Naples Lakes course to reopen this weekend following renovation project

  • Naples Lakes

    Thad Layton says that the greens are open in front with firmed up fairway approaches, giving players more options to get their ball on the green

  • Naples Lakes

    The sloping green on the seventh hole at Naples Lakes

Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

The golf course at Naples Lakes Country Club is to officially reopen this weekend following a renovation project led by Arnold Palmer Design Company.

The course on Florida’s west coast has seen all its tee complexes enlarged and leveled, new greens built, and expanded practice facilities.

Fairways have also been reshaped to help enhance the course’s playability, while drainage has been worked on. 

The Naples Lakes course is an original Arnold Palmer Design, and the recent work was the last renovation project reviewed by Arnold Palmer before his passing in September 2016.

“Our work at Naples Lakes is some of the finest in our company’s long history,” commented Thad Layton, senior golf course architect at Arnold Palmer Design Company. “It was a labour of love for our team and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results. The substantial improvements to both infrastructure and playability were nothing short of miraculous given the challenging weather conditions and compressed schedule. In the end, we delivered a new golf course that is beautiful, strategically interesting, and fun to play, something Mr Palmer would have been very proud of.”

A number of meteorological challenges had to be overcome during the project, including two tropical storms, Hurricane Irma, and 85 inches of rain to boot.

In a letter to the club’s membership, Layton said that “a variety of features that will make the golf course play differently from day to day.” 

“A simple shift in hole location will mandate an entirely new line of play, in some cases all the way back to the tee,” he said. “Like some of the great courses of the world, we believe the new Naples Lakes will grow on you the more you play it and learn its many secrets.”

Regarding the course’s greens, Layton said: “In general, the greens are open in front with firmed up fairway approaches that will allow more options for players to get their ball on the green. While the challenge of a forced carry has been largely removed from the course, this challenge has been supplanted with contours that require a deft touch and local knowledge to get it to the right section of the green. Whether hitting an approach shot or a recovery, there is typically more than one way to get it close by utilising contours. Take care not to get on the wrong side of the contour as it can quickly turn from friend to foe, making for an exceptionally challenging recovery. Over time, you’ll learn areas to ‘miss’ shots to avoid high numbers, making you a more complete player.”

The overall bunker footprint has been reduced by over 50 per cent, with the course’s bunker count reduced from 76 to 44. 

“This reduction in sand yielded wider fairways and the ability to strategically chart your way round the course, playing close to hazards to give yourself a decided advantage over the player who avoids the issue,” Layton said. “There will be an occasional bunker right where you want to hit it. Please rest assured, this was no accident. One of the qualities of a properly placed bunker is that it refuses to be ignored, begging decisive and accurate play of the golfer. As you play the course, you’ll discover a handful of bunkers that you’ll want to avoid at all costs.”

The architect told GCA that the work had been very much a collaborative effort. 

“We partnered with King-Collins Golf Course Design to self-perform the finish work and all of the bunker detailing,” he said. “This job nudges Arnold Palmer Design Company closer to the design-build model to which we aspire. It was a true team effort between Wadsworth, King-Collins and ourselves. Tad King and Joe Hancock did finish work, Rob Collins built the bunkers, and our intern Kyle Truax helped with the bunker edge detailing. Jimmy ‘The Blade’ Stephens did most of the shaping and I even jumped on the dozer and knocked in a few features.”

A grand reopening event will take place at the club on 17 February.