Marvelous Marco Island, Florida: The ultimate golf-and-beach experience

If you want lots of sugar-white sands and turquoise-green waters to enhance your golf getaway, Marco Island on Florida's southwest coast is a strong contender to make your dreams come true.

Located 17 miles south of Naples, Marco Island has six miles of beach and more than 100 miles of waterways within its 24 square miles. The laid-back, wear-your-best-flip-flops island lifestyle encompasses strolling on the pristine beaches, nightly sunset-watching parties and happy hours, dolphin watching and playing golf.

Enhancing Marco Island's appeal is its accessible location from the numerous golf courses in Naples and Fort Myers and the Southwest Florida International Airport, which is approximately 45 miles away. By car, heading south on Interstate 75, take exit 101 onto Collier Boulevard, and, voila, you're on the island in about 15 minutes.

When it's time to tee up, there are two courses on the island, six about a 10-minute drive off the island on Collier Boulevard and several others within a 20-minute drive in the Naples area.

Golf courses in Marco Island

If you want to stay on the island, there are two choices to play golf.

The 18-hole Island Country Club -- a venerable layout that opened in 1966 and was redesigned in 1991 by Gene "The Squire" Sarazen -- is known for its blindingly white-sand bunkers and dozens of bird species flying overhead, including resident bald eagles. The Island has mature tree growth, 27 acres of lakes and wetlands, and more than 70 varieties of trees, shrubs and flowers.

For those on a family beach vacation with only enough time to fit in a quick nine, the Hideaway Beach Golf Course has been a superb option since it opened in 1982. A nine-hole, executive-style layout, it measures 1,844 yards from the back tees and plays to par 32.

Marco Island's resort-style golf

The epicenter of the resort lifestyle on the island is the Marco Island Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa, which sits on a three-and-a-half-mile stretch of the Gulf of Mexico. Two championship golf courses highlight an amenity menu featuring eight dining and lounge options, two swimming pools, a full-service spa, beach sports galore and tennis courts.

Marco Island Marriott's courses -- Hammock Bay Golf & Country Club and The Rookery -- are situated less than a 10-minute drive from the resort complex with a complimentary shuttle provided. Both courses have golf carts equipped with the Caddy Tronic GPS Systems.

Hammock Bay, located 5.8 miles away, is a Peter Jacobsen/Jim Hardy design with wide landing areas on most holes and multiple tee placements for all skill levels. Designated a "Gold Certified Signature Sanctuary Course" by Audubon International, it has the feel of a nature park with lots of native foliage and wildlife.

Situated 7.3 miles from the Marco Island Marriott is The Rookery, a scenic layout with carpet-like fairways, cypress wetlands, pine and palm forests, and lagoons. Designed by Robert Cupp Jr., The Rookery has 15 holes that incorporate water in some form.

Ten miles off Marco Island on Collier Boulevard is the beautifully landscaped Lely Resort where two 18-hole courses, Flamingo Island and Mustang, are the draw.

Fashioned by Robert Trent Jones Sr., the Flamingo Island Course has spacious Champion Ultra Dwarf greens, innovative mounding and sculpting, and several strategically placed water hazards.

Lee Trevino's Mustang Course winds around 12 lakes with features such as generous landing areas and impressive green complexes. The 54,000-square-foot driving range is a great place to work on your game before hitting the first tee.

Nearby golf

Located about 12 miles off Marco Island, Hibiscus Golf Club is postcard beautiful with its fantastic landscaping and high maintenance standards. Invitingly wide fairways give you a chance to keep your ball in play on most holes and the numerous lakes and streams encourage you to strategize before you hit.

Other courses within a 20-minute drive of Marco Island are Eagles Lake Golf Club , an appropriately named course where two American Bald Eagles reside amid the palm-dotted terrain, and the Silver Lakes RV and Golf Resort , a popular spot for RV enthusiasts with an on-site, nine-hole executive course that winds around the perimeter of the 104-acre resort providing fun golf and great views.

Ed Schmidt, publisher of The Golf Travel Guru Blog, is the author of two books on Florida golf and more than 2,500 articles and columns on golf resorts, courses and destinations around the world. Follow Ed on Twitter at @golftravelguy.
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Marvelous Marco Island, Florida: The ultimate golf-and-beach experience
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