Written by Michael VanDerLaan
Most of us know something about Jack Nicklaus the golfer. What about Jack Nicklaus the golf course architect? In this Old Corkscrew Golf Club Review, we take a look at one of the most challenging - and beautiful - golf courses in Southwest Florida.
The first thing to note about Old Corkscrew is it's location. You have to go a bit out of your way into the Corkscrew Preserve (hence the name) to the east of Fort Myers to find this gem. Don't miss the modest sign at the entrance, because it might be hard to loop around!
Upon arriving to the course, a friendly staff member is waiting at the bag drop podium to take your clubs and set you up on a cart. After we checked in, dad and I headed to the range for a warmup. On the way to the practice tee, we drove past a beautiful chipping green that we still daydream about!
After a short warm up, it was our turn to head to the tee. Little did we know that we were about to experience one of the toughest tests of golf we have ever taken on.
The back tee box on the first hole sets the tone. You hit your drive from the corner of the putting green, making the hole as long as it can possibly be. Beyond that, the fairway is wide and the green is relatively simple. It truly lulls you into thinking the course is going to be easy.
Don't be fooled!
The 2nd hole tested our resolve early in the morning. At 217 yards, the long par 3 puts a long iron or hybrid in your hands to a green that is almost invisible behind a knoll in front of the green. Make a confident swing and hope it's enough club!
After 2 holes, we were impressed, a little scared, and all square. And we were just getting started.
The 3rd hole is a par 5 that provides a wide landing area off the tee before challenging you on the layup. The second half of the hole doglegs to the left around a pond, and the farther right you hit the layup, the longer your third shot into the peninsula green. We both got out of there with 5's and dad took a 1 up lead with his handicap stroke.
Coming to the 4th hole, we looked at the scorecard and rejoiced for the short par 4 that is drivable for the longer hitters. Then we stood on the tee and our joy turned to fear as it looked like the entire hole was bunkers and water hazard.
I managed to hit my tee shot right next to the green and get up and down for birdie, getting the match back to all square.
Holes 5 through 8 present a series of challenges as each hole is framed by lurking ponds, tall pines, and deep bunkers. I played the fifth hole to perfection, reclaiming my 1 up lead before giving it right back on 6.
The seventh is another long par 3. At 236 from the back tee, I had to hit my 3 hybrid and hope to get a good bounce on the skinny, firm green. It was not meant to be as my ball bounded into the bunker to the right of the green. After I failed to get it up and down, dad made his par putt to take back the lead.
The eighth hole is another long par 5 that simply does not give you any breaks from the challenge. From tee to green, the fairway is tight and guarded by bunkers and water hazards. I hit 3 perfect shots to give myself a 6 footer for birdie. Dad had a tough time on the hole, and after making his putt for bogey, I made mine to even the match up once again.
It was truly a back and forth battle, and the course was providing an incredible venue!
To end the front 9, we were faced with another short but challenging par 4. A good drive left a wedge into the green, but another peninsula green meant distance control was so important!
Dad and I both hit good approaches and halved the hole with pars. We were more than happy to get out of there without dropping a shot!
After stopping for a quick bite to eat at the turn, it was off to the 10th. The back 9 opens with a monster of a par 4 that - true to Jack Nicklaus' style of architecture - favors a fade off the tee. Dad won the hole to go 1 up before I answered with a birdie on the short par 5 11th.
12 presented yet another challenging par 3. Thankfully, this one was a bit shorter and we were able to hit mid irons to a well-protected green.
Dad and I both hit good shots into this green, and he rolled in his 25 foot birdie putt to win the hole. This golf course and this match just kept throwing us curveballs!
As we progressed through the back 9, the match continued to stay close. I hit a bad drive on 14 that lead to dad taking a 2 up lead. The 15th gave me the advantage of length as the 600 plus yard par 5 meant I was able to wedge my third shot while dad had a mid iron.
I won the hole to get back to 1 down, which is where it stayed until the 18th. Standing on the tee, I knew I needed to make something happen if I was going to tie the match. A good drive put me in position, but I was left with a daunting approach to a back left pin.
My approach landed about 20 feet away, while dad hit third to about 10 feet. After we both missed our putts and applied dad's handicap stroke, the final result of the match was a 1 up victory for dad!
After 4 hours on Old Corkscrew, we were both ready for a big lunch and a beer, which we were able to get in the clubhouse. Jack Nicklaus didn't hold back in designing a golf course that tests everything from your driver to your bunker play - even you mental game!
We had some laughs, a few frustration shots, and a great match. We even made a new friend!
Wrapping Up Old Corkscrew Golf Club Review
There are really two things to be said about Old Corkscrew.
First, it is an amazing, unique, and enjoyable experience. The course is in great shape and is everything you could possibly want in a golf course.
Second, it is HARD. This golf course is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to be challenged at every turn and go into the round with the goal of managing your mind as much as your swing.
If your experience at Old Corkscrew is anything like the one dad and I had, you will not be disappointed. We love a good challenge, and we love even more to play golf together. Old Corkscrew is a place we look forward to every time we get to go back. Out of 5 stars, we give it a strong 5 with absolutely no complaints!