An introduction to Tampa
Located on Florida’s west coast on the Gulf of Mexico is the multicultural city of Tampa. There are some superb golf courses in Tampa. But before we delve into them, let’s talk about the city.
Tampa is quite simply a wonderful city and a fusion of historical influences with Floridan culture and modern attractions pervading throughout. No wonder it is so popular as a weekend city break destination.
Surrounded by alligator wetlands and waterways, Tampa is known throughout the Sunshine State for its museums and major landmarks. These include Busch Gardens, one of the State’s original theme parks. It opened in 1959 and now covers a huge area north of the city with everything from roller-coasters to wildlife exhibitions.
See also: What are the best golf courses in Florida?
Keeping with the theme of animal habitats and exhibitions, there is the hugely popular tourist attraction of The Florida Aquarium with its coral garden and other exhibits largely based around the wetland habitats of Florida. Don’t forget the Big Cat Rescue center, home to nearly a hundred rescued animals and the Lowry Park Zoo.
Across Old Tampa Bay across to the peninsula of St Petersburg, are some wonderful places to visit. Fort De Soto is a series of interconnected islands with multiple beaches, trails and a historic fort, Battery Bigelow. Bridging the Gulf of Mexico is a long stretch of coastline including a number of superb beaches where it isn’t uncommon to see dolphins swimming not far out. This is one of the most popular cities in Florida.
The best golf courses in Tampa Florida
Seminole Lakes Country Club
Located on the peninsula of St Petersburg, over Old Tampa Bay from downtown Tampa, is Seminole Lakes golf club. This is not to be confused with ‘the’ Seminole Golf Club north of West Palm Beach.
This family owned golf course is ‘Old Florida Golf’ typified. You’ll get great service, slick greens and generally staff who genuinely care about each visitor having a good time.
The natural habitat which surrounds the course is unrivaled. There is an abundance of wildlife which makes playing golf here so enjoyable.
Located on the banks of the Long Bayou and Cross Bayou, expect plenty of water to come into play. Aside from water as one of the main hazards, there are plenty of doglegs keeping things interesting. Generally the fairways are wide as are the greens. As long as you can keep the ball in play, you should score well.
They’ve used a premium SeaDwarf Seashore Paspalum grass, not the more common Florida Bermuda style grass. Tish ensures the greens, tee boxes and fairways are more-often than not in fantastic condition.
This is a fun and unpretentious course where visitors are welcome.
Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club
Just two miles east of Tampa is the friendly and fun Temple Terrace Golf & Country club. This is a golf course with some fascinating history. As one of the oldest private courses in Florida it is listed in The National Register of Historic Places. Temple Terrace being the only course within the State of Florida to have that distinction.
The 18-hole course is a pleasure to play and was designed by Tom Bendelow. Bendelow was a man responsible for over 400 courses throughout the U.S., including Medinah CC in Chicago.
The course opened for play in 1922 and at Temple Terrace Bendelow designed a course where no two holes run parallel. The fairways are wide and glorious meandering through old orange groves although residential plots are visible throughout.
This is not just a golf course, but instead a vibrant country club. There are numerous other facilities including a 20,000 square foot clubhouse with a ballroom and fine dining. Add to that a heated swimming pool, jacuzzi, bar, grill restaurant and much more.
The club is immensely popular as a place for socializing and networking and no doubt you’ll be welcomed too.
Rocky Point Golf Course
One of the oldest golf courses in the U.S., Rocky Point originally opened for play way back in 1911. This was when the Tampa Automobile Club opened the course for business.
With that heritage, the club is one of a few courses on The Florida Historic Golf Trail. The trail features publicly accessible golf courses throughout Florida which can still be played today.
Over the years, Rocky Point golf club has had its fair share of rocky moments (apologies for the pun). This includes being shut during World War II when barracks were built over the course. It wasn’t until 1954 when the course was reopened. Fast-forward to today and the club is now managed by the Tampa Sports Authority and open to visitors.
The uncomplicated layout makes this enjoyable to play without beating you up. That said, water is an ever-present hazard waiting to consume all stray shots. There are many occasions where water lurks alongside fairways and sits in front of greens making those approach shots that bit more complicated.
TPC Tampa Bay
Built by the PGA Tour in 1991, this Bobby Weed designed course is a regular venue to the Champions Tour. It is considered by many as being one of Florida’s most scenic courses.
To the north of Tampa in the heart of the wetlands, this fine course meanders through lagoons and cypress trees. The site is Audubon Cooperative Certified and golfers are surrounded by an abundance of wildlife. The pure beauty of the site is one of the reasons the course is so highly regarded by players and pundits alike.
The course has been craftily designed, ensuring it provides a challenge for higher and lower handicaps. There is a range of tee box options meaning it can stretch from 5,000 to 7,000 yards. The glorious fairways feature a number of undulations with immaculate greens well-protected by large beautifully contoured bunkers.
This really is a sumptuous course and welcomes visitors. This is 100% a course to add to your hit list when coming to Tampa.
Cove Cay Golf Club
Cove Cay golf club has a beautiful spot. It overlooks Tampa Bay and is protected from the Gulf of Mexico by the large St Petersburg peninsula. The site is beautiful and green with palms and dense tree lined fairways on a number of holes.
Although it is situated on the coastline, there isn’t too much water. Instead there are doglegs, narrow fairways and strategically placed bunkers with just the occasional water hazard coming into play. The course isn’t overly long measuring just shy of 6,100 yards from the back tees.
The club prides itself on the fact you can easily get round in less than four hours. The benefit here is you have more time to focus on the socializing afterwards! To encourage this fast play there are four sets of tees to choose from depending on your golfing ability.
One of the signature holes is the par-5 15th. It has water running all along the left hand fairway with an approach to a small well protected green across water. Do you go aggressive and try to get on the green in two carrying the well-positioned palms in the process? Or play safe and lay up?
Whichever way you get there, rest assured you’ll enjoy the gorgeous views across Tampa Bay when on the green.
Heritage Isles Golf Club
Not far from the wild nature preserves of Lower Hillsborough and Flatwoods Park is the superb Heritage Isles golf club. This is a course which harmoniously weaves its way through acres upon acres of natural wetlands.
Native wildlife, cascading Cypress trees and vast ponds, all combine to create a delightful backdrop to your round. The architects Gordon Lewis and Jed Azinger were tasked with ensuring the course maintains its rustic feel. During construction, the utmost care was taken to ensure there was little to no damage to the environment.
The fairways are wide and the greens not overly penal, but it really is water which is an ever-present and ominous hazard. Indeed there is water on 17 of the 18 holes. It would be a miracle for even the better golfers to stay dry around here.
Wentworth Golf Club
This fantastic golf course is located to the north west of Tampa, towards Tarpon Springs and next to Lake Tarpon. Unusual for Florida golf courses, the patch of land here is quite heavily wooded and most holes are tree-lined with magnificent oak trees.
The course was designed by Steve Smyers, a prolific golf course architect who has his name against many great layouts. Some of these include Southern Dunes, Bella Collina, Cypress Lakes, Evian Resort in France and many many more.
The course was designed to be challenging for the lower handicap golfers. Higher handicaps can play here, but they could be in for a rather long day. The fairways are often narrow with plenty of water and bunkers. These lead up to large undulating greens when precision putting is paramount.
From the back tees the course is only 6,459 yards. But don’t be fooled – this is one of the longest, shortest courses you will ever play.
There is plenty on offer at the club including a large driving range and practice putting green including sand bunker and short game practice area.
Saddlebrook Resort (Palmer Course)
There are two fantastic golf courses onsite at Saddlebrook Resort both having been designed by the iconic Arnold Palmer. However, it is the Palmer course which deservedly gets all the plaudits.
The estate is a blanket of green with native plants, palms and cypress trees. Amongst this flora and fauna is a myriad of lakes, ponds and streams. This really is a pleasure on the eye.
But with water on nearly every hole, both the Palmer and the Saddlebrook courses are immensely challenging.
The resort enjoyed investment after the turn of the century which meant both courses underwent significant renovation. Many parts of the course were improved, particularly the greens, which are now in fantastic condition.
Onsite you will also find the Arnold Palmer international golf academy which offers a selection of different packages for golfers of all abilities. A great resort and well worth turning a round here into a mini-stay.
Old Memorial Golf Club
This absolute peach of a golf course is located in the northern outskirts of Tampa. It was designed by the prolific Steve Smyers, the architect of Wentworth golf club also on this list.
The build of this course was actually the dream project of three business partners. These were the three owners of the Outback Steakhouse chain of restaurants, Chris Sullivan, Bob Basham and Bob Merritt. Lovers and admirers of the true time-honored traditions of the game, they endeavored to build a course in their native Tampa which embodied those values.
And so in 1994 their dream became reality after they purchased a 312 acre plot. They commissioned Steve Smyers, who has a reputation for championing classical design, to plot the course. It was then three years later in 1997 the course opened for play to wide acclaim.
And so to today, we have this superb creation. It is a links style course with hard and firm surfaces, expansive bunkers and well protected putting greens. This is truly a sanctuary of golf and a place the three owners should be immensely proud of.
Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club (South)
A good 45 minutes drive north of downtown Tampa is the splendid Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club. It is a gem of a club with two championship 18-hole courses, the South and the North.
There are many great golf courses in Tampa and at Lake Jovita you have two fantastic ones. But speaking to the locals, it is the South Course deemed the better of the two.
What makes the two courses at Lake Jovita so popular is the fact they are quite unique for Florida courses. Both feature numerous elevation changes and the site is made up of rolling hills.
This means players can enjoy numerous elevated tee boxes, splendid views across the course and visually impressive raised greens. The fairways are wide but littered with bunkers with well over a hundred dotted around the course.
What is the best golf course in Tampa?
The best golf course in Tampa, Florida, is the Steve Smyers designed Old Memorial Golf Club. The club is located on Hixon Road, 18 miles northwest of Tampa’s downtown.
Completing the top 3 is the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and TPC Tampa Bay.
How many golf courses are there in Tampa?
The city of Tampa is located in Hillsborough County, within which there are 51 golf courses.