Golfing in Nature on Sanibel Island
The surroundings are part of what makes a golf course special. Pebble Beach offers spectacular Pacific Ocean views, TPC its mountains, Augusta its azaleas, but here on Sanibel, you can enjoy the game in a setting of unusual wildlife and tropical foliage.
Bermuda hybrids are typically the preferred grass for the sandy soil. Palms, gumbo limbos, poincianas, and other exotic trees line the golf courses. Yellow and red canna lilies bloom along the edges of the water, allowing you to enjoy the beauty even while hunting for a wayward golf ball.
Usually a ball on the water’s edge is still playable unless it rolls to a stop next to an alligator sunning itself on the bank. Then you might want to take a penalty stroke. Typically, gators really are alarmed by humans and will dive into the water as soon as a human approaches. Honestly, I’m disappointed when I don’t get to see one of these impressive creatures when I’m out on the course.
Another interesting reptile that you may see is an iguana. The young are bright green, but the large ones, around three to four feet in length, become darker and even orange-striped. They are plant-eaters and quite harmless although an invasive invader to the island.
The foursome in front of you taking a little too long? Pack your bird watching book and binoculars to record the beautiful birds that make these golf courses their homes. Even better, keep your phone ready to video eagles or ospreys swooping down to snatch a fish from the lakes. Sometimes they steal them from each other, making for even better footage. Perhaps a flock of roseate spoonbills will be showing their pink plumage reflecting against the water, or talkative little moorhens will be taking their young for a swim. Ibis, herons, and hawks are other native birds that you will often see.
If you hit your ball really, really, far into the woods, you might even be lucky enough to see an elusive bobcat. Once again, they are completely harmless and a real treat to glimpse.
And if you find yourself spending more time in the sand traps than on the greens, perhaps it’s time to take off your socks and shoes, put on a little more sunblock and work on those tan lines. Enjoy the barefoot freedom of sand between your toes. After all, this is island living.
After your eventful day on the course, cool down with a drink at the club house. Relax. Enjoy. Exaggerate about how well you played. You’re on vacation, not the Pro Tour.
Here are the three 18-hole golf courses on Sanibel:
The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club -a Mark McCumber designed course; offers daily rates and memberships; www.theinnsofsanibel.com/golf
Sanibel Island Golf Club –Designed by Ray Fenton to blend with nature; offers daily rates and memberships; www.sanibelislandgc.com
The Sanctuary Golf Club- an Arthur Hills designed course, for members only: www.sanctuarygc.net