When he was just 11 years old, professional golfer and course designer Jack Nicklaus was in Florida on a family vacation when he scored a 37 at The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club in Naples, FL. It was his first time ever breaking 40 on nine holes of golf. Now, 65 years later, Nicklaus (pictured, right of center, with the rest of the project team) is leading a $9 million renovation and redesign of its championship golf course, the resort announced last week.
"Being back to Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club is like a walk down memory lane for me," said Nicklaus, whose partner on the project is course architect John Sanford. "Returning to the same course where I broke 40, with my father by my side, brings back a lot of very special and very fond memories for me. At the same time, I am enjoying the opportunity to work with John on this rebirth, if you will, of a wonderful layout. I think we have some great ideas and people will be excited about the end product."
Scheduled for completion in December 2016, the total redesign of the course began in April and will feature a totally new, par-71 routing plan consisting of five tees, ranging from 4,800 yards to over 6,900 yards. In addition, the renovated course will offer a 300-yard practice and teaching range, and will have new golf carts with GPS.
According to Henry B. Watkins III, co-owner of The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, the renovation will bring the 319-room resort's golf course in line with the rest of the AAA Four-Diamond property, which has completed $50 million worth of renovations and enhancements over the last few years. Among the most recent additions, for example, are new glass balconies that were added in November to guest rooms in the resort's main Tower Building. Meanwhile, the 125-acre resort also has renovated all guest rooms and suites, opened a new ballroom, renovated several meeting rooms, and added a new beachfront pool complex.
"We are very excited about this dramatic and complete renovation and redesign of our championship 18-hole golf course," Watkins said. "The redesign is a unique collaboration between the very talented John Sanford and Jack Nicklaus, who is not only the greatest player of all time but one of history's most celebrated designers ... Our guests, groups, and golfers will absolutely love the truly beautiful new look of the course."
Investment in Naples' tourism product appears to be growing: Hyatt Hotels Corp. opened the 183-room Hyatt House Naples/Fifth Avenue
-- Naples' first new hotel in nearly a decade -- in May, while the 474-room Naples Grand Beach Resort unveiled
an $18 million renovation early last year.