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|Tiburon Golf Club's par 3s are beauties, such as the 12th hole on the Gold Course. (Katharine Dyson/TravelGolf)|
NAPLES, Fla. -- When you use "Naples, Florida," "the Ritz-Carlton" and "Tiburon Golf Club" in the same sentence, you are talking affluence, big time.
The reputation that Naples is a high-end winter getaway with a lot of strong golf courses, expensive real estate and a climate that can be 10 degrees warmer in February than up Tallahassee way, is all true.
Located at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in north Naples, Tiburon's two Greg Norman-designed layouts -- the Gold Course and Black Course -- are major amenities for this WCI Communities development. Flowing over a landscape of sweeping coquina waste bunkers, ornamental grasses and wetlands with tall feathery pines defining some of the fairways, both Gold and Black are Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary courses.
Tiburon's Gold Course opened in 1998; Black followed three years later. Both courses are pretty flat and have really no rough. The challenge comes with large, undulating greens, stacked sod-wall bunkers, plenty of water hazards and a handful of tight fairways.
"Gold and Black are two different beasts," Tiburon Assistant Professional John Muccio said. "Gold is more forgiving, more open with wider fairways and bigger, more elevated greens, while Black is more tree-lined, tighter. Big hitters love Gold, but those who hit it shorter and straighter score better on Black. Women also love Black."
What makes the Tiburon golf courses great fun are the risk and reward holes right out of the starting gate with the par-5 first hole on Gold tempting long ball strikers to go for the green on their second shot over a scary swath of water. Gold's No. 14 is another trick or treat test with water cutting into the fairway on the right.
Water plays a big role on many holes but more so on Gold. Take the green on No. 4. It has so much water around, it lives like an island green. Still if it isn't water, it's coquina like on hole seven where target shooters need to find the best placement to attack the pin.
Black starts out water-free, more Carolina barons-like with stately pines defining narrow chutes like on hole No. 2. "It's one of the most narrow holes I've ever seen," said Muccio. "You might want to take an iron to get the ball into play and then take it from there."
Water comes on board when you reach six, then reappears for the stretch on No. 9, No. 10 and No. 11, while both coquina and water need to be carried to score on the par-3 hole No. 13. Coquina can be tricky to hit out of, but at least you're on dry land.
The pars 3s are especially well designed with carries over water, coquina and wetlands. Gold's 12 and 16 roll out the whole Magalia with stacked sod wall bunkers, water and low areas of tropical vegetation.
After your round, slip into Sydney's Pub with its comfortable leather chairs, and sip a cocktail at the long bar. At night, Sydney's Restaurant turns more romantic with linens and candle-lamps.
Each December, Greg Norman hosts his annual Franklin Templeton Shootout (formerly called the "Shark Shootout") bringing together 24 top pros to duke it out on Gold. Two-man teams vie for a purse of $3 million or more with winnings going to children's charities. The mixed-format tournament combines a better ball, scramble and modified alternative shot competition. Fans love it.
New in 2013 is the LPGA Tour's CME Titleholders event, the grand finale of the LPGA season. The champion will receive $700,000, the largest winner's check in women's golf.
Instruction is available at the PGA Tour Academy Tiburon, and professional club fitting and swing analysis is offered at the new TaylorMade Performance Lab. Also check out the pro shop carrying several lines of apparel and accessories.
With five tees, Tiburon Golf Club provides a great golf experience for all levels.
And just because Gold is used for the "Shootout" doesn't mean it is the best course to play. It just depends on what your game is all about.
If you like to think your way around and be challenged by some tight, tricky placements, then Black might be your best bet. Or if you love to hit it and rip it, Gold is perfect. Our advice: Play them both.
April 22, 2013
Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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