is your only hope of getting on here.
Bay Colony Golf Club
Located in the Cocohatchee Strand Nature Preserve, two minutes drive from the coast, is the uber-exclusive member’s club of Bay Colony. This is a fantastic course hidden away from prying eyes.
The course opened to play in 1990 and was the creation of the prolific Robert Von Hagge, a man popular both in the States and Europe for his top-class golf courses, many of which have a reputation for being immensely challenging.
Bay Colony doesn’t necessarily fall into the same camp, but this championship course has plenty to offer in exchange. There are wide expansive and rolling fairways rubbing shoulders with hundreds of palms and plenty of water.
The greens are magnificent, as is much of the course to be fair. Ensuring the course is kept in immaculate condition is a top priority of the management and Bay Colony is without doubt one of the best conditioned courses in Florida.
Talis Park Golf Club
North of Naples right in the heart of the golf mecca, is Talis Park golf club. This superb course is designed by two of the modern game’s greatest architects, Greg Norman and Pete Dye.
The duo have created a wonderful golf course. First up is its unique use of SeaDwarf Paspalum turf, ever present throughout the 133 acres.
From the back tees the course measures over 7,000 yards and hitting the fairway is essential. Water is present on 17 of the 18 holes. Even when you do hit the carpet-like fairways, they’re dotted with pure white-sand bunkers ready to engulf mis-hit drives.
Very much a tale of two halves, the front-nine has open rolling fairways with scattered trees. Whilst the back nine has by all accounts, been molded into the image of Tuscan farmland. One thing that can be said, is regardless of which hole you’re on, try to stay dry!
Bonita Bay (Bay Island)
Bonita Bay club is a private golf and sports club. It offers to its members an array of sports, leisure and social facilities. It’s tucked up close to the coast at the epicenter of Naples and Fort Myers to the north.
There are an epic five courses onsite here served by two clubhouses. Two of these courses were designed by the legendary Tom Fazio and three by Arthur Hills. Hills is an architect who has his name against many Floridian courses.
The Bay Island course was designed by Arthur Hills and was his last creation here, opening for play in 1994. At over 7,000 yards from the back tees, this is also considered the most challenging.
There are monster sand traps, thick strands of cypress and oak trees dotted in inconvenient places. And of course, water, water and lots of water.
The Old Collier Golf Club
On the Old Collier website, the first thing you read is ‘A Golf Club, Pure and Simple’. This is an ethos that permeates everything about this private member’s club.
There are just a couple of hundred members, with probably a waiting list just as long. With so few members it won’t be a surprise to hear there are no tee times.
The club is just up the road from the other exclusive member’s club of Bay Colony. The site is simply exceptional, located right next to the Cocohatchee River. Now an environmental sanctuary, the 267 acres of land are shared with numerous native species and wildlife. This includes ospreys, foxes, eagles as well as, yep you guessed it, gators.
Tom Fazio was employed to design the course and on the elevated park-like estate he did a sterling job. Surrounded by the native oaks, this perfectly proportioned golf course benefits from cooling breezes from the Gulf of Mexico. An impeccable golf club with a simple mantra, which it upholds valiantly.
What is the best golf course in Naples Florida?
The best golf course in Naples Florida, is Naples National Golf Club to the east of the city. The course was designed by Dana Fry and Michael Hurdzan and is a private club.
Completing the top 3 best golf courses in Florida, is Calusa Pines, also designed by the Fry and Hurdzan duo. And lastly, the Black course at Tiburon golf club is simply outstanding.
How many golf courses are there in Naples Florida?
Naples in Florida, a self-appointed capital of golf, is home to approximately 90 golf courses. All of these are 18-hole courses and a third of these are open to the public.