If you’re simply looking for a list of the best public golf courses in Tampa, then look below. But further down in this post, I review each of these golf courses in a bit more detail. So make sure you read on if that is of interest.
The best public golf courses in Tampa
|1||Streamsong (Black, Red & Blue Courses)|
|2||World Woods (Pine Barrens & Rolling Woods)|
|3||Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)|
|4||TPC Tampa Bay|
|5||Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club|
|8||Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club|
|9||Rocky Point Golf Club|
|10||Fox Hollow Golf Club|
|11||Saddlebrook Resort (Palmer Course)|
|12||Heritage Isles Golf Club|
|13||Seminole Lakes Country Club|
|14||Cove Cay Golf Club|
An introduction to Tampa
In our series of the best public golf courses around the US, this time we’re in the city of Tampa on Florida’s west coast. There are some fine public golf courses in Tampa which we’ll explore.
Literally overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa is a popular place for a weekend getaway. The golf courses in Tampa are top class, but like many of the main hubs around Florida, many are private.
See more: What are the best golf resorts in Tampa?
So this series is all about highlighting the greatest ‘pay and play’ courses, the best of public access there is to enjoy. Let’s dig into them.
|Value for money||World Woods Golf Club|
|Views||Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club|
1. Streamsong (Black, Red, Blue Courses)
Where better to start than the hugely impressive Streamsong Resort, which is around 48 miles from Tampa.
Streamsong is a relatively new player in the golfing world and has three championship golf courses to enjoy. These are the Black, Red and Blue courses which wind around the resort.
The site itself is pretty unique. What was an old phosphate mine has created these huge sand hills and surreal elevation changes. It looks like this was all created to accommodate the courses, but nearly all the topography was like this pre any golf courses arriving.
All three layouts are out of this world. The first two to open were the Red and the Blue. They opened in 2014 and were designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and Tom Doak respectively.
In 2017, the Black course finally opened, again to huge acclaim. It was designed by Gil Hanse and just like the Red and Blue, has been littered with accolades. In fact, all three courses have received so much recognition, I could fill this whole post listing them.
Needless to say, they are all highly regarded and all sit firmly within the ‘Top 100 Golf Courses in the US’ rankings. I get the fact Streamsong is an hour’s drive from Tampa, but there really is no comparison. This is public golf on steroids.
The resort is one of the best golf resorts in Florida, and well worth checking out. They do some great stay and play packages which allow you to experience more than just the golf.
2. World Woods Golf Club (Pine Barrens & Rolling Oaks) – soon to be called Cabot Citrus Farms
Like Streamsong previously, it pains me to include a golf club which is a good hour’s drive from Tampa. But World Woods Golf Club is just too good not to include. And don’t worry, further down the list there are plenty of recommendations closer to downtown Tampa.
There are two outstanding golf courses at World Woods, each designed by the iconic Tom Fazio. This is a designer with multiple entries in the Top 100 US golf courses list.
And yet what is quite unusual about the 36-holes is how different one is from the other. You see, both courses sit on completely different soil types, which creates fundamentally different characteristics.
Pine Barrens, the more challenging of the two, plays through a thick forest of pines with vast waste-areas for stray shots, elevation changes and large bunkers. Rolling Oaks on the other hand, is dominated by Spanish moss-covered oaks and dense azaleas, the far more verdant of the two.
Over the years, World Woods has come to stand for the best of public golf, offering truly top class and affordable golf. Yet in 2022, new ownership by the Cabot Group looks to completely revitalize and further develop the site. Even a new name is being mooted.
The future looks bright for World Woods and public golf in Tampa.
3. Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)
Towards Palm Harbor, due north of Clearwater, is the epic golf resort of Innisbrook. The Copperhead course is bucket-list golf being the host venue to the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship.
With three other courses onsite, Innisbrook is popular as a resort destination. The beautiful 900 acres house many amenities, outstanding cuisine and is considered one of the best golf resorts in Florida.
Clearly the presence of the Copperhead course helps and being able to pivot your marketing message around “following in the footsteps of the pros” works wonders. Granted, every publicly accessible course which hosts a PGA Tour event uses a similar headline.
But few match the Copperhead’s challenge.
The course is very atypical for a Florida layout, in as much as there are large sandhills like you would get in the Carolinas. Likewise, there is very little water with pine trees flanking many of the fairways.
The Larry Packard design is always in exquisite condition and around Tampa is one of the top choices for public golf.
4. TPC Tampa Bay
The TPC mark ensures you’re playing a course with an eye on service, conditioning and the benefit of experience shared across a network of courses. TPC Tampa Bay is no different and one of the finest in Florida.
The course is located north of Tampa in the expansive wetlands endemic to the area. It opened in 1991 and was designed by Bobby Weed, a man who has his name against the likes of Hilton Head National, TPC Las Vegas and TPC Sawgrass, amongst many more.
The routing takes the course through an Audubon Cooperative Certified landscape which includes lagoons and cypress trees. There is also a lot of water, with lakes flanking fairways as you would expect trees to.
There is such an abundance of wildlife, coming here is a real treat. With this comes a serenity and solitude which makes TPC Tampa Bay such a hit with players and pundits.
There are a number of different tee boxes to choose from stretching the course from 5,000 to 7,000 yards. Subsequently, despite being a course built by the PGA Tour, it is accessible to all different levels of golfer.
5. Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club
Up towards Dade City, 40 minutes north of Tampa, is the beautiful and serene Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club.
This is a club with a thriving membership, partly for the range of amenities onsite, but also due to the 36-holes of championship golf you can play.
There are the North and the South courses, both designed on the back of a Tom Lehmann and Kurt Sandness collaboration. Very little separates the two courses, each offering a decent challenge.
What is unusual with the land here is how much elevation change there is, making this very unlike most other Florida golf courses. That said, with water which comes into play on more than half the holes, some things don’t change.
As does a litany of bunkers which you’ll do well to avoid.
You’ll find both courses in great condition and both a good value, with tee times starting around the $50 mark midweek.
6. Club Renaissance
Towards Sun City Center is the superb Club Renaissance, just over a half hour’s drive south from downtown.
This is one of the newer golf courses close to Tampa, having opened for play this side of the millennium in 2002. Architect Chip Powell was tasked with designing the 18-hole championship course and he’s excelled himself.
There are two distinctive halves to the course. The front-nine plays and feels like a links course, with wide open fairways which gently undulate up to large greens. Hitting low drives and bump-and-run approach shots will serve you well.
The second-nine is a complete contrast. This stretch of holes meander through a large conservation area with water coming into play on every hole. Accuracy is essential as stray shots will be penalized, either hidden behind ancient oaks and tall pines lining the fairway or getting wet.
The quality on offer here is top class and without doubt one of the better public play courses close to Tampa. Club Renaissance is also one of the highest ranked golf courses on pay-and-play websites GolfNow and Golf Pass.
7. Cheval Golf
North of the city near Lutz, is this wonderful semi-private club nestled in 860 acres of lush green landscape and Florida wildlife.
The club called upon Steve Smyers to design the championship course, which opened for play in 1986. Smyers laid out the routing through a smart housing development whilst ensuring no two fairways run parallel to one-another.
This is an elegant layout featuring a multitude of cypress trees as well as bunkers of which there are over 100. Yet bunkers aren’t the only hazard. As to be expected in Florida, water and lots of it, is your main enemy.
Water comes into play on nearly every hole, so course management is essential, as is an ample supply of balls!
Whilst playing your round, keep your eyes open for the rich wildlife including alligators, eagles, otters, deer and more.
8. Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club
Yet another golf club with a vibrant and lively membership, Temple Terrace is one of the most popular public play golf courses in Tampa.
It is also one of the closest to downtown, located just to the north east of the city in the Temple Terrace municipality.
The course goes way back to the early 20th century. It was designed and built by Tom Bendelow and opened for play in 1922. Bendelow was a renowned golf course architect who has over 400 golf courses on his C.V.
One of the great golf courses Bendelow designed was Medinah C.C. in Chicago. Now let’s not beat around the bush, Temple Terrace is no Medinah. But it is a delightful parkland course which meanders through old orange groves and has no parallel fairways.
Although you are making your way through a housing development, there is enough vegetation to ensure this does not become overbearing. A variety of trees including Spanish moss-covered oaks line fairways and ensure missing stray drives are penalized accordingly.
9. Rocky Point Golf Course
Going from east to west of the city, Rocky Point occupies a parcel of land next to the Tampa International Airport. It doesn’t have views of Old Tampa Bay, but it is close enough to feel the sea breeze.
Rocky Point is yet another golf course with a history which harks way back, this time even further towards the beginning of the 20th century.
The course opened in 1911 during a period when the Tampa Automobile Club opened and managed the course. Fast forward to today and Rocky Point is one of a handful of golf courses on ‘The Florida Historic Golf Trail’.
This is a trail which features some of the earliest built publicly accessible golf courses which are still playable today.
The track is relatively uncomplicated and open enough to encourage you to pick out the driver. That said, there is ample water throughout the course, so pick and choose carefully when to play aggressive or not.
10. Fox Hollow Golf Club
There are so many great public golf courses in Tampa, the fact Fox Hollow golf club comes in tenth says a lot about the competition.
So many other great courses didn’t make the list, including Westchase Golf Club, the two championship courses at The Eagles Golf Club and even Babe Zaharias Golf Club.
But Fox Hollow is deserving of its place on this list and for many reasons. First and foremost, it’s a great routing and one of the last ever designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr.
Secondly, there is so much variety, at no point can you relax. One moment, you’ll be teeing off into a tight tree-lined fairway. Whilst the next moment, you’ll be bombing a drive down into a wide open fairway.
Yet rest assured, where there is variety in the character of holes, there are two constants. One, lots of bunkers. Two, even more water.
Granted, we’re in Florida, so water is to be expected. But at times playing Fox Hollow, there is more water than fairway. Fortunately most greens are large and aside from some gentle undulations, are relatively forgiving.
From the back tees the course stretches to 7,100 but there are five sets of tees meaning you can play to your ability. Just keep an eye on the green fees as compared to some of the courses on this list, it can be pricey.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
What is the best public golf course in Tampa?
The best public golf course in Tampa is either the Red or Blue course at Streamsong Resort. An hour out of the city, the Red course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, whilst the Blue course was designed by Tom Doak. Both are highly regarded and have earned a litany of awards and accolades.