While Naples teases golfers by claiming the highest number of courses per capita in the country, the truth is most of the city's tracks are private. But public-access courses here offer country club quality at daily-fee prices. Toss in vibrant nightlife and lush beachside retreats, and there's no better Gulf weekend for golfers.
Naples Grande Golf Club
7,078 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $195
This Rees Jones design (open only to Registry Resort and Edgewater Beach Hotel guests) has so many water hazards the holes appear to float through the surrounding cypress and oak trees. But it's not just the aqua that puts a premium on accuracy over brawn: devilishly tricky bunkers guard the corner of nearly every dogleg. The green at the 560-yard 16th is perched atop a 20-foot-high coral rock platform, but that's not even the most daunting hazard you'll encounter on the hole. Water and a snakelike bunker on the left make for a precarious journey from the tee.
The Rookery at Marco
7,180 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $159 ($149 for guests)
Located on an estuary of Hammock Bay, the Rookery is roosting terrain for thousands of birds. To better blend Joe Lee's original 1991 design with the birds' natural habitat, Bob Cupp Jr. replaced the turf between holes with acres of lakes and wetlands. The result means that water hugs 16 holes, but the generous fairways keep you dry most of the time. Vultures are the only birds you'd expect to see hovering over the finishing stretch of holes--which features four forced carries over water, including to the peninsula green on the 159-yard 16th.
Tiburon Golf Club
Gold, 7,288 yards, par 72;
Black, 7,005 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $250 ($235 for guests)
The PGA Tour stars who enjoy a Gold course rush each year at designer Greg Norman's Franklin Templeton Shootout follow two rules: aim for the center of the fairway, and keep it low around the greens. Both courses are known for stacked sod bunkers, pink shell waste areas and collection areas around the greens.
6,912 yards, par 72;
Black, 7,005 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $100-$155
Designed by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy, Hammock Bay is next to the Rookery and routed around mangroves and coastal inlets. But forget the water hazards--this course gets its bite from huge expanses of white sand dunes and coquina shell waste areas. Take the 170-yard 11th, which has a panoramic view from a raised tee box and is all carry over shells and scrub to a green guarded by two pot bunkers. While the waste areas look penal, most of the fairways here are wide enough for big hitters to let it rip off the tee, and plenty of short par 5s add to the birdie potential. The course is semi-private and will remain open to visitors until its membership fills.
- [LIST "A wave-runner tour through the Ten Thousand Islands reveals manatees, dolphins, and rare birds. $130, 239- 642-2359, marcoislandwatersports.com"] [LIST "For those more into Gucci than golf, Fifth Avenue South boasts dozens of high-end boutiques and galleries. fifthavenuesouth.com"] [LIST "For gifts created by local artisans, explore Tin City, a charming waterfront village built on the site of a 1920s shellfish processing plant. tin-city.com"] [LIST "The Bali-themed Spa at Marco Island Marriott is so hot that John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston bought a condo next door to be close to its aquatic watsu massages. 239-642-2686, marcoislandmarriott.com"]
One of Naples' trendiest spots, Bistro 821 serves up Asian-European dishes like duck ravioli and portobello fries. 239-261-5821. You can pair the casualbut--inventive Italian fare at Pazzo with a choice of more than 250 wines, including 30 served by the glass. 239-434-8494. For the best dirty martini around--not to mention seafood--head to Kurrents in the Marco Island Marriott. 800-438-4373.
Where to stay
- [LIST "Stay next to Tiburon at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort or a 10-minute shuttle ride away at the Beach Resort. Rooms from $259, 239-598-3300, ritzcarlton.com"] [LIST "The Marco Island Marriott is on a gorgeous stretch of beach 25 minutes south of Naples. Rooms from $240. 800-438-4373, marcoislandmarriott.com"] [LIST "The Edgewater Beach Hotel (800-821-0196, marcoislandmarriott.comedgewaternaples.com) and Registry Resort (800-247-9810, marcoislandmarriott.comregistryresort.com) are beachside properties with access to Naples Grande Golf Club. Rooms start at $133."]