One of the little joys of golf is playing a fine course and being first off the tee in the morning. Both the course and the day are all in front of you without interruption or annoyance. That was the case last February when I played the Creekside Course at the Bonita Bay Club in Bonita Springs, FL. Designed by Arthur Hills and opened in 1990, Creekside is one of five courses of the Bonita Bay Club, one of the most popular private clubs in the Naples area. Member-owned since 2010, Bonita Bay has weathered the storms of the recession and real estate debacle and has emerged as a solid community focused on customer service and member satisfaction.
That was readily apparent as we drove up to the bag drop on a busy day when the club was hosting a large member-guest event. Accompanied by a good friend who thrives on early morning golf, we were warmly greeted and set up for golf without delay. Before we knew it we were on the first tee preparing for our initial shots. Just prior, I squeezed in a cordial chat with a member on the putting green. Asked about how to play the Creekside Course, he offered: “It’s not too difficult or long but you have to keep the ball in play off of the tee. So you don’t always need the driver.” As it’s been said, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Creekside boasts seven sets of tees ranging from 4607 yards to 6632 yards so it’s well-suited for “playing it forward” for every type of golfer. We selected the next to the back tees at 6141 yards and it was just the right test of golf. I liked how the course gently got us into the round with some mild-mannered and shortish par fours.
The first real test came at the 507-yard par five 5th hole, the number one handicap hole on the card. I liked how the ample landing area off of the tee allowed one to use a driver for maximum length. However, the remainder of the fairway narrowed into a tight green surrounded by wetlands. In a sense, it’s a risk-reward hole where birdies are readily obtainable in equal measure with double bogeys. The choice was ours to make.
This attention-getting hole is nicely paired with the short par-four 6th hole, only 305 yards. After a good drive, I only had a gap wedge and managed a birdie which was sorely needed after the previous hole. So the architect knew what he was doing in matching up these holes.
The par-five 10th also deserved a star on our scorecard. At 452 yards, it again tempted us to go for the well-guarded green in two shots. The hole is a slight dogleg left with the green curled around a pond. Discretion this time compelled us to lay up and stay safely dry for our third shots. Again, the hole—as was the case with the 5th—showed how a short par-five can be problematic in how one plays the hole.
We also liked how the course ended our round with a short but somewhat beguiling par-four. Here sizing up the landing area before one’s tee shot—especially with distance-finding binoculars—was crucial. Picking the wrong club off the tee could easily lead to finding one of seven fairway bunkers. But as the member wisely advised, you don’t always need the driver.
The Creekside layout provided a pleasant golf experience marked by very good playing conditions. With five different courses to choose from, members have a rich variety of options with their membership. As noted, the service was excellent and included some helpful “lost ball” assistance by one of the marshalls. Also, Creekside has renovated its cart paths, rerouting many of them for playability and aesthetics.
Bonita Bay’s Creekside layout was a perfect way to start our day. No doubt it’s a good way to end it.
For more information, visit www.bonitabayclub.net