Pel­i­can's Nest Golf Club

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - FEATURES -

This is what we know to­day about ar­chi­tect Tom Fazio: No liv­ing de­signer has more cred­its on Golf

Di­gest’s list of Amer­ica’s 100 Great­est Golf Cour­ses and Golfweek’s col­lec­tion of Amer­ica’s Best; af­ter he won Golf Di­gest’s poll for Best Mod­ern Day Golf Course Ar­chi­tect three years in a row, the award was dis­con­tin­ued; and he was only the sec­ond ar­chi­tect to re­ceive the high­est honor given by the Golf Course Su­per­in­ten­dents As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica—the Old Tom Mor­ris Award.

But when Fazio was hired in 1985 to de­sign Pel­i­can’s Nest, he was only be­gin­ning to de­velop his aura and rep­u­ta­tion af­ter years work­ing in the course-de­sign busi­ness with his un­cle, Ge­orge Fazio. For that sim­ple fact alone, Pel­i­can’s Nest will al­ways be in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to Fazio’s legacy.

The course was specif­i­cally de­signed by Fazio to serve the nearby Ritz-Carl­ton and Registry ho­tel guests from sis­ter com­mu­nity Pel­i­can Bay. It drew im­me­di­ate rave re­views, land­ing in the No. 3 spot on Golf Di­gest’s Best Pub­lic Golf Cour­ses in the U.S. in 1986—Fazio’s first ap­pear­ance on the list—and be­came a de­sired des­ti­na­tion for golf lu­mi­nar­ies such as Sam Snead, Lee Trevino, Al “Mr. 59” Geiberger and Fred Cou­ples.

Pel­i­can’s Nest is cer­tainly not as grandiose as Fazio’s Shadow Woods (which cost $60 mil­lion to cre­ate in the Las Ve­gas desert in 1989), but Fazio does only what his clients want, and he ended up cre­at­ing 36 mem­o­rable holes—what are now the Hurricane and Ga­tor cour­ses—that stand the test of time.

“We re­al­ize how good we have it dur­ing re­cip­ro­cal play,” says A.J. Szy­man­ski, direc­tor of mem­ber­ship sales. “Our mem­bers come back and say, ‘I played so and so, and now I re­al­ize how spe­cial this place is.’ We’ve got two great golf cour­ses.”

As Pel­i­can’s Nest grew in pop­u­lar­ity, the de­vel­oper be­gan pur­chas­ing the sur­round­ing prop­erty. In 1989, the new com­mu­nity, named Pel­i­can Land­ing, emerged. Fazio built the sec­ond 18 holes in 1994. The club went pri­vate in 1999.

Pel­i­can Land­ing sits on 2,365 acres in Bonita Springs, bor­dered on the south by Spring Creek, which the state of Florida des­ig­nated “Out­stand­ing Florida Wa­ter,” and on the west by Es­tero Bay, an aquatic pre­serve lead­ing to the Gulf of Mex­ico.

Carved from a for­est of live oaks and scrub pines, it fea­tures 138 acres of lakes and wet­land, 70-plus acres of fair­ways, 67 green­side bunkers, 156 iden­ti­fied bird species and var­i­ous wildlife. In 2001, the cour­ses were cer­ti­fied as an Audubon Co­op­er­a­tive Sanc­tu­ary.

Dur­ing the past five years, su­per­in­ten­dent Ja­son Zim­mer­man and his crew have cleared out some of the pal­met­tos that gob­bled up golf balls, pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional land­ing ar­eas. The Ga­tor is the longer of the two cour­ses (7,042 yards from the tips, and a par-73 be­cause of five par-5s), but only one hole (par-3 17th) is a forced carry over wa­ter. The Hurricane is a bit more chal­leng­ing, with wa­ter, marsh and bunkers com­ing into play on sev­eral holes.

“We have by far the two best fin­ish­ing holes on each of our golf cour­ses in all of South­west Florida,” Syz­man­ski says. “At sun­set, these four holes of­fer views that are just breath­tak­ing.” Rick We­ber has won the Casey Medal for Mer­i­to­ri­ous Jour­nal­ism and two As­so­ci­ated Press Sports Ed­i­tors awards (col­umn writ­ing and fea­tures), has writ­ten a book, Pink Lips and Fin­ger­tips, and con­trib­uted to three Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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