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At Play on the Calusa Coast

Locals generally concur that the Lely Resort Golf & Country Club's 7,217-yard par-seventy-two Lely Mustang Golf Club course is not nearly as challenging as Lely Flamingo. After traipsing around Trevino's creation, I must respectfully disagree. The Merry Mex may be no match for the grand master of American golf architecture, but he's almost as expert at laying out a golf course as he is hitting his trusty punch fade.

Granted, the par threes at Lely Mustang are much shorter than those at Lely Flamingo, but Trevino presents you with some pretty long and penal par fours, including the 456-yard fourth, a dogleg left dubbed Troublesome Pines, and the 466-yard fifteenth, whose eponymous Scenic View features two ponds on the left side and one pond on the right side of its serpentine fairway.

I was similarly daunted by Lely Mustang's 424-yard sixth, known as The Marsh, which calls for a tee shot to an island fairway bifurcated by bunkers. One look at the marshy gorges I had to carry here was enough to make me wish I could abandon my golf cart and hop on the back of one of the leaping bronze horses at the resort entrance.

In his prime as a PGA Tour player, Greg Norman was arguably one of the best all-around drivers in the history of the game. Playing the twenty-seven-hole Tiburón Golf Club (which Norman designed for both the Ritz-Carlton Naples resort hotel and the Tiburón golf community) makes most mere mortals wish they could enlist the Great White Shark to hit every tee shot. The ancient Calusa believed that every human being has three souls. Tiburón, too, has three souls, and each of them can be bedeviling to those who fail to drive the ball very long and very straight.

Tiburón's first and foremost soul, the one that remains with you even after your all-but-inevitable golfing death, is the 3,693-yard par-thirty-six North course. Like its two sister nines, the North course has what might best be described as a linksland/swamp/desert feel. This unique and engaging architectural hybrid is epitomized by the 440-yard par-four second, which has a bunkerless elevated green with shaved approach areas reminiscent of Pinehurst No. 2 and Augusta National, and the 458-yard par-four third, where a coquina-shell waste area runs the entire length of the fairway and wraps around the back left side of the green.

If the North course might be gently chastised for its length (double the yardage and the track would measure almost 7,400 yards), Norman at least provides fairways of commensurate width. The 3,477-yard par-thirty-six South course, though not quite as long, is both inordinately tight and mercilessly punitive. Take the 436-yard par-four second--please. I lost two sleeves of balls attempting to thread my tee shot between two goalpost pines to a landing area bounded by a palmetto-pronged jungle leading to an undulating, pond-protected green.

The 3,500-yard par-thirty-six West course is much less of a mouthful than the South, despite being a smidge longer. Here the Shark places a greater and more evenhanded emphasis on accuracy and strategic thinking with three par fours measuring 380 yards or less, and a 578-yard par five that horseshoes around a water hazard. Because some of the West course parallels a major thoroughfare, it lacks the quiescent sense of isolation afforded by the other two tracks. That drawback may eventually be offset, however, by the new on-premises Ritz-Carlton Golf Lodge, near the ninth green, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2001.


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