Treviso Bay course begins to take shape

Editor's note: This is the fifth installment in a series about the TPC at Treviso Bay. On the last Sunday of every month, staff writer Tom Hanson brings you a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to build a golf course. The TPC at Treviso Bay is scheduled to open in the fall of 2007.

There isn't any grass. There aren't any bunkers. There aren't even any cups or flagsticks.

Yet, the TPC at Treviso Bay is starting to look like a golf course.

For the first few months after breaking ground, the property in East Naples on U.S. 41 looked like nothing but a rock quarry. Now with 80 percent of the lakes dredged, it is beginning to resemble a championship venue. The course will not be completed for another 15 months. But you don't need to use your imagination anymore to get a peek at the end result.

"You can start seeing the golf course being pushed up," said Leslie Claytor, a design associate and project manager for the PGA Tour. "For the first time, you can see beyond the old citrus farm."

The 18th hole — which has started a healthy debate between the designers, Arthur Hills and PGA Tour player Hal Sutton — is taking shape. A long line of orange-colored stakes, indicating the center line, form a line down the hole. Three long white PVC pipes stick out of the ground to indicate the tee, the landing area, and the center of the green. Several large mounds of dirt represent future headaches for the average duffer. They will be molded into bunkers.

The stakes provide the machine operators an outline of the hole.

"The stakes are put down to show the shapers the lay of the land," said Chris Gray, the project manager for VK Development. "This is just preliminary shaping."

For now, though, there is nothing but dirt and lakes. That's a positive at this stage. Claytor says that means nothing is set in stone.

"Right now it's pretty bland," said Claytor, who has been coming down from the PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra once a week. "We want to leave the designers a blank canvas to make needed adjustments."

Claytor said most of the landing areas are measured out to 300 yards from the back tees. But even those could change. He said some of the landing areas may be stretched to 330 yards and some may be reduced to 260 yards. He said this is done to keep the course fair for all levels.

"You set it up so no one, a short hitter or a long hitter, has a distinct advantage," Claytor said.

The most significant development on the course has come on what will be the front nine. A large lake that will outline the fifth hole is nearly complete. The trees that will outline the second through the fifth holes have been cleared. And as Claytor said, the jewel of the course, The Rookery Bay Estuary, which borders the west side of the property, has been revealed.

"Before, you couldn't see the preserves," Claytor said. "This is the nicest feature of the course. And we are now planning more to showcase that area."

Both Gray and Claytor also are planning for plenty of rain this coming month.

Gray said last month's typical Florida summer precipitation didn't cause any delay even though some of the property is underwater.

The Naples Daily News photographer and videographer were unable to reach one of five designated spots they shoot from each month. Gray has even tested the limits, driving his Land Rover through water that rose past the hood, during our monthly tour.

Much like the progress of the course, Gray escaped getting stuck in the mud.

"Everything is on schedule," Gray said. "In Florida, you plan for a rainy summer and try to work around it. We have actually been fortunate so far and if anything — we are ahead of the timetable we set."

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