GOLF

PLAY­ING EL­E­GANT BONITA BAY CLUB

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - FEATURES - BY CRAIG GAR­RETT

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.

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