Fringed by southern pines and palm trees, the emerald green fairways of the Tom Fazio-designed layout at Coral Creek Club weave through a beautiful 211-acre estate, which is set at the highest point in Charlotte County with no homes surrounding the course. Situated close to the island of Boca Grande on the Gulf of Mexico, the property lies next to the enormous Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park.
First opened for play in 2000, Coral Creek's course offers a solid test of golf, even allowing for the largely generous width of the fairways, which allow a degree or two of latitude off the tee when the ocean breezes blow, as they frequently do.
The toughest hole on the scorecard is also the longest hole. The 630-yard par five 5th begins with a tee shot to one of the narrowest fairways, flanked on the right by wetlands and bunkers left. This hole favors the bigger hitter who can drive past the wetland to take advantage of a wider fairway beyond. The second shot must avoid a lake running up the right side, leaving an approach to a large false-fronted and strongly contoured green.
All except one of the back nine holes involve water as a hazard and the round climaxes in a great three-hole finish where an offset drive across a lake is required at the 16th, wetlands need to be carried at the 212-yard 17th and the longest par four on the card has to be negotiated at the 471-yard 18th.
A complete renovation by Fazio Design commenced in
the summer of 2020 involving new tees, new bunkers (converted to Capillary Concrete)
and new TifEagle greens. The revised Coral Creek layout reopened
in Ocober 2020.
Coral Creek Club has a fine golf course so it is difficult to understand why it changed hands three times in its short existence since its opening in 2000. Perhaps it is because it is located near a less populated area of Florida, although that could change quickly due to the migration to the state and the nearby desirable attractions. The club sits close to the Gasperilla Inn with its own fine course designed by Pete Dye. Next to the club is a local airport that can accommodate larger private jets. It is close to the beach. Finally, the club has excellent on-site accommodations in the form of several cottages with at least four bedrooms each. The clubhouse and pro shops are lovely. On the day I visited (April 17, 2021) it appeared to be doing pretty well, although not as crowded as some other private clubs.
As to the course, designed by Tom Fazio, with recent work done by his son to refresh some of the bunkers and greens, it is a very walkable and playable course. It is a course that should not beat you up despite having eight ponds on the course. Yet the ponds and several wetlands do not feel like they are often in play due to the wide fairways that offer ample room away from the water. In addition, most of the greens are not placed right against the water.
The reason the course stresses playability is also the reason I would critique the course. The routing places the majority of the of the water hazards to the golfer’s left. On the one hand I give Mr. Fazio credit for his incorporation of water that often feels like it should be a danger, but more often is not. One should be able to swing freely here. This is because most players either hit it straight or slightly fade a ball. Yet this weakens the course because the water is on one’s left eleven times versus only three times on the right. This creates less defense to the course and therefore less strategy while enhancing the playability factor. I played well because of the routing although it was ironic that I found the water on two of the easier holes by hooking a ball left despite perhaps the widest fairways.
This does not look or feel like a design by Tom Fazio. It is more muted and if one did not know the designer, one would not likely choose Mr. Fazio. Perhaps that is due to the flat land, with the man-made thirteenth tee at perhaps 20 feet being the highest point on the course. Mr. Fazio might have been given guidance to make this a player-friendly course. As such, it is a rare hole where any strategy or decision is dictated off the tee. The bunkering is not as evident or pronounced/penal as on his other courses. There are a few raised greens, more so on the back nine, but not as many as one might come to expect.
The surfaces of the greens are good, with several of them having very good movement. The greens are usually the appropriate size for the length of the hole, although a few greens were too generous. Several of the greens have good internal movement. On the larger greens there are sizeable areas of “flattish” sections which allows one a makeable putt for a recovery shot that can get within 12 feet.
The club has recently added some new back tees for the longer players. While I do not have the length to play from those tees, I did look at them and they definitely enhance the challenge of the golf course. As such, the actual new length of the back tees is likely another 150 yards or more.
The Medal tees are 6961 yards, par 71, rated 75.1 and 145 slope. I was surprised at this as I thought the course was a bit lower. We did not have a high breeze on the day we played so that could account for the discrepancy. We played the Blue tees are 6537 yards, rated 73.1/138 and again I felt them to be a bit high. There are four sets of lesser tees ending at 4641 yards. Our scorecard yardages differed from the club’s website which indicates the course is slightly longer and has different ratings slightly lower. As such, I will reference the scorecard yardages.
1. Par 4 – 389/354. This hole is the very definition of a gentle handshake beginning with a very generous fairway with a lot of room down the left side. There is a bunker on the right that did catch one of our players. The bunker a bit further down the left is also in play but one does not need to hit a big shot here. The green has a front right corner bunker. We had a right center pin behind the bunker and my lofted shot hit the front of the green and scurried over the back due to a wind behind us as well as the firm green. There is a small dip behind the green. The green is essentially flat and I was able to roll in a 12 feet putt to save par.
2. Par 3 – 171/167. From a sand dune you look down at a green on a peninsula but it’s a fairly wide green with long bunkers on both the left and right with the left side pinching in a bit. I suspect the more difficult pin position is at the back left of the green which might bring the water into play behind it. I landed just on and three putted on this flat green.
3. Par 3 – 530/492. One hits to a generous fairway over some waste bunkers. A pond creeps in from the left but angles away from the tee shot. There is a thin but long bunker on the left with a tree. A second pond also comes in from the left continuing to the left front of the green. Two flanking bunkers sit about 120 yards from the green with a final bunker on the right side of the green. A well placed second shot is between these two bunkers. The green is set above the land about six feet with a fall-off towards the water on the left. It is an okay hole that should represent a good chance for birdie or par if one does not hit into the water left.
4. Par 4 – 447/441. This appears to be a long, straight hole with another generous fairway yet given the location of the green, the right side is preferred as the left side can lead to a semi-blind or blocked green. A long waste bunker on the right is in play off the tee which then transforms into trees and pine straw. The left side has a long waste area that disguises the cart path. The right side of the fairway is also preferred because the longer hitter can find a ridge line leading to a favorable roll-out. There is a front left bunker and a right side bunker at a green that has a section of shelves mainly on the left side set about four feet higher than the fairway. It is a nice hole.
5. Par 5 – 600/563. This long hole has out-of-bounds on the right due to what looked to be a hiking/running/biking trail on the right followed by thick trees. There are also thick trees down the right side but the right side angles away creating a wider fairway. Two bunkers are on the left and a large one on the right for the longer hitters. Two more fairway bunkers follow that first one on the right that pinch the fairway but do not seem to be in play. I wondered why they were placed there other than to serve as a guide point to play out to the left because following the third bunker are low trees and a long body of wetlands/pond on the right going beyond the green. It is as if Mr. Fazio is trying to help the player. The fairway rolls a bit but never dramatically as you near the green. There are two small bunkers on the left about 10 yards short of the green and a large one on the front right corner. The green has a man-made hill off the right side about seven feet high. The green has a defined higher plateau in the second half peaking on the back left corner. This green has a lot of internal movement. I liked the hole although I kept wondering about the “assist” by Mr. Fazio.
6. Par 3 – 220/204. We had wind in our face on this hole so our caddies estimated the shot to a back left pin to be playing 225 from our tees. You hit through an opening of taller trees on the left and smaller trees and wetlands/pond on the right that go along the right side of the green. The wetlands is very much in play as two of us found it. The left side has four staggered waste areas but stopping about 35 yards short of the green. The green is angled to the right with a long right side bunker. The green has a definite horizontal ridge about two-thirds through it of about four feet in height creating a difficult putt from the lower section to the upper tier. But if one is on the upper tier they will have a putt that is manageable although my putt from the side at 15 feet curled about a feet towards the lower tier. It is one of the more interesting greens on the course.
7. Par 4 – 367/341. This is my favorite holes on the course as you walk over the entry round to the tee. The hole plays over a pond requiring a tee shot of about 190 yards to clear the water. There are scattered trees down the right side. The hole is a dogleg left with two bunkers placed slightly inside the fairway on the inner corner, the first one long and the second one tiny. The green is wide but thin and very well defended with two center bunkers beginning about twenty yards short of the green and then two large bunkers placed on the back corners to serve as protection for balls going long because another pond is right behind the green. It takes a precise shot to hold the green given its thinness. I liked the hole because it demanded two good shots to both find the fairway and hold the green. It’s not often a short par 4 such as this has a #3 index.
8. Par 4 – 367/341. This straight hole has a forced carry of about 180 yards to a wide fairway but with thick trees right and trees and out-of-bounds on the left. There is a long bunker on the left side in play off the tee with another one on the left about 125 yards from the green that did not seem to serve a purpose. At the smallish green there is a long bunker left side and a small one on the right front. The green is raised slightly back to front with a gradual decline to the front. The tee shot has to carry a pond that is longer on the right side but did not seem to be in play. What we noticed from the tee is the cart path cutting across the fairway after the pond because usually Mr. Fazio does a good job of hiding the cart path.
9. Par 4 – 414/392. This hole offers a wide fairway as it snakes its way to the green which is ultimately off to the left. The trees on the left side come back into the fairway forcing one to favor the right side, one of the few holes on the course where there is a definite preference off the tee. A bunker is placed on the inner corner of the turn. At the green there is a single bunker front right which is deeper than most on the front side as the green is pushed up about four-five feet with defined sections. A ball hit to the right of the bunker at the green will likely come back off the green. It is a nice hole.
10. Par 4 – 381/351. One of the new back tees has been placed at the rear of the putting green adding likely another 75 yards to the hole. A pond goes down the entire left side for the other tees which means that new back tee has to carry the water from 200-260 yards. Up the fairway are two flanking bunkers on both sides, with the second one on the left being 30 yards long. The green is elevated with a single bunker on the left near the water. This green is raised on all sides with fall-offs of about six feet. The green has a higher right side than left. It is another good hole and is likely a very difficult one for even the best players from that new back tee.
11. Par 4 – 427/401. This hole is a dogleg left with water down the entirety of the left side. The fairway is very generous with ample room to the right. For average length players they have a chance to stay out of the water due to a bulge in the fairway but the smart play is down the right side where one can also get a favorable roll-out. There are two bunkers placed off the left side of the green which is raised with a false front. The green has several swales, one near the front and one back left. I thought this to be the second best hole on the back nine. This hole also has a new back tee requiring a long carry over water to make it another cape hole.
12. Par 3 – 177/164. Water goes down the left side but a large bunker on the left is placed between the green and the water. The miss is to the right of the green where there is a good chance at recovery as two in our group were able to save par. The green has a diagonal spine going left to right creating two sections ending in a hump on the right side. We likely had the easier section with a front right pin that was somewhat flat although with a bit more break than it appeared.
13. Par 5 – 476/472. This hole is almost a double dogleg going right then angling back left but with a green set off to the right. This hole also does feature many of Mr. Fazio’s design traits with a lot of sand on this hole. The hole sits within three ponds but the fairway is fairly generous. There is a large bunker near the pond on the left and a long waste are bunker of perhaps 300 yards down the right side between the fairway and water. One might be tempted to hit as close to the left bunker off the tee so that there is a chance to reach the green in two but a shot down the right side where there is more room actually leaves one with a similar opportunity. The fairway rolls a bit on this hole culminating in a plateau just short of the green. There is a bunker about 25 yards short of the green on the left for the errant second shot while the right side has three bunkers set between the raised green and the pond which wraps itself around the back of the green where a final long bunker is placed to try to stop the long ball from finding the water. The green is raised with a defined false front of perhaps seven feet with a tier. The left side bulges out making a back left pin position difficult to access. The right side of the green is higher than the left. I had ample opportunity to study the hole as I hooked by tee shot left into the water, hit my recovery shot left into the water, and finished out. Where I to play the hole again given the size of the fairway I would likely hit a 5 metal and an iron followed by a wedge to the green. This is a visually attractive hole beginning with the very elevated tee, the highest point on the property.
14. Par 4 – 452/401. This hole is very similar to the tenth with water going down the entire left side until 25 yards from the green. A long bunker followed by a smaller one on the left provides a chance to stay out of the water. The fairway is very wide here so one should not take on the left side as the hole is straight. From the medal tees this is a cape hole but not from the tees we played. There is a final large bunker on the right of another raised green with has a higher right side than left. From our tees, I felt this to be a relatively uninteresting hole, but from the medal tees it is likely much better as the tee shot would need to be 220 yards to have a preferred line over the water.
15. Par 4 – 417/412. Water again goes down the entire left side stopping about 40 yards from the green. Unlike the previous hole, the fairway on the left runs out as the water and a long internal bunker cuts the fairway by half. The green is raised with a substantial false front and a deep bunker set off to the right side. This green seemed to have the most internal movement of the greens on the back side and made for the hardest putts to judge the combination of length and break. Despite the shape of the hole being similar to ten and fourteen, I liked this hole.
16. Par 4 – 429/386. Water again goes down the left side and although this fairway is a bit narrower than most on the course, there is still room to hit driver off the tee. There is a single bunker on the right. The water ends about sixty yards before the green making this a green one can play towards more confidently as it is not as raised or as difficult as many others on the course. There are flanking bunkers on each side of the green but not as deep as many on the course.
17. Par 3 – 209/203. A straightforward hole but having a glimpse of a view of Coral Creek on the right as you walk towards the green. About half of the length of the hole is wetlands. This is followed by a long waste bunker on the right that continues to the back of the green. The green is long but narrow, widening at the back. There is a substantial swale/fall-off on the right side with the green having a bowl at the front half and a hump in the middle defining two sections on the back half.
18. Par 4 – 462/442. I was surprised that this is the #8 index on the card given the length of the hole and that water is present down the entirety of the left side while the right side has out-of-bounds as well as several bunkers. The hole bends to the right as a pond/wetlands comes in from the left. To get a glimpse of the green one must be on the right side of the fairway off the tee and carry a ridge in the fairway. There is a bunker placed 25 yards short of the green on the right which I did not understand as well as one on the left side of the green. As one navigates the bend in the hole they see the attractive clubhouse come into view sitting about 80 yards behind the green. I thought it to be the best view on the course. The green is long and has also a lot of internal movement with a higher back right portion. It is a fine finishing hole and par is well earned on this hole.
As mentioned in the beginning of this review, I appreciated how Mr. Fazio made the course very playable despite the eight ponds and associated wetlands on the course. As such the course definitely favors a player whose miss is a fade. From the new back tees this course becomes a challenge and enhances the strategy and decision-making. For regular players, this is a course that is a joy to walk with several of the greens being the star of the course as well as the lovely walk approaching the eighteenth green.
The Coral Creek Club is fantastic track amid scenic surroundings. A Fazio design, it first opened in 2000. Unfortunately, it had some financial struggles and was closed briefly in 2003 but appears to have turned the corner and is doing very well. I only say that because it claims both George Bush as members and the voice over video narrative is done by Jim Nantz. Not sure how I was able to get a tee time and after submitting to a dozen questions at the security gate recognized that I had fooled them again!
The course has 6 sets of tees topping out at just over 7k yards as a par 71. The first hole is a welcoming par 4. The left side is best for your approach as there is a bunker short right. The second hole is a short par 3. My playing partner, Jimmy Davis, almost aced it as his ballmark was a quarter right of the cup. Sadly, he was so excited he rammed his birdie putt well past the hole to set up his bogey. The 3rd is another scoring oppty, a 500 yard par 5. Can be reached, however the water on the left sneaks progressively closer to the hole as the fairway narrows. The par 4 4th does not look that difficult on the tee box. Left is NG. You can still par but…. The par 5 5th is the longest hole on the course and also the number one handicap. Typically, I find that to be incongruent, but in this case, tough par 5. Off the tee you have bunkers left and swamp to the right. For the 2nd shot be cognizant of the lake on the right side. On your approach try to ignore the bunkers right and the bunkers left to a green that has a plethora of landing areas. The 200+ yard par 3 6th is a tough hole, yet it is the 15th handicap? I was told that this is the signature hole, I couldn’t get my arms around that either. Regardless, long carry over water on the right with a gaping bunker between the hazard and the green. The green slopes significantly back to front so it receives tee shots very nicely. I really liked the short par 4 dogleg left 7th .(yes I birdied) The tee shot is over a pond with bunkers on the elbow with a large tree on the right. Left is better. The par 4 8th looks tougher off the tee box than it is. Yes, you must carry the water hazard, but if you can’t hit it 150 yards you are playing the wrong tees. Cavernous bunker left, thus right is better. Even though the green is protected by bunkers left and right there is ample room to go pin seeking.
The back starts with a fun par 4. Bunkers right with water all the way down the left side with a generous landing area. You should have a short iron for your approach but be wary of the false front. The long 11th is a par 4 and the number 2 handicap. Dogleg left with water in the elbow, there is no sense trying to cut too much of the corner as there is a bunker left greenside. The par 5 13th tee is the highest elevation on the course. Personally, I felt this should be the signature hole. It is possible to reach the green in two by playing left, but you must clear all of the bunkers. Right is safer. This is an S shaped hole and depending upon conditions, one must really know yardages to pick the right landing areas. I am sure this hole plays relatively easy for those who have played it several times. We struggled. We did not have much time to catch out breath, the 14th is a tough par four dogleg left with a forced carry. You not only have to worry about the water but also the multiple bunkers staggered just past the water hazard. The 14th has a difficult to navigate green that is protected with a cavernous bunker on the right. The 15th and 16th are probably your best birdie opportunities, left off the tee is better on 15 and 16 is pretty much what you see on the tee box. The 17th is a 200+ yard par 3 and is somehow the number 14 handicap. The tee shot must carry the gunch to a devilish multi-tiered green. Hitting it is tough, but depending upon where your ball ended up, 4 putt is in play. The 18th is the longest par 4 and a hellacious finishing hole. Water left off the tee with several bunkers on the right side protecting against those trying to shorten the hole. On the approach be careful of the water hazard creeping into play on the left side not to mention the greens ide bunker left and short right. Par is outstanding, not sure why this is rated as #8
Overall, a strong course, well designed and in super shape. I would go back and even pay