Old Crokscrew Golf Club

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - FEATURES - BY RICK WE­BER

It’s a bear. And that’s not a ref­er­ence to the ar­chi­tect: Jack Nick­laus, aka “The Golden Bear.”

Old Corkscrew is not for the faint of heart. Or the machismo-fu­eled golfer who wants to play from the tips and grip it and rip it. That’s not go­ing to work here. This is a think­ing-man’s lay­out that de­mands pre­cise shot-by-shot plan­ning and ac­cu­racy. Bring your pa­tience. And a few ex­tra sleeves of balls.

Ste­wart Cink has played four times—in­clud­ing twice in the lead-up to his 2009 Bri­tish Open vic­tory—and never bro­ken par72 from the tips, which span 7,393 yards and carry a fright­en­ing 77.6 rat­ing and 153 slope. Even Nick­laus was badly bit­ten by his own hand­i­work: He stag­gered to a 9 on the par-4 fifth hole at the grand open­ing in 2007.

“Hold onto your boot­straps,” gen­eral man­ager Mark Iwin­ski says of his course, which was in­cluded in Golf Di­gest’s 2007 list of Amer­ica’s Best New Cour­ses. “We’re known for the chal­lenge, and I think peo­ple like that. I re­mem­ber the first year, we were a lit­tle con­cerned that the sever­ity of the test would be too over­bear­ing for most of your golfers, but we found over the years that peo­ple want to come back and give it an­other crack.

“We tell peo­ple when they’re check­ing in, ‘Pre­pare to shoot ba­si­cally six to eight shots over what you nor­mally shoot.’ Peo­ple re­ceive that well. They say, ‘Thank you, you set us up for this in the right frame of mind.’ Oc­ca­sion­ally, there’s a per­son that goes out and does shoot to his hand­i­cap and be­low, and it’s even that much more grat­i­fy­ing,” adds Iwin­ski.

Most of the con­tro­versy fo­cuses on the greens—there are a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of them that are wide but not very deep. That makes it hard enough to keep the ball on them, but there’s more: plateaus of up to 20 feet, se­vere un­du­la­tions and fast speed.

Dur­ing my round here, my best shot of the day was a 217yard 7-wood that landed on the most talked-about green—No. 14, a 12-foot-high plateau—and rolled off the right side, com­ing to rest 40 feet from the edge. From there a chip was im­pos­si­ble to a tight pin, so I was forced to putt, and that went up the steep slope, onto the green and then off the back side.

Be thank­ful. The course is ac­tu­ally eas­ier than it was when it first opened. Scrub and un­der­brush have been cleared from dan­ger zones along some fair­ways, some fes­cue around bunker edges has been re­moved and some rough has been added to pre­vent balls from rolling into the wa­ter.

The idea here is to take Iwin­ski’s ad­vice: For­get about your score and trea­sure the ex­pe­ri­ence.

There are no homes or struc­tures on the course, which is set be­side a 16,000-acre na­ture pre­serve. You wind your way through 275 pris­tine acres of ma­ture cy­press, oak and pine trees. I played with a birder who was as fas­ci­nated with the wildlife on the holes as the holes them­selves.

It’s a Cer­ti­fied Audubon In­ter­na­tional Sil­ver Sig­na­ture Sanc­tu­ary. Re­mem­ber that when you tally your score. And if you still have your sense of hu­mor, go into the golf shop and buy one of its T-shirts with the slo­gan I GOT CORKSCREWED and a draw­ing of a ma­cho-look­ing guy with the spi­ral dis­sect­ing him. 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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