The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club: A good thing getting better

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

NAPLES, Fla. -- Although it has a long and rich history, The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club has perhaps never looked better.

The Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club
The Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club is the only beachfront hotel in Naples with a golf course on-site.
The Naples Beach Hotel and Golf ClubThe Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club - RenovationThe Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club - Room viewThe Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club - Sunset Beach Bar
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The resort is basking in the glow of a $25 million renovation -- and roughly $55 million since 2000 -- that has reinvigorated a property that was starting to show its age. The renovation of all 317 guest rooms and suites, the addition of a new pool complex and some TLC to the golf course will help the resort keep pace in Naples, a swanky beach town in southwest Florida that attracts vacationers from around the world.

The resort's selling point has always been location. It's the only beachfront hotel in Naples with a golf course on-site. And the resort's lush 125 acres sit in the middle of it all, just minutes from a trendy downtown collection of boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants and a zoo. Recent guests have included former President George H.W. Bush and General Norman Schwartzkopf.

For the Watkins family, which has owned the resort since 1946, it has never been about being the biggest or fanciest hotel in Naples.

"They are a very humble family," said Michele Marsee, the resort's director of sales and marketing. "That's representative in the way they've expanded the hotel over the years. It wasn't about marble floors. It was about Florida's natural way. It is about the purity of the property."

The resort is a throwback to old-world Florida with the recent upgrades adding the modern touches that today's customers demand. The most noticeable old-school vibe comes from the small barbershop off the lobby.

"It has that old Florida character," said Josh Hoffman, a guest from Los Angeles who was visiting for a family wedding. "The location, ambiance and attention to detail were great."

Resort overview

Six different buildings give the resort a "village" sort of feel, not the stacked, impersonal ambience of a hotel chain high-rise. Several cozy landscaped courtyards serve as the playgrounds for all ages, from children playing badminton and bocce ball to corporate clients who host events. The resort also offers 34,000 square feet of meeting, event and convention facilities.

The new rooms come standard with tropical color linens and decor, a flat-panel television, a patio or balcony (some with a view of the Gulf of Mexico) and a refrigerator.

Guests will love the new beachfront pool complex surrounded by palm trees. It features two pools (one is for adults only), two whirlpools, eight cabanas, a pool bar with food service and a pool shop. They can wander back and forth between the 1,000-foot private beach and the pool with ease. The Beach Klub 4 Kids is a recreational program for children ages 5-12.

Marsee said the resort takes pride in its special programs, from summer jazz concerts to Sunday night pool parties with bands playing under an outdoor tiki hut.

The Spa and fitness center were built in 2000 in the two-story golf course clubhouse across the street from the resort accommodations. There are nine treatment rooms, sauna, steam room, hot tub and full-service salon. Yoga classes can be held on the beach or in a room at the fitness center. For athletes who can't sit still, there are six Har-Tru courts at the Mary C. Watkins Tennis Center.

Hungry for more?

The Everglades Room off the main lobby serves a breakfast buffet daily. Broadwell's, open seasonally in the 74,000-square-foot golf clubhouse, serves lunch only and houses Totch Brown's Bar, which stays open until 5 p.m. For dinner, try HB's on the Gulf -- the only beachfront restaurant in Naples. It serves up the latest fresh catch with views good enough to match the fine meal.

The Sunset Beach Bar, with bar stools overlooking the beach, is a favorite hangout of both locals and resort guests. It's a great place to people watch and chill. It's been named "Best Place To View A Southwest Florida Sunset" and "Naples' Best Beach Bar" by the Travel Channel.

The Lobby Bar, in the main tower lobby, opens Friday and Saturday nights with live piano entertainment from 7-10 p.m. The Seminole Store off the main lobby is a mini-convenience mart and café rolled into one, selling deli sandwiches, ice cream, gourmet coffees and a variety of freshly baked pizza, pastries and desserts.

Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club: The course

Naples' original golf course, built in the late 1920s, reopened last September after a two-month renovation project to resurface 12 of the greens and all 18 tees. The tee boxes were also leveled and squared off.

The 6,488-yard Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club course is still short by modern standards, making it more of a favorite for families, women and seniors. Low-handicap players will still appreciate a handful of holes, notably the par-4 10th and especially the finishing hole. The par-4 18th requires a long straight poke off the tee before a mid-iron over water to the green. The layout is considered the best public course in Naples, although there isn't much competition, to be honest. This is a community littered with high-end private clubs in gated communities.

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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