PLAYING ELEGANT BONITA BAY CLUB
Bonita Bay Club is the spot even professional golfers talk about. With three Arthur Hills courses and two designed by Tom Fazio, Bonita Bay features immaculate conditions, isolation and challenging play surrounded by the sheer beauty of Southwest Florida. “The nature experience is one of the things setting (Bonita Bay) apart,” says E.J. McDonnell, Bonita Bay director of golf. “You’re not going to get boring play here.”
Member-owned Bonita Bay Club golf is a slice of the lifestyle within some 2,400 acres of mostly open space. Homeowners purchased Bonita Bay in 2010 and have since budgeted $40 million in upgrades to the community and its facilities, including $12 million in 2014 to overhaul the clubhouse and add the 55th Hole bar/grill. The community also acquired a 60,000-square-foot onsite complex with medical offices, lifestyle medicine/training, a spa and fitness center, a bank and salon. Audubon-certified Bonita Bay, by any measure, is considered the gold standard of private communities.
Three 18-hole courses are situated in the west site, two
others at the nearby Bonita Bay Naples on Immokalee Road. In season, the courses, the pro shop and the clubhouse will employ nearly 20 PGA professionals, meaning members get training, advice, practice areas and conditions other privately owned clubs in the country will strive to match. “And that creates lots of pride in our membership,” McDonnell says.
Marsh, Creekside and Bay Island courses in Bonita Bay West are among the most intriguing layouts in Florida. Ideally, golfers should not feel crowded in play. And that’s what designers achieved, isolating holes by landscaping, bunkers and water, McDonnell, says. Tee distance and pin placement permit demanding play, yet cushion an average golfer. Par 4 holes at the Marsh course, for instance, generally play under 400 yards, yet present water and landscape obstacles demanding accuracy along narrow corridors and along sharp doglegs. Longer holes generally are reachable, again guarded by trees, bunkers and water.
The Fazio-designed Cypress and Sabal courses at Bonita Bay Club Naples are designated wildlife sanctuaries on some 1,000 acres, with the same feel and player challenges as the three sister courses. There are no distractions along the course perimeter (housing or commercial), so other than wildlife and the occasional plane overhead, it’s pure golf and time spent with fellow players, friends and family.
Bonita Bay dates to the 1980s and is designed to blend Florida’s natural surroundings with golf and other activities. There are about 3,100 homes, condos and villas situated in nearly 60 neighborhoods fenced by Estero Bay and waterways feeding the bay. More than half of the community is open spaces and preserves and it’s interlinked by trails and streets. Tennis, a swim center, dining/special events and marina are within the complex. Golf, however, is a central feature. There are some 1,250 playing members. Home ownership allows golf eligibility, but there are hefty membership fees and dues. Membership packages are an option.
Details, locations and fees for the privately owned Bonita Bay Club are at 239-495-0200, bonitabayclub.net.
The Fazio-designed Cypress and Sabal courses at Bonita Bay Club Naples are designated wildlife sanctuaries on some 1,000 acres, with the same feel and player challenges as the three sister courses.