Black Course at Tiburón in Florida ready for its first close-up at PGA Tour Champions’ Chubb Classic

Greg Hardwig, Naples Daily News
·3 min read

NAPLES, Fla. – Instead of going for the Gold, tour golfers are betting on the Black this week at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.

The PGA Tour Champions’ Chubb Classic presented by SERVPRO will be played on the club’s Black Course, the first time it has been used for a tour event. The Gold Course, the original of the two Greg Norman layouts, has been used for every QBE Shootout since 2001, and also for the LPGA Tour’s CME Group Tour Championship since 2013.

“Tiburón is proud to host three professional events in Naples,” Tiburón Golf Club general manager Kevin DeDonato said. “This could not be done without the hard work and dedication of our entire team. Putting our facility on the national stage three times in the last five months is quite an honor and we could not do this without the great support of our partners at Troon, Wasserman, Eiger, Ritz, and many others.

“We look forward to great success with this PGA Tour Champions event and are excited to once again showcase Naples and our facility.”

Tiburón had 27 holes, then an additional nine were added, with the Black Course opening in 2002, four years after the Gold. The fourth nine joined with the old South Course to become the Black Course. The North and West became the Gold Course.

The fourth nine holes actually split up part of what was originally the South Course. The first seven holes of the Black are the same as the first seven of the old South. Then the next nine holes are all new, with players finishing up on the final two holes of the old South.

“The Black Course is every bit as good as the Gold, and we are fortunate enough to have two championship courses that our members and guests can enjoy,” DeDonato said.

“It’s a pretty exciting opportunity for Tiburón,” Black Course superintendent Ryan Sherbert said. “Myself and the crew are really excited to show off the product that we’re able to provide here.”

Tiburón’s Black Course in Naples, Florida (Courtesy of Dave Sansom)

It underwent a massive renovation in 2018, undergoing extensive greens, turf, irrigation and bunker renovations. Green surrounds and approaches were reconfigured and also regrassed with Celebration Bermuda grass. Greens are TifEagle Bermuda.

“This is a little bit tougher course,” said Sherbert, who has been at Tiburón for 10 years and the Black Course superintendent for five. “We tried to make it a little more player friendly, moving some of the tees so they had a better view of the fairways, making bunkers smaller and adding some rough.”

“The Black presents some different challenges than the Gold with tighter tee shots and a cut of rough on the perimeter of each hole,” DeDonato said. “Each hole is demanding, and I believe that the course will be a true test for the Champions Tour players to enjoy.”

Sherbert, who is originally from Colorado and grew up in Minnesota before coming to Southwest Florida, has enjoyed working with the PGA Tour Champions to get the course set up.

“Working alongside the rules officials has provided some opportunity and insight,” he said. “It’s just been nice.”

Sherbert and the crew – there are 45 who work both courses – have been doing some tidying up of the Black to get it ready for tour golf and TV.

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The 12th green at Augusta
The 12th green at Augusta

“We still had some (Hurricane) Irma cleanup on the edges of the fairways so we’ve been working on that, trimming here and there, where play might go,” he said. “Other than that, it’s kind of normal setup for what we hope to provide day-to-day for a PGA-level course. There’s definitely a lot more attention to detail.”

All of that work will be before the eyes of a national cable television audience starting Friday.

“It’s going to be neat to be able to see it with the crew,” Sherbert said. “We’ll be there in the afternoon watching.

“I’ll probably be speechless. Just seeing their reactions will be cool.”