TPC Treviso Bay challenges public golfers to 'man up' in Naples, Florida

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

NAPLES, Fla. -- The TPC brand is one that inspires visions of great tournament venues.

TPC Treviso Bay - hole 5
The fifth hole at the TPC Treviso Bay is a short par 4.
TPC Treviso Bay - hole 5TPC Treviso Bay  - hole 6TPC Treviso Bay - hole 12
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It's too bad only a handful of the "Tournament Players Club" golf courses are public-access, including TPC Sawgrass, Old White TPC at The Greenbrier and TPC San Antonio.

But you can add TPC Treviso Bay to the list.

The club opened as a private playground in 2008 and immediately hosted the 2009 ACE Group Classic, a Champions Tour event. Financial troubles derailed the original developer, opening the door for a new owner, Lennar Homes, and new players. The club has been open to the public since June 2011, allowing anybody brave enough to challenge the layout a shot at glory.

The setting is as gorgeous as the 7,367-yard course is demanding. Director of Golf Mark Wilhelmi calls the TPC Treviso Bay a "crown jewel" in a competitive and strong golf scene.

Architect Arthur Hills and Player Consultant Hal Sutton transformed a virtual jungle five miles east of Naples bordering the 110,000-acre Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve into a thing of beauty. The first impressions -- a two-mile drive tour of fountains, ornate bridges, fancy homes and Mediterranean architecture -- introduce the grand ambitions of this gated community.

There are no immediate plans to finish the shell of a clubhouse, although the practice facilities and the golf course make up for the reminder of a turbulent past.

The water hazards on 12 holes are front and center, ready to cast doubt into the minds of even the most talented players. Signature holes? There are none. Just one stacked upon the next. The best stretch is No. 11, a fantastic Cape hole, through No. 13, a dangerous dogleg left along a pond. The long par 5s at Nos. 12 and 18 boomerang around a pond, except in opposite directions.

Players tend to splash down here and there, yet they don't seem to mind.

"I think it's spectacular. It's a special place," said Dr. Richard Ricca, just moments after finishing his first round at TPC Treviso Bay while visiting from New York. "I like the architecture and the conditioning. I think it is a player's golf course. This is it. It doesn't lack for anything. It's legit. I would come back."

Wilhelmi said the course plays its toughest during high season when the wall-to-wall Sea Isle Supreme Paspalum Bermuda grass becomes dormant. This promotes firm-and-fast "tournament conditions" where balls tend to roll off the many slopes into sand and water hazards.

"It is one of those courses you need to see it a couple of times," Wilhelmi said. "We joke that you've got to get your practice round in. It's a tough course."

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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