Designed to resemble a Carolina low-country estate, Old Collier offers one of the most private clubs in Florida, with no tee times required (but perhaps some well-connected friends may be needed). While golfers will not be disturbed by the tumult of the outside world, the club was keen to ensure that its small amount of tumult (we all hit a bad shot every once in a while) remained preserved for the wide variety of wildlife living within its coastal estuary territory.
Holes no. 10, 11, 12 and 18 play along mangrove-lined coast, while many other holes weave between the native, white-sanded scrub. Tom Fazio, no stranger in this part of the nation, worked less at-risk land to create elevation change that IS a stranger in this part of the country. Teeboxes are raised to allow players to see all of the hazards ahead of them and, of course, feel a little bit better about their drives as they let them fly.
There is somewhat of a debate in southwest Florida (Naples – Fort Myers area excluding Sarasota/Bradenton and Streamsong) as to what is the second-best golf course in the area? Calusa Pines is considered the best course and for good reason. The contenders for the second-best course include: Old Collier, Naples National, Talis Park and Old Corkscrew. I have yet to play Naples National and Talis Park, but I have played Old Collier and Old Corkscrew.
Like many courses in Florida, Old Collier has a number of holes where water comes into play. I counted eight on the front nine and perhaps only two on the back nine. While I think Calusa Pines is better at not having the water influence one’s play, Old Collier is also better than most Florida courses in that there is ample room to avoid the water. However, as is somewhat typical for a Tom Fazio designed golf course, playing away from the water typically means you bring bunkers into play on the opposite side of the water. Yet the fairways are certainly wide enough that one does not have to hit a perfect tee shot down the middle on every hole. In fact, due to the number of doglegs or the positioning of the greenside bunkers, there is a fair amount of strategy on the tee as to which side of the fairway is a preferred line to the green.
Old Collier is a vastly different golf course from its longest tees at 7078 yards with eight sets of tees in total going down to 5015 yards. Members typically will play tees ranging between 5947 and 6620. It takes a long hitter to play those championship tees as I glanced behind me to look at them, but I do not think it takes a great player due to the wide fairways with the longest par 4’s are 471 and 468 while the longest par 5 is 550.
The course is in immaculate condition and the speed of the greens surprised me on both the putting green as well as the first three holes. The greens are superbly smooth and not overly undulated but there are slopes and subtle movements that one must consider. There are few false fronts or overly large ridges in the greens. One should try very hard not to be above the hole although most approach shots landing just shy of the flag will release to the back edge or even over the green. In essence, even balls coming in fairly high with a lofted iron, including wedges, have difficulty staying close to the pin. Recovery from missing the green is possible as the chipping greenside is a bit easier with confidence a ball will roll out towards the pin.
The bunkering is good here, not overly done and generally where one would anticipate a bunker. I did not find many holes where I thought a bunker was missing, or there are too many, too large, too deep, too shallow, etc. Mr. Fazio has always been very good at bunker placement and at Old Collier they are well maintained and shaped. I was only surprised once coming out of a bunker to find a bit more room between the greenside bunker and the green than I thought was necessary (the caddie did tell me there was 10 yards and I hit it 9).
The greens are of appropriate size for the club selection one is likely hitting into the green. I only found one green to be too large or too small or angled inappropriately. There is always a good chance at recovery on the golf course. That one green that I thought to be overly large is the fourteenth, a par 3 playing 177 to 151 as the left side hidden behind bunkers goes on forever.
On that hole we had a front right pin playing only 138 and I pulled my shot over those left bunkers and was surprised to be still on the green, albeit 108 feet away from the pin. I was more surprised at making the putt for a two. I only mention that because the greens are not tricked up and the lines are fairly obvious as I previously described.
In my opinion, the par 4 finishing hole is the best hole on the golf course as a dogleg right with bunkers both down the left side and right of the fairway. Those bunkers on the right are the ones to be avoided as they are very steep and getting to the green from them in two is very unlikely. The green is one of the better ones on the golf course, if not the best. It is a terrific hole to finish a round.
There are a few weak holes such as the opening hole at 317 to 354 yards with a large green and a generous fairway, yet I think that is okay for the first look at a golf course. The par 5’s are not overly stressful and one should expect to be on the green in regulation although with the greens a par is not guaranteed.
Overall from the 6620 to the 5947 tees, there are few holes that one would say is truly outstanding. Yet they are all enjoyable and well designed.
One of the more interesting holes are the short tenth, a sharp dogleg left ranging from 266 to 300 yards where even a mid-length hitter can attempt to drive straight at the green. The safer shot is to play right of the bunkers leaving a short iron into a green that is receptive from that angle.
The third hole, a par 3 requiring a carry over water with the pond left of the green is a very good hole from the back tee at 216 yards but the challenge is significantly lessened from the 161 tee.
The twelfth is a slight dogleg par 4 of 346 to 407 where the better shot has to challenge the bunkers on the left side of the fairway while the safe shot on the right side leaves an awkward approach that could either be blocked by trees or face a carry over one of the more difficult greenside bunkers on the right.
The thirteenth is another hole that is much better from the championship tee at 437 yards versus the member tees of either 346 to 374. This hole has one of the more interesting greens. The forward tee could result in a longer hitter ending up in a waste area that dissects the fairway.
For me the second-best hole on the golf course is the sixteenth, a par 4 dogleg left of 376 to 434 yards that also has a waste area approximately 25 yards short of the green. The tee shot is slightly uphill, possibly the highest point on the golf course which is mainly flat.
In summary, if one is offered a game at Old Collier you should accept. The round of golf will have moments of real challenge, particularly on or near the greens. It is a layout that moves in all directions with the ninth and eighteenth ending right at the clubhouse. The members have excellent facilities, service, conditions, driving range and short game area. But as good as Old Collier is in those areas, the golf course exceeds it as a fun and enjoyable round of golf. I think it is only possible to have a good day at Old Collier, no matter one’s score, such is the quality of the golf course and the “pleasant/welcoming” environment of the club. It certainly deserves to be considered as one of the top three courses in southwest Florida.
I have been very fortunate to play here a number of times over the last few years. The whole set up is fabulous. The caddies are terrific, mainly because they mostly Scottish I would say (biased), the staff are great and so very well looked after. I always make the course look difficult, but then I make any course look difficult, but it is a test when the wind blows and the water looks ever so close. No houses to be seen at all. Just a tall block from a hotel I think is visible from the course and that is your line on the par 5!.
The greens are immaculate, always have been when I have played, and the fairways are excellent. The grass is Paspalum and makes for the rough to be kinder than other grasses.
If you get a chance to play here grab it quickly, its a true gem and "pure golf"