By Jeff Skinner
Since the Super Bowl is taking place in Tampa this week we offer this alternative to all the pre-game festivities. After all, how much partying can a golfer take while they are in Tampa for the week? If you need a break from the non-stop parties, promotions and late night festivities, try a nice relaxing round of golf at one of the best courses in the area.
The TPC Tampa Bay has everything you need to get away from the insanity that goes with Super Bowl week. TPC Tampa is a wonderful facility that fulfills all your golf expectations. It is always a thrill to play on a course that the pros use as a regular tour stop. The TPC is home to the Outback Steakhouse Pro Am on the Champions Tour. Past champions include Tom Watson who won the past two years, Hale Irwin and some guy named Nicklaus. One of the unique aspects of the TPC is the elaborate locker room. The management at TPC puts brass plaques on the lockers with the names of all the past champions. I was changing my clothes right at Watson’s locker. Well, being a big fan of Watson, that made my day before I even went on the course.
The course was designed my Bobby Weed in 1991 along with Chi Chi Rodriguez as a PGA consultant. This is a true stadium style layout with many mounds and banks to allow for spectator viewing. Fortunately there are tees that vary from a slope of 119 to 135. This course has received many accolades from all the “Best Lists”. Golf Digest gives it four and a half stars and Golf World lists it as number eighteen on their “Best Public Courses” list. Number nineteen is Bethpage Black home of this year’s U.S. Open. That tells you how good this course is.
You can sense that you are on a quality course right away. The first fairway resembles a jigsaw puzzle piece that doglegs right and needs an accurate drive to the left side. The greens here are rather large and can give you many different hole locations. If this is Florida it must mean water. There is water on many of the holes and that makes shot placement very important.
Weed uses mounds and bunkers throughout the fairways to encourage a round that rewards target golf. Many greens are guarded by collection areas that funnel missed shots away from the green. This places a premium on your chipping game. Such is the case at number nine. Nine is a long dogleg left that needs a long drive to carry a series of mounds in the fairway. There are no greenside bunkers. Collection areas protect the green and keep balls from rolling up to the green.
The par five fifteenth tests your accuracy on your tee shot, your approach and yes, even your lay up. With not one, but two water hazards protecting the entire right side, straight is must on this one. Slicers beware on this one, you’re tempting the Gods if you half any slice on this hole.
The green complexes here disguise their level of difficulty. You’ll stand in the fairway and look to see a green with few or even no bunkers and think there is no danger. Think again. The subtle, rolling terrain surrounding the greens is as unforgiving as any bunker.
All tournaments hope for a dramatic finish on the last hole and TPC Tampa makes that very possible. It is a par four with bunkers that protect the left side and water defends the right all the way up to the green. Lose your drive right and your wet, lose it left and you may find the bunkers. This green has a bunker on the left and a spine that runs through the center of the green. The water is so close on the right side that you could putt into it. You can imagine the crowds that surround the green during the tournaments as you putt out and cherish your round on this course.
When you see the name TPC attached to any course you expect it to be a high quality course and a memorable experience. TPC Tampa is just that. The facilities are excellent. The clubhouse and locker room are great. The substantial pro shop is very well stocked with plenty of logo gear. The practice areas are what you would expect the pros to practice on. The people are courteous and helpful. The course is meticulously maintained with all the qualities of a tour layout. TPC Tampa delivers what you expect, a great day of golf.