The sparkling sea, sugary white sands and radiant sun are par for the course for travelers staying on Marco Island. But these luxuries are not the only draws that have travelers rushing to The Sunshine State year-round. Along with bathing suits and sunscreen, visitors come with golf clubs in hand, eager to test their swing on one of the many lush courses that line the southwest coast. And, if these golf enthusiasts have done their research, they know exactly where to go to play a challenging 18 holes.

JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort is home to two of the area’s most impressive courses: Hammock Bay Golf & Country Club and The Rookery at Marco. Both award-winning courses promise a memorable game with breathtaking scenery and endless sunshine practically every day of the year, but each offers a little something extra that makes it unique.

Hammock Bay Golf & Country Club

“Hammock Bay was truly designed with the average golfer in mind,” says Anthony Schmid, Director of Golf at the Marco Island resort. “When you get to the tee box, you can tell exactly what the designer intended, which makes the experience more fun and relaxing for players of all skill sets.”

An original Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy golf course design, Hammock Bay is an Audubon Gold Signature, par-72 championship course with 18 distinct holes. If fancy industry jargon is not enough to impress you, the atmosphere of the world-class course certainly will.

Unique to most golf clubs that are positioned in the middle of a community or suburban neighborhood and surrounded by houses, Hammock Bay is in the middle of the mangrove, making the area’s natural beauty and wildlife the focus. With fairways lined with Live Oak Trees and undulating terrain, the course will quickly become a favorite for all. Both new and returning players will find themselves taking a minute — or two or three — between swings to savor the scenery while soaking up a cool breeze from the Gulf of Mexico. 

Not getting distracted by Macro Island’s captivating beauty can be difficult for even the most focused golfers, but it’s not the only challenge the course presents. Despite its overall design to accommodate playability for all skill sets, Hammock Bay still has a couple of tricks up its sleeve to entertain pros and high-handicappers alike.

“The par 3s are the most challenging,” Schmid says with a sly smile. “If you’re in between clubs, grab the longer club when in doubt.”

The Rookery at Marco

The Rookery, meaning “bird sanctuary,” lives up to its name with its shallow wetlands and boundless wildlife. It’s not uncommon to spot numerous birds such as bald eagles, blue herons, storks and anhingas both on and around the course’s surrounding lakes and ponds. 

The beauty of the championship course is promised all year-long thanks to The Rookery’s Platinum Paspalum Turf – aka saltwater grass – which allows the green to stay vibrant from the middle of summer to the middle of winter.

“From a player’s standpoint, the grass also helps the ball sit up nice, which is great for the average golfer,” says Schmid.

While all skill levels can expect an exciting game, Schmid confirms that The Rookery is more challenging than Hammock Bay by about three strokes. The fast greens and distinct bunkers have a habit of humbling even the most experienced golfer. But interested players shouldn’t get psyched out, Schmid says, recalling the time he witnessed two holes-in-one at The Rookery’s hole 3 in two weeks.

For those craving their own ace, Schmid recommends paying attention to the cart’s state-of-the-art GPS yardage system to show the layout of the greens.

“Another tip is making sure you’re fit for the set of clubs you’re playing with, because many players are not,” Schmid advises.

Travelers needing a little more than proper clubs to perfect their swing can enroll in the resort’s 3-Day School Golf Academy, complete with personalized instructions from a PGA Masters Professional; a video analysis and FlightScope assessments including a personal take home video of school experience; unlimited use of the state-of-the-art practice facilities; unlimited golf on the two championship courses; and a three-night stay in luxury accommodations at JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort.

The Resort

Legendary golf is not the only reason to stay at JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort. Fresh from the completion of a $320 million multi-phase renovation in fall of 2017, the beachfront haven near Naples inspires tropical tranquility, whether guests are in town to simply hit the greens or escape their everyday routines. A new 94-room adult-only tower with a rooftop pool joins the resort’s luxurious collection of amenities and services. From on-site water sports and a full-service spa to the 10 restaurants led by award-winning Executive Chef Eric Vasta, the resort allows every visitor to feel like a winner, no matter what their scorecard says.     

 Ready to pack your clubs? Save on your upcoming stay at JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort when you reserve your accommodations and airfare through Vacations by Marriott.