Going Gator in Fort Myers

[Apr. 28, 2014] Golf Road Warrior trips are notorious for having packed schedules, and this one is no exception. But there were a few hours open this morning so I plunged right in, quickly putting one of my fears to rest—that I wouldn’t find the time to enjoy the pools at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa. And this evening we managed a little beach time. Add in our golf at Raptor Bay and it was a day well spent, and we weren’t even finished.

I took a morning walk along the quarter-mile long boardwalk that leads through mangroves to the Hyatt’s marina, where a water taxi shuttles guests for a fifteen-minute ride to Big Hickory Island and a private beach right on the Gulf of Mexico.

In the mangroves

In the mangroves

On the return trip I went into the pool area, and with time on my hands and no plausible excuse to skip it, up I went and down I came on the 140-foot corkscrew water slide. And since a bird can’t fly on one wing as my mother used to say (albeit usually referring to cocktails), I did it again.

Taking a ride on the waterslide

Taking a ride on the waterslide

Refreshed and renewed, I wandered over to have a shot at the Coconut Chip Challenge. The Hyatt has thoughtfully floated a green in the middle of a lagoon on the grounds, which players can take a shot at from mats on dry land. The Fort Myers/Sanibel area is big for couples and families, and I found some evidence right here, as the Tarasoff clan from Kelowna, British Columbia were giving it a go. Not with any notable success, mind you, but when they lent me a club for a try I sailed one over the green and lagoon, into the jungle beyond.

Hyatt Regency Coconut Point

Reese (left) and Corey Tarasoff take on the Coconut Chip Challenge

It seemed to foreshadow the golf to come. Not the Raptor Bay golf, to which we gave over the afternoon, but the miniature golf round that evening at Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf.

Now what are the odds, I ask, of two great golf course designers coming from the same smallish resort town in Michigan, Traverse City? “Great” is a debatable adjective, naturally, but few I think would withhold it from Tom Doak, whose Renaissance Golf Design firm is in Traverse City.

So, too, are the offices of Adventure Golf Services, the design firm of the renowned Arne Lundmark. True, Mr. Lundmark is renowned in the less publicized world of miniature golf, but in that world he has real luster, designing and constructing miniature golf courses for over three decades.

Unfortunately, though it seems like a real possibility, I haven’t yet been able to definitively confirm that AGS is behind the course we played in Fort Myers, but we have the research team working on it. One of five miniature golf courses that Steve Brown manages along Florida’s gulf coast, Smuggler’s Cove is certainly the first I’ve played with live alligators swimming around the first tee.

Along with putters and brightly colored golf balls we were given some alligator feed that we clamped onto a line. When we dipped our poles into the pool, the gators came a-swarming, and then it was just a question of not dropping our cell phone cameras into the lagoon.

The alligators were the only moving parts on the course. There were no spinning windmills to putt through here, though an ample number of tunnels, corridors, multi-level holes and blind shots to contend with.

Miniature golf is a bit of a misnomer, of course, since aside from unintentional caroms off trees, one is never trying to hit multiple bank shots in big golf. Or, since we decided to mix it up a bit, scoring a hole in one after hitting the ball with one’s back to the hole using only the point of the putter. David Whyte had that honor, the shot of the night, and so the results wound up the same as our morning match, Whyte-McCallen defeating Phillips-Bedell. For their efforts, they were awarded the leftover alligator feed.

To the victors the spoils

To the victors the spoils

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