The Takeaway: Calusa Pines features elevation changes you generally don't find in Florida, elite level conditioning, and enough sand to make the Sahara Desert jealous. The idyllic setting hosts a strong variety of hole designs, shapes, and directions so as to ensure a unique experience each time around. Easily a top tier course in Florida if not its finest private club. Grade A-
Designer: Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry in 2001
Phone Number: (239) 348-2220
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Calusa Pines Golf Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 2000 Calusa Pines Drive, Naples, FL 34120
Accolades: Ranked 5th in Florida on Golf Course Gurus' Best in State list.
What to Expect: Calusa Pines is the flagship design of Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry; the duo that is also largely responsible for the design of 2017 U.S. Open host site Erin Hills. Calusa is located in Naples, FL and enjoys more elevation changes than most golfers are used to in the Sunshine State. In fact, the 12th tee represents the highest point in Collier County; a distinction that puts you nearly eye level with the surrounding treetops. Those elevations changes are totally manufactured through the development process of the course but you would never know it given the natural look and flow of the course and property. Sand is prevalent throughout the layout with expansive white bunkering as well as waste areas that are blanketed in pine needles which act as the undergrowth of numerous species of trees and bushes. The routing is unemcurberred by housing or commercial development which creates a sanctuary like feeling with gators, birds, and wildlife scattered throughout the property which effectively creates a setting of true sport and serenity. At least half of the holes have water that comes into play and the green complexes make it a true second shot golf course along the lines of Pinehurst #2 while being in a setting reminiscent of Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. From a conditioning standpoint the course could host a PGA Tour event on a moments notice which may account for why Steve Stricker is a member at the club. Cell phones are prohibited and walking with a caddie is encouraged; two elements that help you enjoy four hours on the course as much as anything. Calusa Pines joins the Streamsong courses as having some of the best elevation changes and hole designs in the state of Florida and is unquestionably one of the best courses and clubs in the Sunshine State.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 16th Hole – 185 Yard Par 3 – This is just a flat out beautiful hole. The final one-shotter at Calusa Pines is the most memorable hole at the course with a green wrapped around the sides and back by water and an elevated tee that offers an inspiring view of the surrounding property. The elevation change comfortably accounts for a half club difference, and perhaps a full club for some players, so you'll want to adjust accordingly. On a course full of great shot opportunities to execute, the 16th provides the most heroic swing of the day and one you won't soon forget.
Best Par 3: 3rd Hole – 155 Yards – Nicknamed "the shortest par five in the world," missing the green in regulation on the 3rd hole is nearly as penalizing as missing the famous island green 17th at TPC Sawgrass at the opposite end of the state. While the length and carry over the marsh area is far from punishing, the steep slopes on either side of the putting surface create a nasty scenario to recover from. Players that get too nifty with their chip from off the green and leave it short will quickly have an opportunity to try again as they'll find their ball right back at their feet. The bold chipper may not hold the green and find their ball coming to rest in the chipping area on the other side of the putting surface. Solo games of ping pong back and forth across this green is unflattering commonplace. If you aren't totally dialed in with your wedge, playing a Texas wedge may be your best chance to avoid further embarrassment.
Best Par 4: 9th Hole – 459 Yards – The closing hole of the front nine features a lake up the entire left side that crosses through the fairway 50 yards in front of the green. The tee shot needs to thread the bunkers on each side of the fairway with the one of the left running nearly the entire length of the short grass. The approach shot plays over the water to a green protected on each side by more bunkers with the putting surface sloping left to right. The elevated tee gives players a good preview of the hole, so take note of the flag placement before committing where to place your tee shot and set yourself for a good chance of closing the front nine with a par.
Best Par 5: 18th Hole – 512 Yards – Calusa Pines features great holes as the closers on each nine with the final hole of the course also providing a good scoring opportunity. The 18th is a sharp dogleg left that rewards the player that can hit a draw that works against the left-to-right slope of the fairway. After turning around the dogleg the fairway climbs slowly but steadily uphill enroute to the green and features a deep bunker fronting the putting surface. The sprawling clubhouse provides an impressive backdrop across the rear of the green and a great vantage point to watch players try and reach this green in two. Any approach shot that misses the bunker short of the green should result in a solid opportunity to go out on a birdie.
Birdie Time: 8th Hole – 291 Yard Par 4 – The 8th hole is an exciting offering that players should come to licking their chops. Tipping out at less than 300 yards, this par four is plenty reachable, however the hole does climb uphill which makes it play longer than the yardage may suggest. The earth movement that went on while creating Calusa Pines is on full display here with bunkering climbing 30+ feet in elevation on the left side of the fairway and provides a daunting obstacle to avoid. Despite the massive bunker complex up the left, plenty of fairway is offered up the center and right sides of the hole to hit which will set up a short chip to the green. With a challenging par four coming up next, you need to take advantage of this gift hole while you have the chance.
Bogey Beware: 12th Hole – 468 Yard Par 4 – From the highest point in Collier County, the tee shot on the 12th is half inspiring half intimidating. The left side of the fairway is flanked by a lake and stands as a constant reminder to not get overly aggressive with your swing and yank your Pro V1 into a watery grave. The large elevation drop to the fairway magnifies your yardage and any mistakes in accuracy, so it is critical to get safely off the box to start. The approach shot plays to a deep but narrow green with a bunker on the left that sits between the putting surface and the water. The 12th features the best views and tee shot on the course, so enjoy and do everything you can to avoid a bogey!