Old Corkscrew, designed by Jack Nicklaus, is the best public golf in the greater Naples, Florida area. What I like the most about the course is that one sees no houses, condominiums, or other commercial development. Other than the clubhouse one only sees a large American flag behind the seventh green and visible from the greens of fifteen and the sixteenth hole.
What I dislike the most about the golf course is its inherent difficulty, particularly with overly done greens, water on eleven holes (two other holes have water but it should not be in play), and manufactured slopes and rises with the effect that a slightly mis-hit ball will suffer a severe consequence. Finally, there is rarely a chance at recovery unless one hits a perfect shot.
It is a golf course that one needs to know very well as to where to lay up, where one should err on their misses to avoid a double bogey, and an understanding of the greens. I studied most of the greens and while I could find an area that was flatter/easier in my two rounds there, the holes were not once in an one of those easier spots.
My hypothesis is that the owner told Mr. Nicklaus something like, ”build me a really hard and challenging golf course.” Mr. Nicklaus obliged. From the back tees, the yardage is 7393 with a rating of 76.6 and slope of 151. Moving up to the blue tees leaves a total yardage of 6617 with a rating of 73.2 and a slope of 146. Finally, the tee most people play due to the difficulty are the white tees which are 71.1 but a slope of 138; all versus a par 72.
I walked off nearly every green baffled by the outcome of my putts. I played the course for a second time on March 13, 2020 and the greens were treacherous. Uphill putts did not advance as far as I wanted yet they nearly always broke severely to one side once they lost pace. Downhill putts seemingly refused to stop but also overly broke away from the hole leaving sometimes a more difficult putt. I consider myself an above-average putter, but local knowledge is key to putting well here. Yet we played with two members who play here 3-5 times a week and they commented that they have never figured them out. They asked me numerous times, “are you cursing Mr. Nicklaus yet?” Well, I didn’t curse him but I did walk off the golf course with no feelings of joy or wanting to play it immediately again.
Another statement made by the members was “playing bogey golf here is a good outcome.” Really? That certainly does not seem to qualify as a good day of golf.
We started on the blue tees but as my friend was having a bad day after the fourth hole, we moved up to the white tees at 6222 where the two members were playing. Some of the par 4 holes definitely got easier from an approach shot standpoint, but they may have gotten slightly harder from a tee standpoint as more trouble came into play.
The par 3’s are long from those back tees and more manageable from the white tees. The second is 221/194/140, the seventh is 244/218/172, the twelfth is 189/166/140 and the seventeenth is 176/146/130. Of the par 3’s the easiest is the seventh due to the easiest green on the golf course whereas the other three greens all have ridges, tiers, fall-offs and swales as well as bunkers that are more in play. I managed to par three of them. Twice I had reasonable chances at birdie but barely made par due to the crazy undulations on the greens.
The par 5’s are oddly laid out. The third hole of 575/522/508 is a double dogleg due to the green situated with water fronting part of it and to the left. On my second round the pin was about as far back left as it could be which meant the ideal line was coming in from the right. In our case the player coming in 140 yards away could not hold the green as his ball trickled off to the left but thankfully did not go into the water.
The eighth hole is a short par 5 of 544/504/486 requiring a drive over water and then either going for the green, laying up with a 100-yard shot, or playing down the right side about 140-160 yards to avoid a large waste area fronting the green. The longer hitter will easily go for the green which has a hill behind it to stop a ball from going too far. There does not seem to be any advantage to hitting down the left. It is a weird hole.
The next par 5 is the eleventh, another shorter hole at 547/499/482 which bends to the right off the tee but the green sits back to the left at the water’s edge. It has one of the easier greens because it seemingly is sloped only one way. For the person who mis-judges the length of the approach shot they will either be in the water or go over the green into a lost ball position. It is another odd hole.
The final par 5 is the fifteenth, another double dogleg listed at 619/552/529 but the longer hitter can try to carry the waste area and eliminate nearly 100 yards. There is a somewhat hidden pond on the right side for the second shot. The green is silly, with a tier about five feet high. I simply do not understand how a green like this is ever built on a golf course.
The par 4’s have a good variety of length with four shorter par 4’s. My criticism of the shorter par 4’s is that the greens are small, particularly the sixteenth which is one of the smallest greens I have ever seen. The sixteenth is 396/315/299 with bunkers down the left side, and a mound down the right side that kicks everything right into the trees and bushes. There are additional bunkers fronting the very tiny green which also has slope to it and a fall-off behind. It is a maddeningly frustrating hole as it requires perfection. It is somewhat telling when one is pleased with a bogey on a short par 4.
The other short par 4’s are fine in terms of bunker placement and angles into the greens. I do think the greens could be another 10% larger.
The longer par 4’s are very good. These holes are the first, sixth, the tenth, fourteen and eighteen. I liked each of these holes very much although my criticism of the greens still holds. The tenth takes nice advantage of a hill on the right that one has to get around. The fourteenth is a lovely dogleg right to a green situated on a rise that looks like it requires an additional club but actually plays level. Eighteen has a lovely shaped green.
Overall, I do like the golf course. It is a course that I would either want to be a member under their semi-private membership plan so I could learn the greens, or it is a course I would only play once a year as my ego might not be able to withstand the continuous frustrations as the demand for perfection is high here.
Date: March 22, 2020