Classy Classics

The Classics at Lely Resort

In operation since 1990, the Classics at Lely Resort is one of a trio of courses situated in a sprawling triangle, flanked by U.S. 41 and Collier Boulevard, in East Naples.

It’s a private course, with members able to play the other two (the Flamingo and the Mustang) at will, but many members simply stick to the Classics.

One is Mike De Haan, who says he’s developed an affinity with the course, and now pretty much knows it like the back of his hand.

In the wake of extensive residential development (by unaffiliated Stock development) on surrounding land, many members were unhappy with the denuding of the luxuriant vegetation embracing the course.

But, DeHaan says he looks forward to the completion of development and in turn, the new image, which will not be unlike other area courses with housing close by.

General manager of the three-pronged operation, including clubhouses and peripheral facilities, is Gary Rogers.

In charge of the business side of things for the past five years, Rogers says external change begat internal change.

The changes; the results

“We did about a million-and-a-half dollars in landscaping improvements,” says Rogers, “particularly on our signature holes, 12 and 18.”

In addition, he says, ongoing landscape improvements are in place for holes 6 and 7, which are among those affected by the outer developments.

In the cards are buffers that Rogers says will eventually ensure no more impact from future residential developments.

On the financial side, he acknowledges that in these less-than-perfect economic times, the strategy is to be as competitive as possible.

Rogers and his team have instituted a $25,000, non-equity membership drive that enables play at all three courses year-round. They also have a transferable, full golf flex membership (refundable) at $45,000.

Classics members have the privilege of reserved tee times at the Mustang and Flamingo courses. Also in the promotional mix for those two public courses is Greenlinks, an independent condo resort hotel, with a variety of stay-and-play packages, running parallel to hole 10 on the Flamingo course.

Rogers says part of his forward-thinking philosophy is to ignore the, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” analogy.

“Our philosophy is to take things apart, put them together again and make them better,” he says. “You have to be open to change. I like to listen to my line employees. They give us some of our best ideas.”

Tour de Fours (and Threes, and Fives)

Head Golf Professional at the Classics is Charlie Lostracco, who is able to point out some of the course’s attractions, curiosities and quirks.

Formerly with Quail Creek, Lostracco has been at his particular Classics helm for three years, and has had golf in his blood since age nine.

He calls hole 1 “fair” to players to get them in the groove, while 2 has a challenging body of water to the right. Hole 3, he says, is a long and difficult par 5 that requires good course management to negotiate the narrow fairway.

Also no pushover, he says, is hole 4, with its severely sloped and undulating green, while hole 5 (called Friendly Draw) is appropriately named, as you drive up a hill and to the left on the way to the green.

Also appropriately named is hole 6, which has plenty of sand around the green, hence ... Desert Storm, and so on. Hole 7 is a fair and attainable par 5, while 8 invites hitting a long ball over a hazard and leaving a pitch to the green.

Hole 9, called Woodpecker’s Revenge, was intended to be a right-to-left approach, but was changed to the other way because of woodpecker nest in a tree, Lostracco says.

The real test, he says, begins on the back nine, with hole 10 demanding course management because of hazards, and 11, notable for a particularly undulating fairway.

Course designer Gary Player’s Pride and Joy constitutes hole 12, which, with its tiered tee boxes, flowers and water, is most eye-pleasing.

Risk-reward shots come in the form of hole 13 (College Corner), where a good drive will rule out getting wet. Hole 14 has an amazing hazard, in the form of a huge pile of rocks, placed around driving distance to the side of the fairway.

Also appropriately named is No Option (hole 15), a par 3 that requires a lofted drive to soar over some strategically imposing trees, The par 3 hole 16 has the only natural body of water on the course.

Coming home, number 17 is a short, par 4, dogleg right, and the closing hole (again, the appropriately named Classic Finish) is an uphill affair toward an elevated green, behind which is a sizeable hill, resplendent with flowers and shrubs.

About a round

Lostracco’s observations and tips are pretty much spot-on as one heads out to sample the course.

An immediate impression is the soft give in the fairways, enabling one to take comfortable divots on approach shots.

Rogers picks up on that observation, and says it’s because his grounds staff avoids overseeding the grass in the fall, hence, healthy turf.

Hole 1 is indeed a good icebreaker, and you have to be really wayward to get in trouble. The water guarding 2 is a little intimidating, as is the long and narrow par 5 number 3, while number 4’s slopes and undulating green can charm or infuriate, depending on green lie.

This lefty has an okay time with an inadvertent slight slice on hole 5 (Friendly Draw), while achieving regulation on 6 (Desert Storm) gives one the definite warm and fuzzies.

Among the other notables are 11, with its undulating fairways, the Gary Player hole (pretty as the proverbial postcard), the risk-reward hole 13 and hole 15, the one that requires the lofted drive to miss trees.

The par 3 hole 16 is like being deep in the country, while 18 is all it’s cracked up to be (lookswise), but is a tough, tough par 4.

Overall impression: External changes notwithstanding, the course itself still has a feeling of consistency, of identity, to it.

No pushover, except being a little easier when taking the line of least resistance on the forward tees. One presumes that for regular members, it exudes a real sense of ownership.

Call 732-1200 for membership information.

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