This time around we'll look at two wonderful Tampa Bay area courses in our continuing examination of golf in the Sunshine State.
A long time favorite of mine has been a municipal course owned by the city of St. Petersburg, Mangrove Bay Golf Course, located just off Interstate 275 in the northern area of the city.
Mangrove Bay is set in a lovely natural area bordering the bay and possesses sweeping vistas of both land and sea. It plays at just a tad over 6,600 yards and is laid out, in my opinion, beautifully. Water comes into play on 12 of the 18 holes, although in some of those instances, it is only really in play for a player who is fatally wild off the tee.
Your round begins with a relatively mild first hole, which is always a good idea, in my estimation. It's a 349 yard affair that bends very slightly to the right and is very much a birdie possibility.
The second is a 579 yard par five with water down the left side, but that shouldn't come into play. After a dry par three and par four, we come to the fifth hole, playing at 380 with water on the right. The sixth is a short par 5 at 506 yards, presenting a good birdie opportunity.
The seventh is a short par four, at which you'd be wise to use an iron or hybrid off the tee, since water lines the left side and position for your second shot is everything here.
Skipping ahead to the back nine, you'll see that it starts quite benevolently, with a short par four and par three. Number twelve, however, will definitely get your attention at 400 yards, bending left. Thirteen is a neat little par four with water well left and fourteen is a straightaway par five that is a good birdie opportunity. Fifteen is the longest par three on the course.
Sixteen is probably my favorite hole at Mangrove Bay. It's a par four of 400 yards that plays uphill for the second half, with a second shot over a creek. But you need to take a moment to look to your left as you walk or ride the hill and observe a lagoon in which mullet leap almost constantly. It's a beautiful sight, indeed. .
Mangrove Bay ends on a very strong note, with two excellent holes, the par five seventeenth at 565 yards and the par four eighteenth at 438 yards with water on the left.
The course, at least in my experience, was always in very nice shape and the environment is unbeatable.
Now let's head north to the town of Palm Harbor in Pinellas County, a few miles northwest of Tampa and check on Tarpon Woods Country Club, another of my favorites in the region. Wildlife abounds in this beautiful setting located just off Route 19. Water is present on every hole on this course that sports tricky greens and a varied layout of holes. It plays at just under 6,600 yards from the tips and requires accurate tee shots and carefully thought out approaches.
Sadly, at the time of this writing, the course may be on its way to disappearing. Because of the usual short-sighted development without regard for consequences, the Tarpon Woods community is prone to flooding in the rainy season and pressure has been brought to dispense with the golf course and turn the area into a virtual water basin to relieve the condition.
Brooker Creek runs through the golf course, and is the source of the problem, only because of thoughtless development upstream. But it is also one of the sources of the charm of the course. So get there and play it while you can, because it's worth the effort. If you get a chance, you'll thoroughly enjoy this layout and its abundant flora and fauna. From the par four opening hole, throughout the picturesque layout, to the visually appealing eighteenth, this course is a delight.
Let's hope it will be around a lot longer.
About the Author
Jim Nettleton is a radio and television professional who is a lifelong golf addict and lived in Tampa for 10 years. Visit his golf blog at http://golf-golf-andmoregolf.blogspot.com/ This article may be freely reprinted and republished as long as it is not changed in any way. This resource box must also be included in its entirety.