Chensoff’s Calusa Pines elevates golf in Naples

Chensoff’s Calusa Pines elevates golf in Naples

Overbeck, Andrew

NAPLES, Fla. – In order to compete in the everexpanding Naples golf market, developer Gary Chensoff knew that he had to create something radically different in order to elevate his new project above other area courses.

Chensoff, who was also involved in the development of the Rees Jonesdesigned Naples Grande Golf Club, has succeeded both literally and figuratively here with the November opening of Calusa Pines Golf Club.

Enlisting the services of Hurdzan, Fry Design, Course Doctors and superintendent Eric von Hofen, Chensoff transformed 550 acres of flat land into an undulating property that has 58 feet of elevation change and features the highest point of land in south Florida.

In order to reach such heights, Course Doctors, working with local mass excavator LeeMar, blasted through tons of rock to dig 72 acres of 25foot-deep lakes. Part of the two million cubic yards of fill from the pond excavation was then used to create the 15-acre landmass that encompasses seven holes on the private Calusa Pines layout.

ONE MILLION IN DYNAMITE

“This is a hard place to build a golf course,” said director of agronomy Eric von Hofen who has worked at Calusa Pines since November of 2000. “You have to blast into coral rock to build ponds. We spent one million dollars on dynamite alone.”

Once the blasting was done, the next challenge was forming the landmass.

“On the plans, it was 20 feet lower than the finished product,” said lead architect Dana Fry. “The height of it was not as difficult as the scale of it. It is 58 feet high, but it goes on for a couple thousand yards in order to make it look natural.”

The landmass was tied to the golf course through numerous sand and waste bunkers. There is one waste area that encompasses nine acres and the eighth green features a 27-foot tall bunker.

“Once we built that big earth mass, we had to keep water from washing the features away,” said Course Doctors president Jim Sparks. “Our shapers Jeff Carsner and Steve Coe worked closely with Dana to tie in the finish work and bunker construction.”

As Course Doctors completed the fine shaping, von Hofen followed behind with landscaping.

“We wanted to make the course look like it had always been there,” he said. “We didn’t want to build a big mound and leave it all grass.” Von Hofen and his team planted 165 large oak trees (some as high as 45-feet tall and weighing 37,000 pounds), 1,200 pine trees and 900 sable palms. The final tab on construction topped out at $16 million.

Calusa Pines sports TifSport fairways and TifEagle greens, turf that von Hofen said will also set the course apart from the competition.

“We are the first course to open in south Florida with wall to wall TifSport on the fairways,” he said. “It is more cold tolerant, more disease resistant and has less thatch build up. I had TifEagle greens at Sailfish Point Golf Club [in Stuart, Fla.] and it continues to exceed my expectations. We are cutting them at one tenth of an inch and have them rolling 11 feet on the Stimpmeter.”

HIGH END EXPECTATIONS

Members at the ultra-exclusive club will expect the best. Membership is by invitation only and will be limited to 275. The initiation fee is $175,000. For the money, Calusa Pines members will get a golf-only facility, an exclusive clubhouse, and the service of caddies.

Going forward, von Hofen will be working on the construction of the development’s semi-private course called The Ridge Golf Club, which will be completely separate from Calusa Pines. The course was also designed by Hurdzan,Fry and construction will get underway this year.

“It will have its own entrance and clubhouse,” said von Hofen. “We already have all the drainage pipes in, we just need to bring in some more fill.” The course could open in early 2003.

Copyright United Publications, Inc. Feb 2002

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