Upon arriving at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, you realize that you are in for a treat. As the attendants whisk your bags away and direct you to the pro shop, something feels a little different. You’re about to tee it up where some of the game’s best have played; Paul Azinger, Fred Couples, John Daly, Greg Norman and Nick Price to name a few. Take it all in; today is something special.
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, FL is home to two Greg Norman championship 18-hole courses. The Gold Course measures 7,288 yards from the back tees with a par of 72, and has a course rating of 74.7 and a slope of 137. Each December it plays host to the Merrill Lynch Shootout – better known as the Shark Shootout. The Black Course plays 7005 yards from the Tournament tees for a par of 72 with a course rating of 74.2 and an impressive slope of 147. Courses alternate each day for resort play.
Both courses are known for the use of stacked sod wall bunkers, crushed coquina shell bunkers and the absence of conventional rough. The green complexes can prove to be quite tricky, leaving the average player looking for a “do over.”
Players have the choice of five tee boxes thus making the experience challenging for all skill levels. In the event your game is not in tip top shape, Tiburon is also the home of the Rick Smith Golf Academy. A full-service driving range as well as a practice area with chipping and putting greens is also available. Golf carts are required on both courses.
The two courses are similar in many ways. Norman was determined to bring a little bit of Australian style golf to southwest Florida: open approaches to the greens encourage the bump and run shot. The landscape is beautiful, the designs innovative and the facility that supports them is among the best anywhere.
Memorable Holes – Gold Course:
Number 1: Par 5, 573 yards. From any tees but the Championship tees (573 versus 475 yards), this is a short Par 5. The hole is a slight dogleg left. A good drive from the Black tees will leave about 200 yards to the green; favor the right side of the fairway to leave the best angle to the green. From the left side, your approach shot will be over trees, water and sand. This small green is receptive on long irons and hybrids and slopes gently from back to front. This opening hole offers an excellent chance for birdie.
Number 4: Par 4, 428 yards. This long par four features water down the left side off the tee; it also comes back into play up near green. The preferred line off the tee is slightly left of the large bunker on the right side; this leaves a clear shot to the green complex protected on the left by the large lake that runs along the entire hole and on the right side by the sod-wall bunker. The green slopes left to right. Par is a good score here.
Number 9: Par 4, 446 yards. Another long par four, but by now, you are used to that! Although number nine is a fairly straight hole, it isn’t the number one handicap for nothin’. Water on the right and left as well as a fairway bunker at about the 200 yd mark make the tee shot here ever so important. For the best chance at par, you will need to carry the fairway bunker off the tee. The ideal tee shot is out to right which will leave a clear shot to a fairly large green which slopes right to left. Best of luck on this one; you’ve probably played par fives that are shorter!
Number 14: Par 5, 578 yards. This long dogleg right begs for you to unleash that monster drive. In doing so, be sure to keep it down the left side of the fairway. That way you will be taking the large lake on the right side out of play. Your approach shot will be uphill. Beware of the large waste bunker on the right and the steep collection area on the left of the green.
Number 17: Par 5, 534 yards. Another grip it and rip it par 5. Hit your tee shot up the left side and you have greatly enhanced your chances of getting home in two. You have also taken the two rather large bunkers on the right out of play. Those of us who cannot get on in two need to be wary of the water on the right side. Play your approach shot short of the approach bunkers and leave yourself a short pitch shot to a small, undulating green.
Number 18: Par 4, 451 yards. This hole is the same shape as the previous hole, however this time the water is on the left; and easier to find! You’ll need to carry the fairway bunker on the right side to leave an open shot to the green. Water protects the left side of the green so aim for the middle. Take a par and be happy.
Last Word: Even with all of its wonderful amenities, Tiburon’s main attraction remains the golf courses. Driving areas are relatively open, but it’s still necessary to hit the ball straight. The length of the course is more suited for the low-handicap or professional player, especially when you consider that three of the four par-5s are really not reachable in two shots, at least for amateurs and six of the par four holes top 420 yards. The forward tees are a different story; the course is much more playable and low scores are a definite possibility.
Your choice of tees will go a long way in determining how much fun you have on the Tiburon Gold Course. The Tiburon Tees (marked by a black tee box marker) offer a compromise between the back and middle tees. If you like to hit your driver (and can hit it a least half way decent) playing the middle tees will take it out of your hands quite often as 6 holes are less than 350 yards. Also, there is no par 3 longer than 150 yards. Move back a set of tees and you will add quite a few yards just on par three holes.
Another aspect of the Tiburon that may surprise players is that there is no rough to speak of. That means nothing to stop shots hit left or right from rolling into palmettos bushes, waste bunkers or water. Don’t get me wrong, the course is always in immaculate condition; as are all of the WCI managed courses. Huge waste bunkers make up the periphery of many holes; you can easily find yourself playing from the crushed coquina shells. These can be particularly tricky around the greens as it’s hard to get under the ball cleanly.
Greens are mainly elevated and feature moderate undulation. They roll well at all times of the year, including the heat of summer.
Tiburon offers a full-length driving range complete with short game area and a massive practice green. If you are having trouble with any part of your game, be sure to visit the Rick Smith Golf Academy where you will find world glass golf instruction. In the event you are too tired to leave after your round, you can always book a room at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort located adjacent to the clubhouse.
For more information or to book a round of golf, you can visit their website at www.tiburongcnaples.com or give them a call at (239) 254-3340.