Women-friendly golf courses abound in Naples, Marco Island and Bonita Springs

By Katharine Dyson, Special Contributor

Naples, Marco Island and Bonita Springs in southwest Florida has one of the best concentrations of women-friendly golf courses in the country starting with Greenlinks Golf Resort & Conference Center, home to the Lely Mustang Golf Club, designed by Lee Trevino, and the Lely Flamingo Island Club, a Robert Trent Jones Signature course.

Lely Flamingo Island Club golf course
The Lely Flamingo Island Club is a classic beauty by Robert Trent Jones.
Lely Flamingo Island Club golf courseNaples Beach Hotel & Golf ClubNaples Beach Hotel & Golf Club - pro shopOld Corkscrew Golf Club in EsteroRookery at Marco golf courseTiburon Golf Club - pro shop
If you go

Mustang, usually recommended for the average woman golfer, is a basically flat track, with less "trouble," fewer carries and bunkers, roll-up greens and generous bail-out areas. It's also pretty with 12 lakes, while fairways are wider, more open.

Flamingo holds more appeal to the lower handicap golfer. A classic well laid out Trent Jones beauty, it features large, undulating greens, narrow approaches to the greens and plenty of water, including hole No. 14, which plays to an island. Flamingo is also shorter at 5,377 yards from the forward tees, while Mustang plays at 5,622 yards.

Greenlinks has an attractive clubhouse, and the pro shop has a good selection of ladies golf apparel. Ask about play-and-stay packages, which roll out drastically reduced green fees, especially off-season with stays in on-site condos.

Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club

The oldest golf course in Naples (circa 1920), Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club is a parkland-style track that is short (5,142 yards from the forward tees), tight and subtle.

An aging beauty, it is punctuated by huge, mature banyan trees, stands of bamboo, flowering oleanders and hibiscus.

Crushed shell paths and some lovely ponds make this an attractive environment for wildlife, including a pair of colorful Muskovie ducks that hang out on pond's edge on hole No. 2.

Renovated by Mark Mahanna (1948) and later by Ron Garl, at but 10 feet above sea level, it is pretty flat -- the highest elevations are the tee boxes and distances between greens. Plus, tees are short, so this is a track you can easily walk.

There are three (carries) on par 3s, but all hover around 100 yards. Hole No. 18 -- an S-shaped, double dog leg with water on both sides -- is a challenging and fun finishing hole.

Located across from the white sand beach and hotel, you just feel like you're in old Florida. It's comfortable and affordable with green fees from $40.

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort and Tiburon Golf Club

Tiburon Golf Club's Black and Gold courses at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort were designed by Greg Norman.

Meticulously groomed, they feature stacked sod wall bunkers, coquina sand and G1 Bermuda on fairways and tees and Tif Eagle greens.

Just because Tiburon Golf Club's Gold is the venue for the PGA Tour's Shark Shootout, it doesn't mean it's the most difficult. Black tends to be tighter with more trees and forced carries over water, while Gold's greens are slightly larger and feature more roll-up approaches making it easier for women with a good chipping game.

Named one of the "Top 20 Resort Shops" by Golf World, the pro shop carries an impressive selection of women's apparel by Greg Norman, Nike and Adidas.

Raptor Bay Golf Course

An Audubon International Gold Certified Signature Sanctuary, Raptor Bay Golf Course is set in a beautiful natural environment without homes to deflect a sense of outdoors. Designed by Raymond Floyd and another WCI Community track, it is playable for all levels with wide fairways combined with subtle conundrums.

Greens tend to run to the back, and water is all around, yet doesn't come into serious play on most holes. Stray off course, however, and thick vegetation and native grasses can do serious damage. From the forward tees, none of the par 3s require more than 115 yards carry.

Raptor Bay offers play-and-stay packages with nearby Hyatt at Coconut Point -- not a bad place to stay with the huge array of upscale shopping opportunities all around.

Ask about membership programs for seasonal residents including its Eagles Program.

The Rookery at Marco

At the Rookery at Marco resort course, you can pull out your driver and crush it starting on the first hole where you are hitting out to a wide landing area. (Yes, women can crush it.)

Cut out of a swamp; the once wild natural environment is somewhat compromised by houses and condos, which surround the course.

Today, on the arguably prettier back nine, huge, expensive homes impress with their grandness while the course and facilities retain a private-club ambiance from the expansive clubhouse, locker rooms and pro shop to the practice areas.

Enjoy risk and reward holes like No. 8, which takes you right and across a river, while hole No. 9, a double dog leg, has water on left and right with a narrow landing area for your second shot.

The Rookery has teamed up with the nearby Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa for the "Unlimited Rounds at Marco Island Experience" including accommodations, breakfast, rental clubs and unlimited daily golf for two.

Old Corkscrew Golf Club

Like Raptor Bay, Old Corkscrew Golf Club in Estero has a wild, natural environment with friendly forward tees set at 5,161 yards.

Designed by Jack Nicklaus, it has tricky greens and is an Audubon International Silver Certified Signature Sanctuary.

Off course

Shopping on 3rd and 5th avenues in Naples is world-class with lots of high-end boutiques, galleries and gift shops, such as Tommy Bahama, popular for its outdoor patio and adjacent store.

The "Best of Everything" (www.bestofeverythingnaples.com) is a local "bling" phenomena -- wait 'til you see the $8 watches and the colorful handbags.

Trendy Naples Tomato (www.naplestomato.com) on the Tamiami Trail in Bonita Springs makes its own pasta and sauces, and at the Mozzarella Du Jour bar, you get a choice of five varieties of mozzarella as well as antipasto selections. You'll love its lasagna, while the seafood is outstanding.

Fuzzy Zoeller often stops at Randy's Fish Market Restaurant (www.randysfishmarketrestaurant.com), a funky casual restaurant on Tamiami Trail North in Naples. This casual restaurant only cooks up what it has fresh in-house, and its key lime pie is outstanding.

Also try Yabba Island Grill (www.yabbaislandgrill.com) starting with one of its great rum drinks followed by killer shrimp . Watch the sun go down at the Sunset Beach Bar Beach Club at the Naples Beach Hotel (www.naplesbeachhotel.com). Then head next door to HBs on the Gulf for great local seafood.

Katharine DysonKatharine Dyson, Special Contributor

Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Women's Golf Leagues

    Claire Tucker wrote on: Nov 21, 2016

    I am going to be in Bonita Springs for the months of February and march 2017 and am looking for women's golf leagues to join. Any advice?