Situated between Fort Myers and Naples on the west coast of Florida, the residential development at Bonita Bay delivers big time for those who prefer a little golfing variety as there are no fewer than five 18-hole layouts to choose from here.
The two Tom Fazio-designed courses of Cypress and Sabal are served by the East Clubhouse and they are located on a 1400-acre nature preserve where many of the fairways are framed by stands of native cypress, pine and sabal palm trees.
Arthur Hills, another renowned golf architect, has constructed dozens of courses in the Sunshine State of Florida over the years and the West clubhouse serves three of his designs.
The Marsh was the first of Hills’ Bonita Bay creations to be built in 1985 and fairways weave their way – as the course name might suggest – through a wetland landscape that’s so typical of southwest Florida.
The Creekside course arrived on the scene in 1989 and this course plays anything from 5,756 to 6,742 yards, depending on the tees selected. Sympathetic mounding and small man-made hills around green sites help to protest par at many of the holes.
The Bay Island course was last to open in 1994 and it’s considered to be the toughest of the Arthur Hills trio here. Water hazards, sand traps and stands of oak and cypress trees present a serious golfing challenge over much of its 7,045–yard length.
Dogleg holes are often more interesting than straight ones. The strategic decision of how close to come to the hazard(s) at the corner makes for great fun and an opportunity to make a lower score. Fully half the holes at Bay Island are doglegs. Unfortunately, every one of them is of the dogleg left variety. This may help keep a right-handed slicer out of the course’s ubiquitous water, but it makes for boring golf. The paucity of variety continued on the par 3 holes. They were all within 12 yards of the same length and I hit the same club on each one. And all but one featured a forced carry to the green. (This was not so on most of the par 4s.) A few greens have interesting contours, though the short par 4 13th has an overdone version.
Conditioning was superb in February 2021, with fairways playing firm and fast and greens running 11.5 on my stimpmeter. But I still found the club’s Sabal course preferable.
Course was recently renovated with new draining and bunkers before I played it. Having played a lot of the top courses in Florida, the conditioning here was top notch. It isn't in the same league as nearby Calusa Pines (not many are) but there are some really challenging and fun holes at this course. The stand out holes were #3 (par 3), #8(par 4) and #9(par 5).
The fact that this private course has access to 5 different courses is pretty special and I am looking forward to playing the 2 x Tom Fazio courses at Bonita Bay Club East (Sable and Cypress)