Naples Grande is what I’d call a semi-private club in Naples, Florida. I say “semi-private” because there are ways of playing it outside of becoming a member. They are as follows:
- Stay at the Waldorf Astoria in Naples. All guests of the property have access to the golf club.
- Pick up a South Florida PGA Pass.
- Buy a Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout Pass.
For what it’s worth, I’ve tried calling and getting on out of season several times in the past. The response has always been “Sorry but if you’re not staying at the Waldorf we can’t accommodate you.” Finally in 2014 I decided to pick up a PGA pass and I was in like in like Flynn at Naples Grande. I paid my $45 greens fees and I was off to the lap of luxury.
In prior reviews I’ve described other courses as “no frills.” Naples Grande, I’m happy to report, is chock full of frills. The carts are equipped with wet towels. The practice area comes complete with tees, ball markers, divot repair tools, etc. Before you tee off you pass by a comfort station with water, ice, and straws.
Two things stood out to me about the golf course:
- It is incredibly well-maintained. I played in the middle of June, not exactly the in-season in South Florida, and everything was pristine. I can only imagine how perfect this place is in February.
- The greens are lightning fast. The only ones I’ve putted that are comparable in the area were the greens at Bonita Bay, another private gem in the area.
If you’ve read this far you are probably wondering if the course is worth playing or if it’s “boring inland Florida golf.” I came away from my round pleasantly surprised at the layout. It’s subtly a very difficult track. While many of the holes are straightforward and seemingly easy from the view off the tee, the reality is that the speed of the greens and hazard placement make it quite difficult. I’ve heard St. Andrews described as the kind of course that there are places in the fairway that make for a nearly unplayable second shot. Naples Grande, while a world away from St. Andrews, plays quite similarly. During my round I had multiple occasions where I had what I thought were good approach shots that turned out to be terrible because I was above the hole. There are spots around the greens where you absolutely can’t miss to and hope to get it up and down. I’m not sure that this would make for a very fun round for the average 20 handicapper that comes over from the Waldorf, but for a golf nerd like me I loved it.
Besides the perfect practice area, lush fairways, and great service, Naples Grande is also nice in that there is no housing around the course. There are a couple of spots where you hear a little road noise from the Golden Gate Parkway but otherwise it’s incredibly beautiful everywhere you look.
So if you happen to find yourself in Florida in the off-season (or are staying at the Waldorf in-season), by all means check this track out. Not only will you feel like you’ve won the lottery for a day, you’ll enjoy putting the greens that could double as pool tables.
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