The Gasparilla Inn & Club

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Discover The Gasparilla Golf Club’s brilliant 18-hole golf course, which the legendary Pete Dye renovated in 2004.

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The Gasparilla Inn & Club’s heritage dates back to the 1910s.

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The Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande, Florida, welcomes guests to play on its par 72, 6,837-yard course. Featuring spectacular views of Charlotte Harbor, this historic Queen Anne-style hotel and its attending golf course have been a fantastic destination for generations. Golf at The Gasparilla Inn & Club dates to the hotel’s founding in the 1910s, when guests were able to play on a nine-hole golf course at a neighboring U.S. military reserve. The whole situation was possible thanks to a generous lease agreement signed with the federal government. But during the Great Depression, new management finally established its own brilliant 18-hole golf course on the resort grounds. (The beach club also opened around the same time on the opposite side of the island, abutting the ocean nearby.) In the early 2000s, the inn hired Pete Dye to renovate the golf course. After months of renovation, The Gasparilla Inn & Club reopened the course to great local acclaim in 2004. An inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Dye himself created many iconic golf courses in his lifetime, including the TPC Sawgrass, Whistling Straits, and The Ocean Course. He specifically adored his work on the Gasparilla Inn Golf Course, taking particular interest in the views of hole 15—a par 4 dogleg to the left. The course today still retains much of its original charm, as gentle sea breezes blow in from the surrounding waters of the scenic Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. Each hole has five tees to suit all levels of play and have been refitted with native Seashore Paspalum turf grass for conservation purposes. In fact, the grassy courses are fed by the island’s complex freshwater recovery system! The Gasparilla Inn & Club even offers private lessons with on-staff PGA professionals, as well as extensive practice facilities complete with a driving range and chipping/putting greens.

  • About the Location +

    Boca Grande is located on Gasparilla Island, a seven-mile-long geographical landmass off the coast of southwestern Florida. The first inhabitants to occupy the island were a seafaring people known as the “Calusa.” Politically powerful, they resided on Gasparilla Island as early as the 9th century. The tribe numbered in the thousands in its heyday, using the temperate waters of nearby Charlotte Harbor for sustenance. Unfortunately, the Calusa had largely disappeared by the 18th century, ravaged by warfare and pestilence introduced by Spanish colonists. The region remained sparsely populated for some time thereafter, save for a few isolated bands of Seminole Indians who made the trek out to the coast. Permanent settlement of the island resumed, though, toward the end of the 1800s, when Euro-American mariners began harvesting fish like the Calusa before them. They established their own small villages, the most notable of which was called “Gasparilla” at the northern end of the island. But in 1881, something momentous happened that changed the area’s fate forever. A few individuals discovered phosphate to the northeast of Gasparilla Island in the Peace River Valley. Important for the creation of commercial fertilizer, it spawned a wave of local economic development that lasted for decades. Among the lasting consequences of the discovery was its transformation of Gasparilla Island into a major hub of transportation. (Freighters often moored in the area while they obtained cargo from the mainland.) Most of those changes to Gasparilla Island happened as a result of Peter Bradley, the President of the American Agricultural Chemical Company. The AAC dominated the phosphate industry in much of Florida, and determined to render Gasparilla Island the center of its ability to distribute its goods in markets well beyond the state.

    In 1905, Bradley and his colleagues decided to construct a new railroad that traversed the shoreline all the way to Gasparilla Island. They specifically assigned one of their subsidiaries, the Peace River Mining Company, to work alongside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to create the rail network. The new business coalition surveyed the entirety of the island and selected a plot of land near the local lighthouse to host the future terminus. The centerpiece of the terminus was to be an ornate 1,000-foot-long pier that could handle pounds of phosphate exports at any given time. By 1907, the new railroad—called the “Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad”—was complete and immediately began servicing the freighters anchored off the coast. Yet, Bradley wanted to increase the value of the surrounding real estate, and commissioned the creation of a town around the new train depot. Roughly a year after the railroad opened, Bradley and his attorney, James M. Gifford, began platting a community based on earlier plans made by an engineer named Albert W. Gilchrist in 1897. Yet, their vision for the town differed from Gilchrist’s original idea, as the two wanted to fill it with vacation homes and resort hotels in a similar vein seen elsewhere in Florida. Working with Gilchrist himself, the two men created the “Boca Grande Land Company” and started selling plots of land to interested buyers. At first, only a handful of homes existed within the town of “Boca Grande”—a name selected by Gilchrist some years prior—before a deluge of real estate developers descended upon the community by way of the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad. Some of the most prominent families in the country purchased land within Boca Grande, such as the du Ponts, the Biddles, the Cabots, the Drexels, and many others.

    The railroad continued to deliver people to Boca Grande over the following decades, making Gasparilla Island one of the most exclusive vacation hideaways in all of Florida. Soon enough, grand resort hotels appeared across the island, with The Gasparilla Inn being among the first to debut. Both the commercial and residential development of the area continued unabated throughout the 1920s and 1930s, even as the Great Depression wrought havoc across the state. The community also managed to survive the great Florida-Cuba Hurricane of 1944, rebuilding back stronger than ever before. Tourism gradually replaced the phosphate industry as the predominant business enterprise, with the railroad shutting down in 1979. The train depot was subsequently restored and converted into a beautiful facility that housed shops, offices, and a restaurant. (Furthermore, the opening of the Boca Grande Causeway discouraged train travel, leading to a gradual decline in passenger traffic along the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad in the 1950s.) Today, Boca Grande still ranks as one of Florida’s most outstanding holiday retreats. It is currently home to many tranquil beaches and temperate waters. The town is home to a number of amazing cultural attractions as well, like the Boca Grande Lighthouse and the Boca Grande Historical Society and Museum. A number of its buildings are even listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, including both The Gasparilla Inn & Club, as well as the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railway Depot. Without a doubt, Boca Grande is among the most fascinating places to visit in the country.


  • About the Architect +

    Pete Dye: Hailed as the most influential golf architect of the last half-century, architect Pete Dye has left a legacy on the golfing world. An avid golfer from a young age, Dye first played the sport competitively while in high school. He continued to golf when he enlisted in the United States military upon graduating. While stationed at Fort Bragg, Dye worked as the greenskeeper for the base’s golf course. He also met the prominent Donald Ross, who was then still serving as the main professional at Pinehurst Resort. The meeting greatly affected Dye’s passion for the game, which he kept following as a student at Rollins College. He subsequently met Alice Holliday O’Neal and the two were married not long thereafter. They eventually moved to her hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana, where he got a job selling policies with The Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company. Even though Ross thrived in insurance, he still loved golf dearly. He thus entered into numerous amateur championships in Indiana during the 1950s and built a considerable reputation for himself. He even used the experience to eventually compete in the 57th U.S. Open. Although Dye failed to advance deep in the tournament, he still finished ahead of future greats Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. In 1961, Dye decided to leave the insurance industry behind to pursue his passion for golf full-time. With close support of his wife, Dye specifically formed his own golf landscaping firm. Dye’s very first project involved creating a magnificent nine-hole course called “El Dorado,” which became notorious for its water hazards.   

      

    However, his first big project transpired when he obtained the commission to craft the marvelous 18-hole course at Crooked Stick Golf Club. Receiving rave reviews, Dye was soon earning numerous commissions all over the United States. Many of his designs soon became incredibly popular, including Harbour Town Golf Links, Whistling Straits, and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. His greatest accomplishment was the TPC at Sawgrass’ Stadium Course. Noted for its great difficulty, his par-three 17th hole has since been referred to as the “world’s most terrifying tee shot.” Much of Dye’s designs were inspired by Scottish design principles, namely the use of pot bunkers, wooden bulkheads, and small greens. But Dye also invented his own fascinating greenskeeping practices, too, such as the implementation of railroad ties to help hold down bunkers. Among the many other golf courses to display this unique approach to landscape design was historic 18-hole golf course at The Gasparilla Inn & Club. Hired by the resort’s management team to restore its architectural integrity, Pete Dye and his wife, Alice, began working on the facility during the early 2000s. Taking months to complete, the Dyes nonetheless managed to rehabilitate the famous course back to its former glory. Indeed, Pete Dye took pride in the work done to the 15th hole— a par 4 dogleg to the left. The course today still retains much of its original charm, as gentle sea breezes blow in from the surrounding waters of the scenic Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. Each hole has five tees to suit all levels of play and have been refitted with native Seashore Paspalum turf grass for conservation purposes.


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