“Phoenix is a mythical sacred firebird which dies in flames and is reborn from the ashes.”–Wikipedia
Unlike the Phoenix, The Club at Mediterra in North Naples, Florida never succumbed to a ruinous fire. Instead, it got badly burned by the dual conflagrations known as the real estate bubble and the onset of The Great Recession that enflamed the southwest Florida economy beginning in 2008.
Developed by the Bonita Bay Group which imploded in the downturn, Mediterra was finally bought in late 2009 by its members following lengthy, contentious negotiations and numerous lawsuits. One might argue that it was around this time Mediterra, blessed with two superb Tom Fazio courses amid its 1,700-acre gated upscale community, hit the proverbial rock bottom. Now almost three years hence and a la the mythical Phoenix, it has humbly risen from the ashes and is now on the ascent. So speaking of another feathered friend and after visiting Mediterra last winter, let me say there’s much to crow about.
Golf Course: As noted there are two fine Fazio courses at Mediterra, the North and the South. In speaking to several members, there’s no major preference for play between the two although the South is more demanding (with a higher slope rating) as it calls for more exacting shotmaking into the greens. I played the North Course and found it to be a worthy complement to its sister course. Like most Fazio designs, there’s room off the tee while the greensites are welcoming and not too penal. But the appeal of Mediterra North, besides its impeccable conditioning, is the natural look and shaping of the layout. It all neatly fits the eye and nothing seems contrived or forced. The bunkering is stately but not intrusive and overbuilt. Likewise, the greens are sensibly contoured for member play eschewing excessive mounding and slopes that impede pace of play.
My notebook recorded several items from the playing experience. At the first tee, there was signage specifying the “green speed today.” I’d never seen such a message before and it was a helpful ‘heads up’ about the pace of the greens. At the fifth tee, I noted a magnificent flowering Cardinal shrub, a perennial that must surely attract hummingbirds. At the 12th tee where a restroom was located, there was an insulated bin in which cold towels were available. On a day when the temperature hovered in the 80s, this amenity really spelled relief. My favorite hole was the shortish par-four 14th hole which measured 355 yards. The visuals of the hole were striking with large boulders along the right side and a pond guarding the left. It epitomized Fazio’s aesthetic of a “clean design” and was reflective of the enduring strength and appeal of the entire course.
A stickler on conditioning, I found the turf to be delightfully fast and firm and thankfully not too lush. Three cheers to Course Superintendent Scott Whorrall, honored nationally for his environmental practices, for being an early and staunch advocate for such playing conditions. As quoted in Golf Digest, Whorrall said, “I’ve encouraged my members not to be obsessed with the color green. Usually, the turf plays better when it’s a little off-color. It’s drier and firmer.” Amen!
Tavern on 18: Introduced last year, this gathering spot at the Mediterra clubhouse is a winning definition of al fresco dining and conversation. It’s spacious, casual and comfortable, boasting a mix of varied tables and seating, cathedral ceiling and open-air ambience. Three large HD-TVs lend a low-key sports bar atmosphere where watching a Tour event on the Golf Channel provides a perfect backdrop to review one’s scorecard. And the menu smartly offers an inviting variety of affordable and quickly prepared dishes such as appetizers, pizzas, burgers and sandwiches.
The Beach Club: Wow, is this impressive. Located on the Gulf of Mexico in north Bonita Springs and seven miles from the golf courses, the Beach Club is a “game changer,” setting Mediterra apart from its competition. Featuring 200 feet of shoreline and groomed beach area, it’s an idyllic spot for members and their families to spend a few hours basking in the sun, reading a good book under a complimentary beach umbrella, and marveling at a sunset. Moreover, there is an elevated swimming pool and roomy sundeck overlooking the beach and affording 10,000-square-feet of casual indoor and outdoor dining.This one-two punch of beach and pool delivers a knockout blow for decision-makers wrestling with Naples’ assortment of upscale private communities. For many lucky members, one word says it all why the Beach Club is a quintessential element of Mediterra’s appeal: grandchildren.
A final and updated note about Mediterra which also features an array of other amenities such as a Fitness Club and Spa, tennis courts and pool, playgrounds and miles of hiking and biking paths: In the past year, it has made significant moves with its leadership team. Last summer, Tom Wallace was named the new General Manager and COO of Mediterra after serving with distinction for the past nine years at storied Oakmont Country Club outside Pittsburgh. Soon after, other key additions to Wallace’s management team were announced including Rob Anderson as the new Director of Golf, formerly of Belfair Plantation in Bluffton, South Carolina, and Carmen Mauceri as the new Director of Clubhouse Operations, formerly of Chagrin Valley Country Club near Cleveland, Ohio.
For more information, visit www.mediterranaples.com