By Graylyn Loomis
After my second visit to Naples, Fla., I’m starting to see what all the fuss is about—perfect weather, two rounds of golf at Tiburón Golf Club, and cocktails by the sea. What’s not to like?!
I went to Naples to visit Tiburón Golf Club and see the renovation work on their two golf courses—the Gold and Black. The Greg Norman designs were built in 1998 and 2001 and have remained popular choices for golf in the area ever since.
The property was elevated to a new level in 2016, though, when Troon Golf was hired to manage Tiburón Golf Club. The management company brought in a new general manager, superintendent, and support staff before quickly announcing that both the Gold and Black courses would be renovated—or “remastered” as they called it. Since Troon’s involvement and the renovation of both courses, Tiburón has shot up the southern Florida golf rankings.
The renovation work on both courses was carried out by Greg Norman Design and included new bunkers, new grass nearly everywhere, new family tees (that create a 4,000-yard version of the Black course), and reshaping some of the green surrounds to allow for more running play. The most noticeable change is the bunkering on the Gold Course, all of which has been changed to stacked-sod bunkers made from artificial turf that greatly reduces maintenance costs. The bunkers create a links-golf feel on the course and even from a few feet away, you’d never know they were synthetic turf.
The Gold and Black courses are differentiated by their look and the style of play they require. The Gold Course is more forgiving with wider playing corridors and was my preference between the two. The Gold also hosts both the LPGA Tour’s CME Group Tour Championship and the PGA Tour’s QBE Shootout. The Black Course is much tighter with more forced carries, and while it’s shorter than the Gold, it’s the harder of the two. The Black Course doesn’t have the synthetic stacked-sod bunkers and instead has traditional American-style bunkers with faces that were lowered during the renovation to make the course more playable.
The neighboring Ritz-Carlton, where I was fortunate enough to stay, is as luxurious as you’d expect and only a three-minute walk to Tiburón’s first tees. My favorite part of the hotel is a semi-circle of fire pits on the back porch that overlooks the finishing holes of the Gold Course. It feels like an extension of the clubhouse and is the perfect place for drinks, cigars, and reflecting on your round.
Access to Tiburón used to be available only to members and guests at the Ritz-Carlton Naples; however, the course is now open to outside play. If you make it down to Tiburón anytime soon, keep an eye out for me on that back porch.
What’s your favorite course in Southern Florida? Let us know in the comments below!