Dick Wilson originally laid out the course for the members of the Hole In The Wall Golf Club in 1957 and it opened for play in 1958. According to folklore Gene Sarazen said: “If I only had one golf course to play, it would be Hole-in-the-Wall.”
A number of architects tinkered with the course down the years, including “The Squire” himself, Robert Trent Jones, Arthur Hills and Ron Garl, but the course was rejuvenated in 2009 by Ron Forse, an admirer and student of Dick Wilson's designs. Forse commented: “The project was drainage driven. The property was settling, while the water table was rising. Our goal was to make it drain better, but not change the character of the property.”
In November 2020, Ron Forse was interviewed in golfclubatlas.com and he mentioned his work at Hole in the Wall:
“It is one of only a handful of courses in all of southwest Florida with no houses or buildings. Pure golf in a pristine, natural setting. The entire course was reconstructed to solve some severe drainage problems. Storm water retention on site was required by the city, resulting in water feature expansion and a new, large lake. Excavation provided fill to raise the elevation of the course.
Here, we used old photos, taken from an airplane, to recapture the footprints of the putting surfaces, which had become mundane in shape and uninteresting over time. With our knowledge of Wilson’s later work at Pine Tree – the pinnacle of his art form – we implemented a more robust bunker scheme with much more character and interest than was originally built. This is another good example of ‘interpretive restoration’ where the course can remain entirely authentic yet significantly upgraded.”
Today’s thoroughly modernised Hole In The Wall has a new 8.5-acre lake, back tees have been installed to increase length (the course now measures almost 6,600 yards, extended from its previous 6,200-yard measurement) and additional bunkers have also been installed.
While still relatively short by today’s standards, the Hole In The Wall is now once again a members’ delight and fit for purpose in the modern era.
This hidden gem in Naples – Hole In The Wall – doesn’t get any attention, by design. For those who are familiar with golf in the Naples area, this club is a private sanctuary for the lucky few who migrate south for the winter. The illustrious membership enjoys a beautifully maintained playing canvas, perfectly placed water hazards and a bountiful amount of wildlife.
I had the good fortune of meeting the superintendent who is hugely devoted to the property, especially after last year’s hurricane that took down almost 200 trees.
Florida golf courses tend to be flat and carbon copies of each other – however, the shaping around the pushed up greens keep the level of interest and challenge up to a desirable level. The name of the club is a novelty, but very appropriate for this secluded Florida gem.