When Linda Kortlandt started working in the insurance industry as a young professional 30 years ago, she remembers “all the men were out on the golf course all the time. And I said, ‘I’m missing out on something here,’” Kortlandt, now 68, recalled with a smile, “So, I went out and learned how to play.”
She was quickly hooked on the game, and some three decades later she still plays golf on a regular basis. “Golf really helped me in business over the years because there was a lot of client entertaining that needed to be done and things like that,” Kortlandt said. “But I just love the game, and I love competing. Beyond the business aspect of it, it became my social life as well.”
So, when it was time to retire and find a second home in sunny Florida, the avid golfer naturally picked a private club to join as part of the equation. Kortlandt settled on Audubon Country Club along Florida’s Gulf Coast in Naples, a place to which she was introduced by a friend/member while she was still working.
AN INTIMATE EXPERIENCE
Situated in Collier County, one of the most densely golf-rich regions in America, Audubon CC actually is one of dozens of golf developments dotting the popular U.S. Highway 41 or Tamiami Trail. According to Kortlandt, Audubon stood out for two main reasons: proximity (it was conveniently located close to her Florida home); and size (the former insurance/financial services executive was looking for a smaller membership).
“I wanted an intimate membership experience,” said Kortlandt, who is Audubon’s newly appointed club president. “We have a cap of 300 golf members, and I think our membership number now totals 393 golf and social. That’s the kind of community I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to know my fellow members.”
As it turned out, Audubon paid dividends on Kortlandt’s two deal points and so much more for her adult children, grandchildren, and 91-year old mother who lives with her. They are all enamored with the peaceful, low-density setting of the community, comprising just 410 homes across 755 acres of a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
Yes, the name Audubon Country Club isn’t just a marketing gimmick. Through its participation in Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary program for golf, Audubon Country Club’s Joe Lee-designed course embraced numerous environmental initiatives, including adopting a comprehensive environmental management program focused on wildlife and habitat management; conserving energy and reducing water use; utilizing integrated pest management techniques; naturalizing areas; managing resources in an environmentally responsible manner; and community outreach and education.
The club got its Audubon certification in 2008, and after being recertified every three years, it remains just one of 900 courses worldwide with this certified ACSP distinction.
“Having the Audubon certification was important to me, too,” noted. “We live in a sanctuary. It’s a sanctuary for wildlife, and for us. We appreciate communing with nature while we’re on the golf course and even sitting on our back lanais. I overlook a lake and a preserve and see multiple birds and alligators, otters … just enjoying that kind of wildlife is very satisfying.”
The setting was extremely satisfying for Kortlandt’s bird-loving daughter this past February, who happened to be visiting from Vermont during the “Great American Backyard Birdwatch.”
“She ended up being ranked like the No. 73 birder in Collier County,” Kortlandt said. “All the birds she was watching, and all the different varieties, were in my backyard. It was really fun. So, if you love nature as I do and a lot of our members do, you enjoy being able to see all of this wildlife that is there on the property.”
A LIFESTYLE FOR EVERYONE
Birding and wildlife notwithstanding, another main attraction at Audubon Country Club is the newly minted 19,000-square-foot Lifestyle Center. This two-story, $7.5 million amenity was once the club’s modest 2,500-square-foot Courtside Café building that had a small kitchen with a few tables and outdated tennis shop, according to club general manager Michael Rodriguez.
Now, the new and improved Courtside Café is substantially larger and features an indoor/outdoor bar separated by a NanaWall that can slide open for the gorgeous fall/winter months, display kitchen, poolside dining, and increased outdoor lounge areas with cozy fire pits. The new building is adjacent to the club’s highly popular bocce courts and seven Har-Tru tennis courts. A new HydroGrid exhibition tennis court and two gel surface pickleball courts were also added to the mix.
The new fitness center spans the entire second floor and encompasses state-of-the-art strength training and cardio areas, two exercise rooms for fitness classes, a massage waiting lounge, two massage treatment rooms, and men’s and ladies’ day/locker rooms.
Rodriguez, who became the club’s general manager in March 2015 after Troon Privé assumed management the previous year, said the new facility’s
pent-up demand portends to a prosperous future for the private club community.
“The Lifestyle Center puts us at the forefront of facilities in terms of fitness,” said Rodriguez. “It’s a place where you can be in the community, get in your golf cart and drive to the golf cart parking lot that we built, have a craft beer and sit by the fire pits. And you never have to leave the gates. That’s really important, especially in this day and age, that you have something like that that members can do.
“It’s going to be a gathering spot and will just be a good place for everybody to enjoy each other’s company and to socialize inside the safety of the gates. The real estate agents are telling us that our new building is selling all of these homes in here now.”
Kortlandt says the club’s newest signature facility, in addition to a new boardwalk/kayak launch/gathering spot, is “going to respond to what people are looking for” in a club environment these days, starting with more sought-after casual outdoor dining venues. She also says she may even take up tennis again.
“I’m threatening to go out and get a lesson and see how I feel about that again,” she said. “It’s another great opportunity to stay active in the community. There are just so many different ways to get out and socialize and live a healthy lifestyle here.”
In fact, Kortlandt noted that Audubon CC has one golf member who is still playing the game at the age of 96. “It doesn’t get any better than that, does
it?” she asked.
Only if, perhaps, that game gets to be played in a peaceful place called Audubon Country Club.