TPC pegs Naples for next top design from Arthur Hills
NAPLES, Fla. -- With 23 Tournament Players Clubs spread throughout the United States, and two more close to opening near Dallas and New Orleans, the PGA Tour is being very selective about when and where TPCs spring up in the future.
But when the opportunity arose near Naples in southwest Florida, the Tour didn't hesitate. The Tour announced last week that construction of the TPC of Treviso Bay, a private course designed by Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates, will start later this year with a scheduled opening in 2006.
"Naples is a market that the Tour has been looking at for 20 years," said Brian Hawes, vice president of development for the PGA Tour. "It is a high-profile tournament market for us. It is an upper-end golf market. Strategically for some time, we've felt it is where our brand should be. We were looking for the right combination of the right site, a solid developer and the right architect. We feel like we've found those components."
V. K. Development Corp., of Brookfield, Wis., will develop the 1,050-acre 1,200-unit private community, located five miles south of the upscale residential and retail areas of Old Naples.
The move brings into question the future of The ACE Group Classic, a Champions Tour event that has been played at six different courses during its 17-year history. The Club at TwinEagles in North Naples has hosted the event the last three years and a recent agreement keeps the tournament there for 2005 and 2006, with an option in 2007, but is the new TPC the tournament's future home? No one is saying so. Hawes said the TPC isn't being constructed with any particular tournament in mind.
"Once conditions, after it is opened, are appropriate to host an event, we will evaluate where there may be a need for a tournament," Hawes said.
ACE tournament director Jason Camp told the Naples Daily News that the tournament is not looking to move.
"We're not contractually obligated to move the tournament," Camp told the paper.
"It's nice to have this facility in this area, but we don't plan on moving there."
The Naples area also hosts the Franklin Templeton Shootout (a.k.a. Greg Norman's Shark Shootout), an unofficial PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament during golf's off-season since 2001.
TPCs, built specifically to host professional tournaments, complete with the infrastructure to host big events like spacing for corporate tents and galleries, including spectator friendly mounding, have been around for nearly 25 years. The TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville first opened in 1980, and set the standard for a brand name that has taken off among golfers. Sawgrass is one of 17 TPC courses that will host a PGA Tour, Champions Tour or Nationwide Tour event this year.
It isn't unprecedented that a TPC doesn't fit into a tournament's plans, however. For example, the Honda Classic moved to the Country Club at Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens in 2003 after years bouncing between the TPC at Eagle Trace and the TPC at Heron Bay, both in Coral Springs.
Whatever shakes out, it's clear that Naples, already a destination loaded with good courses, must make room for another one. Legendary designer Arthur Hills has designed so many courses in the area, Pete Dye once called him the "Mayor of Naples." Hills also has experience designing TPCs, building the 7,040-yard TPC at Eagle Trace in 1983. Hills said it's a challenge to design these courses.
"There is a little more involved," he said. "You need to think how to get the galleries on the course, especially around the greens on No. 9 and No. 18. We also need three gathering places where tees and greens come together. You also have to plan for space for TV and media and hospitality."
Hills' first TPC design didn't come without some controversy. After shooting a 77 at the tournament in the 1980s, Norman came off the course and told reporters that Eagle Trace was "a Mickey Mouse course that featured carnival golf."
Most players, though, have come to enjoy the layout.
"If we build a course comparable to Eagle Trace, (Treviso Bay) will be well-received," Hill said.
Hills said the Treviso Bay site is bordered by a large wetland to the south. Hawes said the PGA Tour is thrilled to be working with Hills again.
"Not only is he a highly talented designer, but he's a gentleman," Hawes said. "He shares our commitment to a high-quality golf experience."
March 22, 2004