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Raymond's Rapture at Raptor Bay

Just before turning his attention to the Senior PGA Tour in the early nineties, Raymond Floyd wrote a book on the short game, From 60 Yards In. Golfers planning to take on Floyd's newest creation, Raptor Bay Golf Club, should consider it required reading before reserving tee times at the course, adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa, just north of Naples, Florida.

There is little doubt Floyd's knack for pitching and chipping influenced the design of this visually stimulating nature walk that puts a premium on players' ability to close the deal with their short clubs. Floyd, who took criticism for his dramatic alterations of more than one hundred bunkers in his 1996 redesign of Miami's Doral Golf Resort and Spa's Blue Monster, this time challenges golfers without a single sand trap. "I didn't want to create a typical Florida course with an overabundance of perimeter mounding that funneled all the golf shots toward the middle of the fairways," says Floyd. "I designed the greens and surrounds at Raptor Bay to challenge the golfer to think first, because almost every kind of shot can be imagined."

Mixing short par fours and reachable par fives with sloping, elevated greens that can send even just slightly mishit shots trickling into collection areas and swales, Raptor Bay demands either pinpoint-accurate approaches or creative chips, bump-and-runs and flop shots, plus a steady putter. Landing areas off the tee are ample and greens are large, although with big undulations they offer small, effective targets for golfers in hope of birdie--or even par--opportunities. It's easy to call Raptor Bay unconventional, even quirky, but it is neither tricked up nor unfair. The design simply emphasizes strategy, touch and creativity, segments of the game often overlooked by those who usually focus just on swinging hard.

The inventive use of crushed white coquina shells in the large waste areas provides distinctive framing and visual contrast for the 5,605- to 6,702-yard par-seventy-one course, but golfers will have no shortage of uncultivated scenery as well. With the newly opened Hawk and Osprey nines and an additional nine holes scheduled, Raptor Bay touches natural buffers along Estero Bay, a Florida aquatic preserve. There is no residential development on the property; the course winds through a natural environment with twenty-two acres of lakes and more than two hundred acres of native vegetation and preserves. On and around the course, golfers can spot egret, osprey, gopher tortoise, blue heron, fiddler crab, an occasional white-tailed deer, alligators and bald eagles (three eaglets were born there in 2001). Among native plants that line the fairways are mangroves, cabbage palms, pines, live oaks and palmettos. The course's effort in preserving its natural setting will be honored shortly by Audubon International (not affiliated with any other Audubon society) as the first U.S. resort course to receive Gold Signature Certification, representing environmental stewardship.

Green Fees: $60--$190. Tee Times: 877-924-7529 or visit wcigolf.com.

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