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HomeGOLF COURSESaltleaf Golf Preserve Emerges from the Raptor

Saltleaf Golf Preserve Emerges from the Raptor

At the turn of the 21st century, World Golf Hall of Famer and 4-time Major winner Raymond Floyd designed Raptor Bay in Bonita Springs, Florida as part of the Coconut Point development. Floyd made a bold jump from the traditional golf course design and used all-natural Florida vegetation and coquina waste areas that also doubled as cart paths for an intriguing and playable layout that became the first Audubon International’s GOLD Signature Sanctuary Certified Golf Course.

Now, just 22 years later, the course will be reborn as Saltleaf Golf Preserve after London Bay’s purchase of the golf club in 2020. The course will be the first major construction project of London Bay’s Saltleaf Villag, a 500-acre coastal community on Estero Bay with plans for more than 800 residences.

“I’ve always been fond of trying to lay a golf course out as a part of the natural environment and let nature be the beautiful thing it is,” said Floyd. “This course was loved by so many people and got an awful lot of play.” I reviewed Raptor Bay shortly after its opening and was amazed how it flowed from hole to hole with the coquina waste areas coming into play, while at the same time allowing for cart traffic. There were no bunkers so rakes were not needed nor any rough. I am sure it cut down on maintenance costs. The absence of homes plus all the natural vegetation made it so pristine. Raymond was so intrigued by the new concept that the notion brought him out of a 10-year retirement to reimagine the Saltleaf Golf Preserve design.

Bringing Floyd and golf course architect Harry Bowers back to reimagine the original course was a no-brainer according to Mark Wilson, the founder of London Bay and the developer for the project. The new project will include a new 18-hole environmentally protected championship layout and a family-friendly 9-hole short course complete with 22 acres of lakes.

“This is the first step of the development of Saltleaf,” said Wilson. “The way Raymond used all the natural beauty and Florida-friendly vegetation was really important in our decision.” Saltleaf on Estero Bay will be home to a new coastal village- a confluence of home and town set on nearly a mile of Southwest Florida’s last great stretches of waterfront. Estero Bay, the state’s first aquatic preserve, is a hidden gem known for centuries-old mangrove forests. The name “Saltleaf” honors the bay’s protected mangroves that filter the estuary’s water releasing salt onto the leaves in tiny glistening crystals.

Troon Golf Director Mark Wilheimi summed it up, “we’re all familiar with a kid on Christmas Eve who can’t wait for the next morning. Well, I’m a balding 52-year-old that is six-and-a-half-months away from opening the coolest thing on earth and I can’t wait.”

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