Prepare to part with your driver at Bonaventure C.C.'s West golf course

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

WESTON, Fla. - Please replace the first paragraph with this new version: So you're staying at a resort in the sleepy town of Weston and you've been beaten up by the East Course at the Bonaventure Country Club in the kind of South Florida summer heat that would melt a monkey.

No birdies, precious few pars and way too many bogeys. You're looking to get your groove back, to get a little more swagger in your swing. In the clubhouse, you see the yardage book for the East's sister course, the West, and you see: 6,126 yards.

Rama-lama-ding-dong! Just what you're looking for! Longer than an executive course, but short enough for you to be a bully boy. You make a tee time and clean your driver.

Not so fast, Tiger. Yardages can be deceptive. It's true, the West is much shorter than the East and it is easier, but it isn't that much easier, especially if you let down your guard.

The yardage and par is brought down by the fact the course has six par-3s, but its par-5s average more than 550 yards - not a huge number, but enough to make you sweat a little more than usual in this ungodly summer heat.

"The West course, I consider more of a thinking man's golf course," said Director of Golf Chris Baetzel. "First of all, it doesn't have the length, but it has places you don't want to hit the ball. You have to hit 3-wood or 2-irons and manage your game and that makes the course longer than it looks. You get to hit a lot of different clubs, so it's a good practice course."

Any architect knows you deal with shorter courses by making the fairways narrower and installing more obstacles. So while the West isn't the best in terms of challenge, there's enough there if you keep your driver working overtime.

"You want to pick your places," Baetzel said. "There are places where if you miss by a couple of feet, you're behind bunkers, trees, waste areas. I would say the fairways are about three-fourths narrower than the East."

The opening hole is a good example: it's a 535-yard par 5 from the back tees and you want to favor the left side of the fairway, difficult for most golfers since it is said 80 percent of all amateurs slice the ball. You want to hit to the opposite side on your approach, being careful of the creek that splits the fairway. Then it's back left, again being careful to avoid the sand traps left.

No. 7 is another medium-length par 5 with bunkers and out of bounds the entire length of the left side. No. 14, a 373-yard par 4, has trouble left and right so you have to use a club that will get the ball in the fairway.

The Verdict

The West is a much easier course than the East if you can hit it straight. If you can hit your driver straight consistently, you can post a really good number, which is what your typical resort golfer is looking for.

"It's definitely easier, I don't care what anybody says," said Rod Bowadger of Michigan. "You can hit a 3-wood off the tee here and still have short irons into the green on most of the par 4s. If you're a halfway decent golfer, you shouldn't have any problem. I've been here a month and shot my best scores there."

Club officials said there's more wildlife on the West course - wild parrots and wading birds like wood storks and herons, for example. However, there are also more homes around the perimeter than the East and they are closer to the course.

The West does have an "environmentally sensitive area" roped off for the burrowing owls that's interesting, not that you'll ever see them. Like the East, there's a lot of water, this being Florida.

Service at the club is excellent, especially starter Mike Weaver, the son of Earl, the former Baltimore Orioles manager.

Green fees at the semi-private club are very reasonable, up to $80. The club offers a summer premier card for $200 as well as annual memberships and Florida residents' rates from $15-$75.

Stay and Play

The Bonaventure Resort and Spa is soon to become the Wyndham Resort and Golden Door Spa - and man do they have some changes planned. A new 48,000-square-foot spa will be added, modeled after traditional Japanese Honjin Inn style with a tea room adjacent to the main waiting room.

Plans call for 35 treatment rooms, a couples' massage room, a large fitness room, yoga studio, Pilates studio, café and a Zen garden. There will also be a "contemplation area," where you go, it's assumed, to contemplate lotus blossoms, the vastness of the universe and other stuff some folks like to think about.

A $75 million renovation is slated to finish this fall. The resort is in the midst of 23 acres of gardens and has an affiliation with the Bonaventure Country Club.

The Weston Tennis Center is nearby, headed by Cliff Drysdale. You can rough it in the Everglades or go shopping at Sawgrass Mills, both 10-minute drives away.

The resort is in the town of Weston, one of those pleasant, ritzy, South Florida towns away from the grime of the cities. It's where tourists with straw hats ride bicycles with their kids and where the roads are wide and never a pothole to be found.

Dining Out

Cleo's Bistro is a full-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and spa food is also available at the hotel.

Windows Lounge serves cocktails with a limited dinner menu and Weston and nearby Fort Lauderdale have a wide variety of restaurants.

Fast Fact

The West is newer than the East, and was designed by Charles Mahannah.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

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.

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