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|Old Corkscrew Golf Club is a stand-alone Jack Nicklaus work. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
Old Corkscrew Golf Club is an elegant Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course in an old Florida golf setting, a stand-alone gem that should win more than its share of awards.
ESTERO, Fla. -- The Old Corkscrew Golf Club is a misnomer. It's practically brand new, having opened in February of this year. They're still putting the finishing touches on the clubhouse and the carts sit under a temporary, open-air tent.
That hasn't stopped the Jack Nicklaus track from already winning an award. The National Association of Golf Course Owners named Old Corkscrew the Florida golf course of the year.
Officials here should save some space on the wall; there will surely be more awards to come.
Old Corkscrew is named after the nearby, meandering river. It's about seven miles west of Interstate-75 in southwest Florida, in the town of Estero, where a man named Cyrus Teed once tried to establish a utopian city at the turn of the 20th century. His goal was 10 million people with streets 400 feet wide.
Ultimately, he managed to attract only around 250 followers to the city. The streets are, well, just streets. In any case, the effort was interesting enough that town officials turned the spot into a park.
It's unlikely the Koreshans, as they were called, were duffers, but if they had been, they might have believed they came closer to utopia with the construction of Old Corkscrew.
First of all, it sits unmolested in a classic, old-Florida setting, a stand-alone course with no real estate to mar the views or feeling of splendid isolation. You'll see beautiful wading birds like roseate spoonbills, herons and egrets stalking food in the marshes surrounded by cypress trees, palmetto groves and tall pines. There is some empty farmland on parts of the golf course.
It's a touch under 7,400 yards from the back tees, with a hardy slope rating of 142, so bring your "A" game along with the binoculars.
Oddly enough, this land so suited to a great golf course was rejected by Bonita Bay, a big developer in Naples and surrounding areas. It was originally due to be a golf course called The Retreat, but the group had difficulty attracting members and sold the 275-acre parcel.
Nicklaus stuck around during the transition and golfers everywhere should be glad. This is one of his better designs, a flowing, elegant track that will test you from the middle tees as well as the back.
"That's a beautiful course," said Florida resident Jackson Pauwells. "I think it may be the best in southwest Florida. I know it's the best I've played."
Natural cart paths take you around Old Corkscrew, around purple-topped natural grasses and the marsh that juts into the gracefully-contoured fairways.
The course is always moving, with a lot of hazards in the form of large, sandy waste areas, water carries, deep greenside bunkers and beautiful bunkering.
The TifEagle greens are elevated, radically sloped and undulating, and you have to hit to certain spots in order to avoid putting all day long. Some of the pin placements can be devilish, even bordering on unfair. Nicklaus isn't a sadist, though; he usually leaves you bail-out areas and the chipping areas are closely mown.
Like most good Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses, there is an interesting variety of holes and enough risk-reward chances to cause a wide disparity on your scorecard.
Old Corkscrew is clearly one of the best courses in southwest Florida, and all of Florida for that matter. Those who have played the exclusive Calusa Pines in Naples say that's the only course around that can compare.
Don't try it from the back tees unless you're a pro or low-handicapper. Move to the blues at 6,617 yards or whites at 6,262.
One more word: Old Corkscrew has the most sophisticated GPS system I've encountered. It's like going to an IMAX theater.
November 5, 2007
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
There are many stay-and-play options in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C region, but none can match the combination of upscale amenities at a reasonable price, the private-course conditions, the diversity of courses and the Interstate convenience of Turf Valley in Ellicott City, Md.
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