Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Rookery at Marco - Marriot Golf Resort in Naples, FL - played May 1st,

Playing the WGAT USA has many fun advantages. One of them without a doubt is that we get to play all kinds of private clubs all over the state.

Last weekend I was scheduled to play in the WGAT USA Masters at The Rookery Golf course. The Rookery is part of the Marriott Resort of Marco Island. It is a private country club which too my knowledge allows play if you a member, a resort guest or part of a group like our tournament at that time.

After a two  hour drive I finally arrived at the entrance to the property Friday morning at 11 am.. My GPS mistakenly took me past the entrance. So here is a tip for you. When your GPS guides you to the side entrance, which is close to a driving range off Collier Blvd., make sure you take a right into Fiddlers Creek. Although the name will raise questions in your mind, The Rookery is part of a property which has more than one courses.

Since I had a tee time , entrance was easy. I got a guest pass with a bar code for entrance and exit.. The drive to the course already leads you through a well maintained and groomed neighborhood. Right there I was sure that I will find a very nice facility.

Arriving on the parking lot my thought was confirmed. Everything looked immaculate. There was a bag drop and a few cart guys waiting. I did not use this service, but spoke with them briefly and they were very friendly, welcoming and gave me the feeling that they were concerned about me having a good time and enjoying my stay.

First I set my bag on the cart which was marked with my name and ready to go. Stocked with some cold water and ice as well as tees and a towel mine and all other carts were clean and  equipped with a GPS system showing not only front, middle and back distances but even the hole layout itself. I liked it (on the course the distances the GPS provided were slightly different than what I got from my GPS watch and pin seeker. But overall they were very helpful).

As always I checked out the pro shop first. Looked nice. Was well stocked. But the pricing was way over the top. Marriott or not. Pro V1 golf balls , for example, should never be 60 $ plus tax. That is just one item, but I assure you , that most items where way over priced. Staff was friendly and asked several times if I needed any help.

The club house was impressive. All very well taken care off, nice restaurant with bar and a nice outside deck with view over the range and the course and many other rooms for other occasions. Restrooms in the club house were clean and well stocked.

I liked the atmosphere and the overall impression of the clubhouse. Next I went to the putting green. A big green with all kinds of breaks. The green was perfectly groomed and fast. I really liked the pitching and chipping area. A nice large bunker, big green with 2 pins and all kinds of possible lies you can choose to warm up.

After spending some time there I went over to the range, which was described as one of the best in the state. Nice range. Not sure if I would praise it that high. Plenty of pins to shoot for, good balls and grass tees in good condition. I could imagine to practice at this facility more often.

Finally ready I headed to the convenience station right behind the range. A small building which I thought had restrooms and a water station. But it had much more. There were restrooms, a water station, a refrigerator with cold wet towels, some chairs to rest and a box with markers, repair tools, score cards and pencils. Really a nice feature I must say.

The entire station was very clean and well stocked. I loaded up some towels and a couple waters. Also I took some other supplies and off I was to the 1st tee.

Right away I noticed that the tee boxes were not only in excellent condition but also level. As a matter of fact, I found them to be very level through out the entire course. I appreciate good tee boxes. Being able to hit your tee shot of a level ground makes live much easier.

My first tee shot was not in the fairway but close to the water on the right. Gave me the opportunity to check out the water, the rough and the bunker next to it. All looked great. My shot out of the rough was good, but I could tell that the rough on this course was not the place to be. While looking light, it was strong and caught my club big time.

When my ball hit the green it did not even make an attempt to stop. It ran right through it. Not unusal when hitting out of the rough. But once I got there , it became clear,  that not only was my ball coming out hot out of the rough but  the greens where pretty new ( I later found out that they were redone about 6 months ago). In other words: The greens were like concrete. But they were in very good condition and rolled nicely. Very fast and true.

From here on I found great tee boxes on every hole. Most fairways were excellent and all greens were fast, hard and tough to read. All things which I found very enjoyable as a low handicap player. For the beginner or the high handicap player the greens alone could cause some serious issues.

Pretty much every tee shot was intimidating. Much tougher than I expected. Once I got of the tee and could see the hole backwards, it was not all that bad. Good course design. The ideal tee shot would be dead straight down the middle, which made it all even tougher.

There were plenty of hazards, tight fairways and traps ( both: fairway and green side). I found a few hazards and a ton of traps. The reason though why I found those obstacles was not that I hit my balls too long or not straight enough. The reason was that the fairways were pretty hard as well. A couple times I got 30 yards plus roll out of my tee shot or my second on shot on a par 5.

You for sure need to consider that when playing this course. It makes this course even tougher, but at the same time it gives the shorter hitter the opportunity to play some old fashion bounce shots. Be it towards the green or as a lay up on a par 5.

I also learned that being long is a big no - no. If you miss a shot, miss it short. Better short or in a trap than long and in the hazard or in a collection area.

The entire course looks and probably is a sanctuary. We saw many gators, birds and fish. Wonderful. I really liked the landscape they put together there. It was fun to just ride along and look around. Naturally many good looking homes rounded that feeling up. Another positive thing I thought was , that the homes were not too close. You never felt like you had people right in your neck.

It was a tough round, but a wonderful golf day on that course. After the round we went straight to the club house. I wanted to check out the bar and see what food they serve.

No luck with the food though. They stopped serving at about 3 pm or so.  They had  a full bar there including some interesting drafts. I opted for a draft beer. Good choice. It was cold and fresh. The girl serving at the bar was very friendly and on top of things. Nobody had to ever ask for a drink. She always followed up.

The prices for the beer were a little high. Not a surprise, but I would not go there every day.

Getting off the property was no challenge. The bar code worked fine ( despite some stories I heard that it would not).

Overall : I really liked this golf course. It was tough, but beautiful, challenging but fair. If your handicap is higher, make sure you play it forward. There was no easy hole and in order to have fun you want to hit some greens and hit some fairways which naturally is easier if the hole is shorter.

I certainly was impressed with the practice area and would come back to spend time there any time if I would get an opportunity.

Everybody was very friendly and I felt welcome.

No doubt that I will play this course again soon when I get a chance. Great course, great experience. If you ever get an invite to this place, make sure you make it.

The Rookery at Marco makes my top 20 list in Florida at this point.

Have you played there? What was your experience.