Developer London Bay started to build its newest addition to Bonita Springs, marking the beginning of a decade-long project.
Saltleaf will be nestled on Estero Bay, just north of the Hyatt Coconut Point Resort. With plans to span 500 acres and hold 800 residences, it will be its own coastal community.
One of the main aspects of the development is its brand-new golf course, Saltleaf Golf Preserve, which had its groundbreaking Tuesday after a little more than a year of planning. It is the first project of Saltleaf’s to break ground.
Saltleaf Golf Preserve will replace Raptor Bay Golf Club, which has been in Bonita for more than 20 years. Raymond Floyd, winner of four major PGA championships and inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame, is the visionary behind the new course. He also was the architect of Raptor Bay.
“[Raptor Bay] was so well-liked and we thought it was so beautiful with the natural surroundings that we thought let’s just go and ask [Floyd] to do it again,” London Bay CEO and President Mark Wilson said.
Floyd sees Raptor Bay as one of the most special courses, so the opportunity to design Saltleaf brought him out of an almost 10-year-long retirement. “I haven’t done a brand-new golf course in quite a while, but it was so exciting because of the uniqueness of what we created here, everyone loved it so much,” he said.
Golfers familiar with Raptor Bay will see some similar characteristics with Saltleaf Golf Preserve, including the rarity of having no bunkers or rough. “It’s challenging without formal bunkers, but it allows you to get around a lot quicker, your day is shorter, and it’s been so well received,” Floyd said. “So, I’m going to go back and do Saltleaf, and I get a second chance to use the philosophy I did with Raptor Bay,”
The current 6,500-yard Raptor Bay course will be 7,000 yards once Saltleaf is complete. The course will be extended to the northeast of the property, which is currently untouched land. However, London Bay and Raymond Floyd Design are trying to maintain Estero Bay’s natural characteristics with the course as much as possible.
“Nature is what makes this area so special, so making sure that we’re preserving the wildlife and everything around is highly important to us,” Wilson said. “We’ll be owning this for decades to come and part of the reason people love playing the course is that they’ll see the wildlife.”
In addition to the official course, there will be a 9-hole short course that is aimed for families looking to have fun together.
Saltleaf Golf Preserve will be managed by Troon Golf, the biggest golf management company in the world with 685 golf courses worldwide. Troon recently bought ICON Golf, which currently manages Raptor Bay.
The other major projects of Saltleaf breaking ground within the next year include the 72-slip Saltleaf Marina and the Ritz-Carlton Residences towers, which are planned to be the first branded residences between Fort Myers and Naples. Within the next decade, six residences are expected to be part of the Saltleaf on Estero Bay.
“It’s going to be an incredible community when [London Bay] is finished,” Floyd said. “The master plan is something to be proud of.”