Amid more than 100 spacious country club and residential community courses in this area is the public Bonita Fairways Golf Club and its highly unique compact layout.

Yet, there’s more distinctiveness at this par 61 venue nestled between U.S. Highway 41 and Old 41 Road near historic downtown Bonita Springs than meets the eye. In fact, it likes to occasionally pose fun challenges to vision itself.

Its executive setup, with 11 par threes and the rest asking for four shots, allows participants to experience 18 holes in three and a half hours or less now, and even less during summer.

Besides suggesting switching the order of the front and back nines to reinforce speedy play, another popular initiative that Todd Drew made soon after he became general manager and director of golf in 2004 was to offer special nine-hole night tournaments during busy season that tee off at 6 p.m., featuring glow-in-the-dark balls plus lighted carts and flag sticks.

“It was well received from the beginning and still is. Players have dinner and then head out. They have a great time,” said Drew.

The first planned 2016 edition for late January was rained out. Sunset golf was enjoyed by 53 players on Feb. 20 with the winning foursome achieving an eight under par score.

Another night tournament is planned for March 19.

“We have mostly snowbirds during the winter,” Drew recently said right after greeting a men’s group mainly from New England that have been playing together for about six years.

“During summer, it’s mainly locals, lots of workers who either play and go back to work or leave a little early to come here,” he said. “There’s tremendous loyalty; I can see our tee sheet in the morning and recognize most of the names.”


He added that Bonita Fairways’ greens were renovated two years ago and the distances between the greens and tees is also short.

“Everything is close, it all contributes to saving time,” assessing the approximately 3,400-yard course designed by the renowned Gordon Lewis that first opened in 1993 with nine holes.

Born in Concord, N.H., Drew started playing at 10 and won the state junior title among others. He had his first pro assistant’s job in 1993 at Bradford Country Club in Haverhill, Mass.

He came to Florida that winter to work in the bag room at Gateway Golf & Country Club and worked seasonally for three years before deciding to relocate full time. He continued at Gateway, where he met his wife until he took his skills to The Colony Golf & Bay Club in 1999 when it reopened after nine holes split off from Pelican’s Nest Golf Club.

His favorite hole is the par-three fourth.

“I like using the back tee at about 150 yards,” Drew said. “You have to really carry it, and the fairly large green that tilts from back to front gives lots of options.

“It’s a neat little hole,” he said, adding that many golfers feel especially challenged with the par-four sixth hole as one has to “go across a lake; it affords very little room for error.”

“We feel it’s a great place to really sharpen your short game, yet we also have the flexibility of blue, white and red tees to adjust length. People’s time seems to be getting more and more precious. You can tee off at 7 in the morning, have an early lunch, and go to work or spend the rest of the day with your family and do other things. This seems to be our niche.”

Beyond the gates

Register at until March 9 in all men’s and women’s divisions for the Sterling Oaks Spring (formerly Sneaky Pete’s) Championships, March 12-19, in North Naples ... The ninth annual Spring Run Charitable Foundation golf tournament will tee off Mar. 12 ... The annual San Carlos Golf Club’s men’s and women’s championships will be held between March 14-18 ... Tennis pros at The Club at the Rapallo at Coconut Point, Lighthouse Bay at the Brooks, Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club and The Estero Country Club at The Vines are organizing one-day bus trips to the annual Miami Open in Key Biscayne in late March.

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