Ask GolfPass: Best public golf courses in Naples

Naples, Florida is one of the world’s most visited winter golf destinations. But that’s not necessarily for the public courses. It is the private club mecca of the world.

Our course guide lists 126 courses within 20 miles of the Naples city center, and of those, 108 are fully private. That’s over 85% of the courses that won’t take your money. It is a percentage greater than just about any large golf market and the area is significantly more exclusive than all the other major Florida golf destinations. So it’s no wonder that most public golf-seeking golfers in the wintertime veer towards Tampa, Orlando and even the Atlantic side of South Florida around Miami-Ft. Lauderdale.

But nevertheless, Naples is an attractive place to be in the wintertime. If you’re a golfer in the area without a private hookup, you may need some assistance finding a public course in Naples near you. GolfPass member Ronald wrote us asking, “I’ll be in Naples for a week in January, but it seems like all the courses near me are private. What are my best bets for getting on?”

Well, Ronald, there are a few very nice golf resorts in the area, and it’s worth noting that some of the private clubs in Naples will open their gates to public access once in awhile, especially come late-spring when much of the membership heads back up north. But the surge in golf popularity over the last couple years means those tee times may be a little tougher to come by. For example, TPC Treviso Bay and Forest Glen are two properties we’ve highly recommended in past years but they have significantly cut back or eliminated their public access during peak season. Forest Glen’s limited public availability is slated to end come January thru springtime.

I don’t want to steer you totally clear of Naples. This is still Florida and courses are everywhere and even the public courses are very good. If you’re spending an extended period of time along the gulf, you could spend a week playing the public and resort courses between Ft. Myers and Naples and have a great trip. It’s been a few years since I’ve been down that way, so I scanned our latest reviews over the last year or so to see what golfers have had to say about the scene recently. Our reviews community has endorsed the following five courses in Naples open to the public. Each carry an overall score of over 4.3/5 right now. And if we haven’t made it explicitly clear, if you’re in the area during the winter, don’t dawdle when it comes to booking your tee times.

Old Corkscrew Golf Club

Old Corkscrew, near Naples, Fla., received nearly 200 reviews in 2015 and is among Florida’s highest rated courses.

Brandon Tucker/GolfPass

Probably the best known public-access golf course in the Naples area, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Old Corkscrew Golf Club in Estero also has a reputation as one of the most challenging layouts in the state. But it’s also very scenic and secluded with plenty of wildlife to distract you from any scorecard ugliness. Reviewers clearly love the total experience as it’s made our Golfers’ Choice Florida list for the last four years. Dynamic green fees peak around $195 weekends.

“Old Corkscrew will test every facet of your game,” wrote d44012. “With firm and fast greens getting up and down for par is really hard to do. But good shots are rewarded! A great mix of holes, long and short. And a driveable par 4! The 1st time I played here I tight it was too hard. Now that I’ve employed better strategy I love the challenge.”

Tiburon Golf Club: Gold & Black Courses

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Home to 36 holes and part of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort Naples, Tiburon Golf Club is the best-known public-access course in the area thanks in part to its long history as a host of professional golf tournaments like the LPGA’s CME Group Tour Championship and Greg Norman’s QBE Shootout. The Troon-managed facility features exceptional facilities and conditions, reflected in its ranking among the Top 25 Courses for Off-Course Amenities in 2021 by our community. The LPGA plays the Gold Course, which earns slightly higher marks than the QBE Shootout’s Black Course.

“As a young guy from Kentucky, courses like this are a real treat,” wrote NickR53. “The course is very different than any I had played, There is very little rough on this course, it’s either sand or fairway, which can be an advantage and disadvantage. The setting and layout are beautiful, and knowing that you are following in the footsteps of the pros is another bonus. I don’t know if I will ever be back, but it was certainly a round I will never forget.”


Best of Naples Package

FROM $327 (USD)

NAPLES, FL | Enjoy 2 nights’ accommodations at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples and 2 rounds of golf at Tiburón Golf Club – Gold Course and Black Course.

Raptor Bay Golf Club

Raptor Bay’s penultimate hole offers little in the way of definition, but drives down the right side get much better looks at the green than those down the water line on the left.

Tim Gavrich/GolfPass

With a convenient location between Fort Myers and Naples and adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, Raptor Bay is a favorite destination course for daily-fee and stay-and-play golf. It’s a very scenic layout designed in 2001 by Ray Floyd and features a lot of lagoons and large, sandy waste areas to navigate instead of traditional bunkers. Weekend tee times in the winter are about $164.

“Everything about the course was nice,” wrote jamcallaway. “Driving range practice greens in great shape…staff was very nice and helpful. Starter was very knowledgeable and gave good advice. Course layout was challenging. Greens in great condition.”

Lely Resort: Mustang and Flamingo Courses

Home to 54 total holes, Lely Resort is a mecca of resort golf in the Naples area. Flamingo Island is a challenging and heavily sculpted Robert Trent Jones Sr. design dating back to 1989. The Mustang opened later in 1996 and was designed by Lee Trevino’s firm and earns the higher ratings between the two. You don’t have to be a guest of the resort to play the two resort courses (Green fees are $145-165), but only members can play the private course there, the Classics Country Club.

“In pristine condition with a staff that compliments the course well,” wrote Phil3725131 of The Mustang. “The greens run true and consistent and there is as much water and sand as you would expect from a Trevino designed course.”

Panther Run Golf Club

Located west of the Naples area, Panther Run Golf Club is a little off the beaten path but offers some solid value for the area as a result. The Del Webb development is on the newer side, dating back to 2007 and the course was designed by Gordon Lewis. Dynamic weekend green fees this winter are around $119.

“Water on almost every hole but doesn’t come into play very often,” wrote gopack007. “Fairways are some of the widest I have ever played. Really enjoyed my round… Also got to see some gators.”

Some value golf courses in Naples

There are better Florida destinations for value golf than Naples (like Tampa, or even Ft. Myers). That said, there are a handful of public courses in the area you can play for less than $100. And GolfPass members, right now you can use your monthly tee time credit at each of these. | View GolfPass benefits

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