Bonita Bay Club in Naples, Florida, has reopened its Cypress course following an 18-month renovation by Tom Marzolf of Fazio Design. The reopening, in late October, was slightly delayed due to the impact of Hurricane Ian.
The course, originally designed by Tom Fazio, debuted in 1996, and is located close to the Everglades and other protected wetlands.
Marzolf worked with contractor Glase Golf to raise the entire course by 12-18 inches to improve drainage. He did this by creating six new lakes, expanding the four that already existed and distributing the resulting 200,000 cubic yards of earth across the property.
In addition, fairways have been lifted and reshaped, with 450 new catch basins added and extensive subsurface drainage pipes added to firm up the play spaces. Nutt Irrigation installed a new Rain Bird system with HDPE pipe to save water by efficiently covering the playable areas. “The pre-renovation engineering studies paid off,” said EJ McDonnell, director of golf. “Retained water stayed in places it was designed to stay in.”
Marzolf added a long tee and two short tees on each hole so that each has seven tees and the course can play at 500-yard intervals from 4,500 to 7,500 yards, making it the first Fazio design with a 3,000-yard spread.
“Our members enjoy the variety of playing options afforded by our five courses,” said Paul Nussbaum, president of Bonita Bay Club’s board of directors. “Cypress remains our most competitive, but with seven sets of tees, golfers will find the right level of challenge for their games.”
The original routing remains the same, but greens have now been expanded and surrounds cut short to encourage a wide variety of short-game shots. Wooden bulkhead walls along lake edges now feature on holes four, eight, 15 and 18. “The aim was to enhance aesthetics, especially when the often-fluctuating water level drops,” said Marzolf.
“The first hole gives an immediate feel for the course’s green complexes with a deep, narrow, right to left angled green and an expansive, low-mow chipping area to the right. The firm, sandcapped approach will allow the ball to release onto the front hole locations.”
Bunkers were rebuilt with what Marzolf describes as a “cleaned up, Augusta look”. White sand is flashed on bunker faces and surrounding turf has been shaved low – the largest of these low-mow areas being at the par-five twelfth. White sand was also added to out-of-play areas along and between holes, and around trees. The contrast between the sand, native plantings and pine straw aims to add drama and visual appeal to the layout.
Bunkers, especially in first shot landing areas, have been relocated to account for advancements in club and ball technology since the course’s opening in 1996. Fairway bunkers are angled slightly closer to the centreline of play, and new fairway lines bring short grass in front of the hazards. “Since the modern ball can fly straighter today, the fairway bunkers have been moved in closer,” said Marzolf. “To regain the attention of the game’s best players, the tee shot strategy now calls for reaction and alignment choices, based on the carry point of the bunker. This noticeable decision making off the tee, will now be a feature of Cypress, keeping players focused on the variety of each hole. As the game evolves and equipment improves, the golf architecture must react and adjust.”
Watch a flyover of the course, filmed towards the end of the renovation.
Bonita Bay Club has another Fazio layout in Naples, adjacent to the newly renovated Cypress course. The Sabal layout was designed in 1998 and will also undergo a renovation by Fazio Design in autumn 2023. The club also has three Arthur Hills-designed courses within the 2,400-acre Bonita Bay community, located between Naples and Fort Myers. The Bay Island course was renovated in 2019 by Hills Forrest Smith.