Bonita Bay East

    By Tim McDonald

    Want to play a ritzy, private golf course in oh-so-swanky Naples, even if you're not a member? Well, they're letting in the rabble off the streets like me and you these days at Bonita Bay East, which is now open for public, daily play. Just don't show up barefoot with a six-pack of Bud: This is a very classy place.

    The main drawing card at Bonita Bay East is the golf: Two scenic courses designed by noted designer Tom Fazio. And here's the weird and wonderful thing: Even though this is technically residential golf, neither of the courses have homes, condos or villas around them.

    That's correct. The two tracks slither through 1,400 acres of nature, most of that pristine cypress wetlands, as well as open woodland. It's home to white-tailed deer, turkey and a variety of other critters, none of them human.

    They take their environmentalism seriously here. Bonita Bay is the first 36-hole facility in the world to be awarded the Audubon International Signature Sanctuary status, according to its Web site. It's also won some other important environmental awards.

    "Bonita Bay's large scale acreage and variety of vegetation gave us unlimited opportunity to mold, shape and form one of the finest golf complexes in the United States," Fazio has said about the property. "The outstanding site allowed us to create a different playing experience and views on every hole while maintaining and, in some cases, enhancing the environmental integrity of the property."

    The two courses, Sabal and Cypress, are both a little over 7,000 yards from the back tees. On the Cypress, the front nine is open and inviting while the fairways on the back nine are more tree-lined. Sabal will be a little easier on your scorecard than Cypress.

    I can't wait to play them.

    For more information, call 239-353-5100.