Bonita Pass

Par 27

Level 3 from 1,031 – 1,471 yards

Bonita Pass is a downward spiral.  The first eight tee shots are downhill set up in a figure 8 circling a large pond.  You would expect the ninth to be a mammoth uphill shot like Volusia 1, but nope – it’s just a slight incline.  How is it possible that a course starting and finishing at virtually the same spot, can play almost completely downhill!   If that topographical oddity isn't enough, then wait to you see the visual on the 6th green (pictured above).  On a windy day, the tree along the green's right edge looks to be bending as much as the flag!  You experience a wave of vertigo when lining up your putt!  Other than that, Bonita Pass is not overly memorable – in fact it’s a bit redundant.  It’s all par threes that look and lay out so much the same that it’s bit like white noise that numbs you the more you go.  I used one club to tee off on six of the nine holes.  Only 44 yards separate the shortest from the longest gold tee box. If it weren’t so pretty, I’d find more fault with the lack of diversity.  But I shouldn’t sound sooo down.  It’s a fun course to practice parachuting drop shots. So, get your clubs, I mean club, and get ready to get down!  Or be blown down on #6!  


Guess what – the first hole is downhill.  Ok, let’s start with a mini-lesson in hitting downhill.  I often swing slower when shooting downhill.  That’s plagued my game forever.  That frequently results in grounding the club or pulling the shot off center.  The cure is to simply focus on your follow-through.  Swing through the ball as if you’re hitting it uphill.  Your cadence should be the same.  Just use a shorter backswing and finish with a strong follow-through!  You’ll get to practice this approach all day!  The first hole is short, so it’s a perfect place to try it.  #2 is a few yards longer - use the same technique.  By the time you get to the 3rd hole, you’ll have it figured out!  That’s good because #3 is one of the toughest shots of the day – the green is 143 to the center with two large traps on the flanks.  The good news is both sides are elevated so balls funnel in toward the center!  The 4th hole has a lot going on and is equally challenging - water, sand and even a depression on the green's front fringe.  Depending on where the pin’s placed, this could be your tightest shot of the day.


By the 5th hole, you’ll be getting used to the gravity of the situation.  It's the longest tee shot of the day at 155 with Bonita's most challenging green, so this will be your toughest hole of the day. It all depends on the pin placement.  If it's front or back, then aim left away from the trap.  But if the pin is in the middle up on the green's center ridge, then say a little prayer as there's nowhere to go without getting into trouble.  Get your camera ready for the 6th green and the bending tree (pictured above).  Bonita 7 feels like another downward déjà vu again.  But then you get to cross a bridge to #8.  That’s different and hopefully that wakes you up a bit - aim your drive to the front right for an uphill putt.  Now to the 9th and finally a shot not downhill.  You will feel a surge of energy as you swing uphill.  But be careful of the trap that covers about a quarter of the green.  Your safest play is right of the sand for a great chance to finish with a par, and a view to the downhill circle you just played!   


While there’s nothing overly dramatic or difficult about Bonita Pass, it’s still a pleasant round of golf in an attractive setting with an oddity or two to help break up the monotony.  And the best part is you practiced your technique to hitting a controlled downhill shot!  So, reward yourself later by "downing" a cold one!

Toughest to Easiest: 

This is the hardest course to rank – the holes are so similar that the degree of difficulty will depend on pin placement.  But here’s my best guess: 5, 4, 3, 8, 7, 9, 2, 6, 1 – toughest green 5

From the blacks!

The complexion of Bonita changes significantly from the black tees.  3 holes play over 170 yards.  And the angle to the 3rd hole now requires you to fly directly over sand from 154.  My primary beef with Bonita is the lack of diversity in both the look and club requirements from the gold tees.  But from black it’s far improved in both categories, so instead of being down, I give it two thumbs up playing from the black tees!

Go Green!

Seven holes play under 100 yards and all nine are under 110.  So, the Green advantage is certainly in length.  But the angles to the green and avoidance of sand is also very evident, especially on holes 2, 3, 5, 8 & 9. 

What's Nearby?

We have 13 Regional Recreation Centers! 


Each one is uniquely themed and has individual charms.  The Lake Miona center is about a 10-minute cart ride from Bonita Pass. Check it out!  


Do you think you can tour them all in one day on a golf cart?  Yes, it can be done.  But you’ve got to be strategic. With Miona as a starting point, here’s a possible cart path circle tour>>>>


    The Rec Trek:

    1. Lake Miona (3 miles from Bonita Pass course)
    2. Laurel Manor (3 miles)
    3. Savannah Center (2 miles)
    4. Mulberry Grove (3 miles)
    5. La Hacienda (6 miles)
    6. Paradise (1/2 mile over the bridge)
    7. Colony Cottage (7 miles)
    8. Rohan (4 miles)
    9. Ezell (4 miles) - the newest one pictured above
    10. Everglades (7 miles over the Waterlilly Bridge)
    11. Fenney (3 miles)
    12. Eisenhower (9 miles and a lot of backtracking past Everglades and over the Waterlilly Bridge again)
    13. Sea Breaze (3 miles)

    That’s 54 miles on a golf cart.  What an experience!  Perhaps a regular car would be better or splitting this up over a few days!  And best that you get an early tee time at Bonita if you’re gonna buckle it up and take this challenge! And surely do it in the summer when it’s light til 10!

    My impressions are based on playing from the Gold tee boxes.  The Black and the Green tee boxes pose different challenges or benefits described as well.  The rankings of the toughest to easiest holes are just my opinions - yours will be far different, as will your favorite courses and most difficult and attractive holes.  I welcome your opinions or thoughts on any of this - click to leave a comment.