Location: Naples, FL
Architect: Greg Norman
Tee — Yardage | Rating / Slope:
Championship — 7,382 | 76.0 / 137
Back — 6,790 | 73.1 / 132
Tiburon — 6,121 | 69.6 / 121
Middle — 5,711 | 67.5 / 115
Forward — 5,112 | 64.6 / 108
Middle — 5,711 | 73.2 / 130
Forward — 5,112 | 69.6 / 119
Saturday morning green fee: $$$$$ [The club uses dynamic pricing. Currently, through April 15, the rack rate is $290.]
Caddie service: Yes
Walker friendly: No
Greens: TifEagle Bermuda
STARTER ...: Tiburón — Shark in Spanish for those who don't speak Español — is a 36-hole facility (Black and Gold courses) designed by The Shark himself, Greg Norman. The Naples area is a haven for both golfers and retirees, the Palms Springs of Florida, if you will. By local ordinance, you're guaranteed sunshine and a fresh breeze. However, you could lose a few sleeves of balls in the course's numerous water hazards. There are occasions where it is a long cart ride in between holes that eliminates walking as an option, and the stretch from Nos. 10-13, where it feels like a tight squeeze to fit them in. Norman's use of revetted or stacked sod wall bunkers, which are not seen too often in Florida, are a nice touch along with the coquina shell waste bunkers and the absence of traditional rough
PLAY BECAUSE …: There's something undeniably cool about being able to test your mettle against the same course that the pros played. Workers were still tearing down the infrastructure from having hosted both the LPGA’s CME Group Tour Championship and the PGA Tour's QBE Shootout. You're also at a Ritz-Carlton property, which means the service is second-to-none. Servers even bring you freshly baked cookies with the check at Sidney's Pub. And let's be frank: Life doesn't suck if you're spending the day playing golf at the Ritz.
TAKEAWAY: The Gold Course is neither ridiculously long nor unreasonably punitive -- if you play smart. This course requires good course management first and execution a close second. Players having an off day will find little mercy. But a few big numbers on the card did little to spoil my group's fun.
RATINGS [1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest]
Food | Beverage: 8.0
Pro shop: 9.0
Course difficulty: 8.0
Pace of play: 9.0
THE COURSE | Scorecard
Best par 3: No. 5 (225 | 210 | 185 | 145 | 113 yards)
You know who considers this his favorite par 3 at Tiburon besides me? Gary Woodland, who aced it during the QBE about two weeks before my round. It's the longest of the par 3s and there's no escaping its demand for a superior shot. There is water to the left and plenty of sand to the right if you are inclined to bail out. But the strength of the hole is its sizeable, undulating green that can give a golfer fits.
Best par 4: No. 18 (485 | 451 | 354 | 328 | 293 yards)
Several of the par-4s are memorable, but the 18th is perhaps the best. It has all the attributes and complexities that a final hole should display. A large lake splits the ninth and 18th, making for a challenging finale to both nines. At the last, the water hugs the left side of the hole, but there's actually more room off the tee than it looks. Even more water guards the green, which has a wide, undulating green. No match is settled until the final putt is holed. A score of four is an achievement no matter what the day serves up for weather.
Best par 5: No. 14 (578 | 545 | 495 | 485 | 453 yards)
No. 14 favors a tee shot down the left-hand side for a better angle on the second shot. Go right and you'll have to cross a lake and three fountains. It was into the wind when I played it and I couldn't get home in two, but still blasted 3 wood to lessen my load on my approach. Water lines the right side of the hole and the green is rather large — have you noticed a trend yet? — and sloped back to front.