It is truly a blessing that I have been able to take my passion for golf and for telling people about golf and turn it into a full-time occupation. I have been equally as blessed to play golf all over the world and at all types of facilities.
One thing that hasn’t wavered much since I started writing about golf over 15 years ago is my thoughts on “executive” courses. “Way too short and not challenging enough,” were two thoughts that constantly crept into my head. After all, why waste hard-earned money on greens fees for a course that spans 3,800 yards when I can play a course that’s twice as long more challenging and will make me use every club in my bag. Then I played at Burnt Store Marina Country Club.
I lived in Fort Myers, Florida for several years and was familiar with Burnt Store, however, the “executive course” stigma had always kept me from it. On a recent trip to the area, I decided to give it a try and I must say that previous stigma has now been erased.
The 27-hole “executive course” at Burnt Store Marina Country Club was designed by golf course architect Ron Garl and PGA TOUR Golf Professional Mark McCumber who have done a masterful job of creating a short course that is both challenging and enjoyable regardless of how good a golfer you are.
In 2008, the Burnt Store Golf & Activity Club was formed to operate the course and clubhouse. In 2020, the Homeowners Association took over and the club became Burnt Store Marina Country Club, or BSMCC as it is referred to by the masses.
Recent years have seen the course go through some rough times. General Manager John Abbott told me that he had played the course several years ago and it was in such bad shape that he vowed he would never play it again. And he kept that vow until he considered taking the GM position. Pope Golf out of Sarasota, FL took over management of the course several years ago and set in motion plans to rebuild each of the 9-hole layouts. Over the past couple of years, the Osprey and Pelican nines have been revamped and the Heron course is nearing completion and hopes to be open for play in December. Honours Golf – which is part of Troon – was recently hired to manage the facility and I have yet to come across a Troon course that was lacking for anything! The superintendent and grounds crew that came on with the previous management company and managed all of the renovation work have remained and are now part of the Troon family, seeing the restoration of the Heron Course through to the end. BSMCC, which was once a private facility is now open to the public as is the Linkside Café Restaurant – more on that later.
Garl and McCumber have done a fantastic job of taking native Florida woodlands and wetlands and carving out 27 memorable holes. As you make your way around the layout, you’ll encounter the usual Florida golf hazards: water, sand, palmetto bushes, and trees, all strategically placed to keep you honest. Water comes into play on at least 22 of the 27 holes and there is a nice mixture of par 3s and par 4s. The three par 5 holes (five for the ladies) offer many golfers a good chance to make up a stroke or two.
Each nine-hole course offers golfers 4 sets of tees. The Blue tees are the longest, followed by Yellow, Silver, and Green. The scorecard offers a couple of “combo” yardages and there are three different handicaps available. That makes for yardages that are sure to please every golfer!
At 1,777 yards from the Blue tees, The Osprey Course is the shortest. It also has the most challenging and intimidating hole on the entire 27-hole layout. Number 1 is a short, 322-yard par 4 with a very difficult tee shot, especially if you’re playing the course for the first time and aren’t sure how far you can hit your tee shot and remain dry. For many players, it’s going to take the driver out of your hands. There’s water down the entire right side and a large lake on the left which cuts into the landing area. Ideally, you’ll leave your tee shot short of the water, which sets up a little longer approach shot into an elevated green that slopes left to right. Two well-executed shots will set up a chance for birdie.
The Heron Course is home to the two longest par threes on the entire layout. Number 3 plays 203 yards from the Blue tees. Water comes into play on the right side and three bunkers guard the front and right side of the green. One of these bunkers sits right in the middle of the green and needs to be carried off the tee. There’s a small bailout area on the left side if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s a very challenging hole.
Number 7 plays 190 yards, again with water down the right side and a lot of mounding on the left. There’s a deep bunker between the water and the green which is very large. Don’t be intimidated though; a good tee shot can yield a par…or better!
The Pelican Course starts with an interesting par 4. At 322 yards, its length isn’t going to overwhelm many players. There’s a large tree on the right side as well as a lake that makes up the entire right side. What makes this hole interesting is the large mound that sits in the middle of the fairway in the landing area and can leave some interesting lies for your approach shot. A well-played tee shot will leave an approach of around 100 yards into a long, crowned green that slopes sharply from back to front with a deep bunker on the right. Numbers 5 and 6 are the two shortest holes on the Pelican nine and the only two holes without water. Number 5 plays 120 yards with bunkers on either side and a large green that slopes right to left. Number 6 plays slightly longer – 131 yards – and has no trouble. Another good chance to gain a stroke on your partners!
During my visit, I saw several golfers taking advantage of the practice facilities. There’s a full-length aqua range where you can hit every club in your bag and a large putting green so that you can get the speed of the greens down. No reason to not pay your best when you hit the first tee.
BSMCC has worked steadily at improving the course and is committed to providing an enjoyable golfing experience in addition to the social events offered to the BSMCC members. General Manager John Abbott also wants the public to know that the once private Linkside Café restaurant is now open to the public all year round. Executive Chef Renzo Barriga has put his spin on some signature dishes including Salmon Teriyaki and Chicken Marsala and the portions won’t have you leaving hungry. During the season, they are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Membership does have its privileges and membership at Burnt Store Marina Country Club is no exception. As a member at BSMCC, you’ll enjoy the warm welcome and camaraderie of both members and staff and be able to partake in all of the activities, classes, games, and social life that the club has to offer. Better yet, you don’t have to live at Burnt Store Marina to become a member. Membership is open to everyone and runs from Nov 1st to Oct 31st. Several membership categories are available including Social and Seasonal memberships and a Gold Card membership with charging privileges. If you’re renting a unit for any length of time, check to see if it comes with membership privileges.
In addition to a scenic and challenging 27-hole golf course, the privately gated Burnt Store Marina waterfront community is home to more than 1940 residences and is considered a first-class yachting resort with 525 in-water slips, plus 450 dry docks. Condos, villas, townhomes, and single-family dwellings are available for rent and purchase.
Check out the website, www.bsgac.org to see what’s available.