The Top Nine Holes
of Golf in Fort Myers

by Jeff Berlinicke

Every golfer, from hacker to pro, who plays golf in Southwest Florida knows that it’s hard to find better golfing anywhere. The area doesn’t have a prestigious PGA Tour event like Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, or Tampa, so it stays in the shadows of those golf meccas. That doesn’t mean the area should be ignored for locals or tourists alike. With quieter beaches, great restaurants and, most importantly, more available tee times — especially during the late spring and early summer — Fort Myers is one of those places referred to so often as a ‘hidden gem’&Mac226; a much-overused term that creeps into almost any story involving a golf destination outside Pebble Beach, California.

With an estimated 138 golf courses within an hour of Fort Myers, choosing the top nine was a tough task. Simple math shows that 138 times 18 holes equals almost 2,500 to choose from. If I had to pick the top nine holes in Fort Myers — the most demanding, scenic and playable for everyone — well, it’s an impossibility.
But if I had to have a top nine ‘must-play’ holes that, with nine other great holes, would make a dream golf course, here’s a sampler. Let the arguments begin.

9th hole
Fiddlesticks Country Club
15391 Cannongate Drive
Just shy of 400 yards, it doesn’t sound like a monster, but consider the monster second shot onto an island green that is almost identical to the 18th green right next to it. The hole doesn’t necessarily require Big Bertha, because a dogleg comes into play just before the approach over water to the green. There’s no room for error. A long trap surrounds the front of the green while three smaller bunkers are nestled behind. Another bunker sits on the left and an approach shot to the left swims with the fishes. The green is lengthy, but a tricky pin placement on the left side makes it an easy bet that you want to go for the center, two-putt, and head for the turn.

17th hole
Eagle Ridge Golf Club
14589 Eagle Ridge Drive
You have to go over a lake that spans the fairway on the tee shot, but that isn’t the least of your worries. The water doesn’t come into play unless you play from the tips, but at 425 yards, it isn’t too long for the 20-handicapper. The second shot is the killer. Hit it left and risk getting soaked. Go right and you are on the beach. Eagle Ridge is only 6,538 yards from the tips, but water comes into play on all 18 holes, so bring an extra sleeve. By the way, Eagle Ridge is one of the best golf bargains in the area with a low fee for a challenging course.

17th hole
Legends Golf & Country Club

8600 Legends Blvd.
Even though Legends isn’t a watery graveyard on most holes, No. 17 is an exception. It’s 172 yards from the tips and requires a carry over the water. There is a bulkhead of rocks on the right side that forms the face for the green. The water starts up front and winds around the back. Legends is known for its tight fairways and undulating greens, so No. 17 is a bit of an aberration. But at 172 yards, it’s a long iron that must be high enough not to roll into the water in the back. A great hole while finishing the back nine.

18th hole
Olde Hickory Golf & Country Club

14670 Old Hickory Blvd.
You won’t find a tougher trip to the clubhouse than the last two holes at Olde Hickory. The 17th is a long par 3 that stretches to 185 yards, and that only sets up the 565-yard par 5 18th. The hole is a double dogleg, and the approach shot skirts 125 yards of waste bunker down the right side of the fairway. If you can dodge the waste, the swamps, and the bunkers, the green is lightning fast and not an easy way to end an enjoyable round.

5th hole
Estero Country Club at the Vines

19501 Vintage Trace Circle
This treacherous par 3 can be a monster with its mostly island green, but there is a little bailout room if needed. The green takes up only about half the island on the 196-yard hole, but if you go off the green to the left, the itch can be a nightmare. It isn’t a long hole from the inner tees, and is more intimidating visually than it is physically, but standing over the shot with little room for error is intimidating. Estero’s four par 3’s are all unique, but No. 5 is the most challenging.

13th hole
Lexington Country Club
16225 Willow Crest Way
At 576 yards, this par-5 is reachable in two to the best golfers, but don’t count on it. The hole is a double dogleg that is lined with bunkers and requires a water carry to the green. The green is large and flat, but getting there is the challenge. The best bet is to keep the ball in the fairway and lay-up for an easy third shot over the water.

16th hole
Crown Colony Golf & Country Club

8841 Crown Colony Blvd.
This course is different than most of what you find in Fort Myers. It’s one of the longest courses, playing at 7,447 yards from the tips. The 16th is 42 yards, but hooking the tee shot to the right spells doom. The key is keeping it left and straight. The tee shot is over water, which isn’t too tough a poke, but a bunker lies straight ahead. Water runs all the way down the right side, and the deep, but narrow, green has a huge bunker just behind to catch anyone who gets too ambitious on their approach.

6th hole
Renaissance Golf Club

12801 Renaissance Way
The hole is only a 370-yard par 4, but there is trouble everywhere, so don’t let the distance fool you. The tee shot is over water with a huge bunker down the left side of the dogleg left fairway. Keep the driver in the bag, because the fairway is littered with bunkers with a very narrow green flanked by another bunker on the left. It takes strategy to play this one, taking the approach shot into consideration before even thinking about the tee shot.

14th hole
Gateway Golf & Country Club

11360 Championship Drive
Ranked one of the top 50 golf courses in the United States by Golf Digest, Gateway offers plenty of challenging holes, but few come as tough as this par 3 which plays to 175 yards over a huge waste bunker onto an elevated green. A bad shot off the tee makes par a near impossibility.

from the July-August 2006 issue

the 9th & 18th at
Fiddlesticks Country Club
the 17th at
Legends Golf & Country Club
the 5th at
Estero Country Club at the Vines
the 16th at
Crown Colony Golf & Country Club