Southwest Florida golf: 'Mayor of Naples', course architect Arthur Hills dies at age 91
The "Mayor of Naples", given the nickname because of the number of golf courses he designed in the area, died Tuesday.
Arthur Hills, 91, was called that by the late renowned architect Pete Dye.
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According to Hills' company's website, he designed courses at 20 different facilities in Lee and Collier counties, starting with Myerlee in Fort Myers in 1972. Imperial was his first in Collier County in 1973, followed by Wilderness in 1974. Hills oversaw the renovation at Wilderness in 2004.
“Arthur Hills was an amazing golf course designer,” said Alan Raulerson, General Manager/Chief Operating Officer for Wilderness Country Club. “He really captured the essence of Wilderness Country Club and designed a golf course to match the natural beauty of our property.”
Perhaps his most well-known are the three courses at Bonita Bay Club. The Marsh opened in 1985, then Creekside in 1989, and Bay Island in 1994, which like Wilderness were done especially with preserving natural habitat in mind.
"Arthur Hills was a remarkable force in the industry and especially so at Bonita Bay Club," the club said in a statement. "Of our five courses, three were designed by Mr. Hills, with one being honored as a top 60 in the U.S. after its completion.
"The superb craftsmanship of his designs stood the test of time and two generations of golfers at BBC. Even in the process of now having restored two of these three gems with Hills*Forrest*Smith, the enduring nature of Arthur Hills' brilliance continues to shine through."
The last course he designed in either county was TPC Treviso Bay in Naples that opened in 2008. Former PGA Tour player Hal Sutton was a consultant on that project.
"With the passing of Mr. Arthur Hills this week, the golf world has lost a legendary course designer and architect," TPC Treviso Bay President Ed Kelly said in a statement. "His impact on golf course architecture around the world will be enjoyed by generations of golfers to come. We are proud TPC Treviso Bay in Naples, Florida is one of his signature courses and a bright star in his portfolio.
"A gentlemen on and off the course, we will be forever grateful for his visits and personal touch that made TPC Treviso Bay one of the premier courses in the country. We appreciate the involvement of his firm Hills, Forest and Smith and worked closely with them on our recent renovation. He still stopped into the office to keep an eye on things even as he entered his 90s, so we knew he was keeping an eye on our project. Arthur Hills may be gone but will never be forgotten in the world of golf and certainly not here at TPC Treviso Bay."
Other courses in Collier County that Hills designed were: Collier's Reserve (1993), Countryside (1987), Fiddler's Creek (2002), Foxfire (1984), Quail Creek (1981), Quail West (1991), The Club Pelican Bay (1979), and Wyndemere (1981).
Pelican Bay, Quail West, and Treviso Bay all have hosted Naples' PGA Tour Champions event.
The other courses he designed in Lee County are: Coral Oaks (1987), Cross Creek (1985), Miromar Lakes (2001), Palmetto-Pine (1979), Shadow Wood's Preserve (2003), The Club at Renaissance (2003), and The Sanctuary on Sanibel Island (1992).
"Sad to hear that Arthur passed away," Coral Oaks' Allen Manguson said. "He built a beautiful golf course here at Coral Oaks and was a fantastic golf course architect."
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at email@example.com.
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