The 400-acre layout in Bonita Springs, Fla., which rests up against the Everglades and other protected wetlands, was mildly impacted by October’s Hurricane Ian. Led by Fazio Design Senior Design Associate Tom Marzolf, the renovation touched every hole on the course to make it more strategic for championship-level competitions and more playable for the entire club membership. “Cypress was in really good shape, but the members and management wanted to improve the experience for golfers of all abilities and ages,” says Marzolf.
The Cypress Course at Bonita Bay Club—a Tom Fazio design that debuted in 1997—has reopened after a 14-month-long renovation conducted by the world-famous firm. The 400-acre layout in Bonita Springs, Fla., which rests up against the Everglades and other protected wetlands, was mildly impacted by October’s Hurricane Ian.
Led by Fazio Design Senior Design Associate Tom Marzolf, the renovation touched every hole on the course to make it more strategic for championship-level competitions and more playable for the entire club membership.
“Bonita Bay is a uniquely proactive club,” explained Marzolf. “Cypress was in really good shape, but the members and management wanted to improve the experience for golfers of all abilities and ages.”
The most significant aspect of the renovation was raising the entire course by 12 to 18 inches to improve drainage: Six new lakes were created, four existing lakes were expanded, and the resulting 200,000 cubic yards of earth were spread across the property. Fairways were widened, plus 450 new catch basins were added, and perforated pipe was laid underground to move water away from playable areas. The hurricane and record rains in September revealed areas that needed additional drainage work, which have now been remediated.
“The pre-renovation engineering studies paid off,” according to EJ McDonnell, Director of Golf. “Retained water stayed in places it was designed to stay in.”
No less important was the addition of two new tees—one shorter and one longer—so there are now seven teeing platforms on every hole, set at 500-yard intervals. The course plays from 4,500 to 7,500 yards, which, according to Marzolf, makes Cypress the first Fazio design with a 3,000-yard spread.
“Our members enjoy the variety of playing options afforded by our five courses,” said Paul Nussbaum, Chairman, Bonita Bay Club Board of Directors. “Cypress Course remains our most competitive, but with seven sets of tees, golfers will find the right level of challenge for their games.”
While the routing remains intact, significant work was done on and around the greens. With the extensive drainage work completed, the course now plays firm and fast, and the green surrounds are shaved-down “low-mow” areas that encourage a wider variety of short-game shots. The greens also were enlarged to allow for both more member-friendly and championship-level hole positions. In another Fazio first, some greens feature wooden bulkhead walls that enhance aesthetics, especially when the often-fluctuating water level drops.
Bunkers were redone with a “cleaned up, Augusta look,” says Marzolf. White sand is flashed up on bunker faces and the surrounding turf is shaved low. Furthermore, acres of sand were added in mostly out-of-play areas along and between holes and around trees. The sand is juxtaposed against native plantings and pine straw.
Tee-shot-landing-area bunkers throughout the course were repositioned further down the holes to counterbalance ongoing golf equipment advancements (improved club and ball technology); these same bunkers should be out of play for shorter hitters. The new Cypress Course drive-zone bunkers are angled slightly closer to the center lines of play, rather than the old school, left rough/right rough locations. The fairway mowing line is now in front of the encroaching fairway bunkers, rather than along the side of the sand.
Marzolf points out, “Since the modern ball can fly straighter today, fairway bunkers were moved in closer. To regain the attention of the game’s best players, the tee shot strategy now calls for reaction and alignment choices based on carrying the bunkers. As the game evolves and equipment improves, golf architecture must react and adjust.”
Cypress is one of two courses at the Naples campus, located about 10 miles from Bonita Bay Club’s primary location close to the Gulf of Mexico. The second Naples campus course, Sabal, is a 1998 Fazio design that will be renovated starting in Fall 2023. Cypress will remain the slightly more challenging course, continuing to host state and regional events.