Written by John VanDerLaan
Do you want to hear about one of the Naples area's best kept secrets?
Keep reading our The National At Ave Maria Golf Course Review, where we will introduce you to one of the finest public golf facilities we have come across in Southwest Florida.
I think one of the reasons that this Gordon Lewis designed gem has yet to be recognized is because it is quite a ways east of Naples in the enclave known as Ave Maria, Florida.
This is a fairly new golf course, opening in January 2021, and the facilities are still being built out. The new clubhouse is not yet finished as of October 2022, but the golf course and practice facilities are complete and in excellent condition.
The National is located in a gated facility that is being built by Lennar Homes as I write this. The only downside to playing this championship golf course is that there is a lot of construction noise, which can be distracting.
The course design is awesome, with a lot of water, manicured fairways and greens that were rolling beautifully when we played in October 2022.
We encountered many golf course maintenance employees actively working on the golf course the day we played., doing everything from cutting and fertilizing to edging the cart paths.
It was a lot of hard work and the golf course looked magnificent.
My favorite part about The National is without a doubt, the greens. They are fast and smooth with quite a bit of slope, which makes them challenging, but you can make puts and go low here.
There is water on almost every hole and even when it is not in play, it still makes for an intimidating visual off the tee.
That being said, the fairway landing areas offer more than enough room to accept well struck drives.
The par 3s here at The National are really something. The first par 3 that you come to is the 5th hole, and when you drive up to the back tee, which measures 242 yards, you just have to shake your head, man up, and hit the shot.
We were still talking about that par 3 two holes later, when we rolled up to the tee of the par 3 7th hole, and literally said, Holy @#$%&!.
The 7th hole plays 266 yards from the back tee! Don't worry, though, for mere mortals there are 5 sets of tee boxes and the black tees, which are two tee boxes up from the back tees, are only 187 yards from the green.
The ninth hole is a great par 4, wrapping around the lake and featuring a peninsula green. The only thing that I don't like about this hole is that there are moguls in the middle of the faurway that are cut to rough height, instead of fairway height.
You can hit, what you think is a perfect tee shot and find yourself in the rough, on a mogul, in the middle of the fairway.
However, the peninsula green makes this a dynamite golf hole.
The back nine begins by winding through a part of the community that is finished, so there is less construction on holes ten through thirteen.
After experiencing the monster par 3s on the front nine, we were pleasantly surprised to roll up to number 13 and find it to be just a wedge to a shallow green with lots of slope.
A fun par three that will test the precision of your wedge game.
Just when you thought the course was getting a little less difficult because of the shorter holes, you will arrive at the 16th hole, which is one of the longest golf holes in Collier County.
Stretching all the way back to 701 yards. It proved to be one of the only par 5 golf holes that I have played with my son Michael, where he could not reach the green with two well struck shots.
He did, however get close to the green and stuck a fifty yard pitch shot close and made birdie.
I hit 7 iron into the green for my third shot and also made birdie on the hole. There were some high fives after that one!
The par 4 finishing hole is a great risk reward hole that takes driver out of most players hands, but for the long hitters it is driveable, even from the back tee, as Michael demonstrated on this particular day.
Michael played great, shooting 67 from the back tee, but it was me that won the match, shooting 70 from the black tees and getting more strokes than I should have from Michael!
The National Practice Areas
The National features a water driving range with a very large tee box that can take the daily use from many players.
There is alo a nice short game area, complete with greenside bunkers and a large fairway bunker that allows you to practice those difficult, long bunker shots.
There is also a well groomed, practice putting green with plenty of slope, similar to the greens on the course.
Everything a golfer could need to either warm up before a round or to work on their game and improve over time.
Wrapping Up The National At Ave Maria Golf Course Review
The National is one of the best public golf courses in Southwest Florida and our top pick for best public golf course in Collier County.
It is a very fair, yet challenging golf course that you can really score well on, if you are playing well.
I have played a lot of the golf courses in Southwest Florida and some of the finest private golf course in Collier County, including Calusa Pines and Naples National.
I continue to be impressed with The National At Ave Maria for its impeccable conditions and because it is just a fun course to play.
The word is that The National may become private after the construction on the community is finished, so take advantage of the fact that it is still public and get out and play this gem today.
Here's a great video tour of The National At Ave Maria Golf Course.