June 1, 2019

Bonita Bay Renovation Underway

The esteemed private club on the west coast of Florida set to add short-game area and update infrastructure

By Richard Humphreys

Last month, Bonita Bay Club in Bonita Springs, Florida, began a comprehensive project to renovate and restore the Bay Island course as well as build a new short game practice facility designed by the Hills Forrest Smith architecture firm.

The Bay Island course is one of three at the club’s west campus designed by Arthur Hills – the club has two more courses designed by Tom Fazio in nearby Naples. Infrastructure will be rebuilt, and modest changes will be made to improve the aesthetics, playability and strategy, as the architects seek to restore the original design intent of the course.

“When it was opened in 1994, nine new holes (4-12) were combined with nine holes from the original award-winning Marsh course to create the Bay Island course that exists today,” says designer Shawn Smith. “The longest and most challenging of the three courses on the west campus, it is laid out to strategically and aesthetically take advantage of its natural setting.”

At the same time as the Bay Island renovation, the club will also begin work on the creation of a new 2.5-acre short game practice facility.

“The spacious new short game facility will be a wonderful addition for the club,” says Smith. “Consisting of four greens, multiple bunkers with varied depths and sizes and expansive fairway surrounds, it will provide the membership the ability to practice virtually any short shot they can imagine.” By converting the existing 18th hole of the Creekside course into a par 3, they will create space for the new short game facility. The new 18th will be a dramatic finishing hole that plays over a natural wetland into a wooded backdrop with an amphitheater-style setting.

The entire property takes full advantage of the natural marsh environment, which defines much of southwest Florida. The routing weaves through a series of lakes, wetlands and preserves with large stands of oak, cypress and pine trees to create a picturesque golf course that blends beautifully with its surroundings.

“The property has changed considerably in the 25 years since it was first opened. In addition to updating the infrastructure, we plan to restore the greens to their original dimensions so we can recapture valuable cupping area and strategic pin positions that have been lost over the years,” Smith adds. “We will look to bring back the strategic and aesthetic value of the bunkers by rebuilding them with their original strong grass faces and flat sand floors. While our efforts will be largely restorative, we will also make a few modest changes to lake shapes, bunkering and a handful of greens to improve the aesthetics, playability and strategy of the course and make it more relevant to today’s modern technology.”