Tampa golf scene boasts phenoms, the PGA Tour, Tom Fazio courses and much more

By Travel ArticlesJune 11, 2012, 4:49 pm

TAMPA, Fla. -- With my golf clubs fresh off the baggage carousel at Tampa International Airport, it was time to beeline north toward Brooksville.

There wasn't much time to waste. Over the course of four days I would play 36 holes a day, seeking out a diverse mix of the best golf in the Tampa area. Here, you can virtually name your price and get on a course, whether it's a tiny municipal or a world-class, PGA Tour-type venue. The best part? Either class of course comes at a great bargain when compared to other destinations.

Uncommon Florida golf north of Tampa in Brooksville

The Veterans Highway connects golfers from busy Tampa to the more remote Brooksville an hour away. Here, this community has a handful of golf courses set on some of the state's most unique topography. Brooksville Country Club is one of the most affordable unique courses in the state thanks to a quarry-laden back nine. Nearby, one of the area's top private residential communities is also beginning to open its gates to outside play, Black Diamond Ranch, which features both the Quarry Course and Ranch Course designed by Tom Fazio.

But the real show-stopper of the lot is World Woods Golf Club, home to not only one of the most impressive golf-only facilities (a massive, circular range, executive course, practice holes and massive short game green) but also two the east's most accessible and affordable Fazio designs, Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks. Better yet for golfers, each is far different from one another. Pine Barrens plays along sandy waste areas creating a dramatic and intimidating appearance. Rolling Oaks, meanwhile, is a more traditional design with enormous oak trees and traditional bunkering and greens.

PGA Tour pedigree at the Innisbrook Resort

The road south from World Woods to Innisbrook, Highway 19, runs close to the coastline and isn't the quiet, unpopulated road like Veterans. Instead, surf shops, restaurants and bars line the road for miles until you turn into the Innisbrook Resort.

Suddenly the shops and lights are gone, replaced by mighty, overhanging trees and dimly lit, winding roads. A master-planned resort and community that dates back to the 1950s but was recently purchased and upgraded by Salamander Resorts, the Innisbrook Resort features small residences and spacious condo units hidden under tree cover, and resort staff that is as friendly as they come.

There are four 18-hole courses at Innisbrook, though it's the Copperhead that attracts such lofty words from PGA Tour stars. That's due to the rolling topography that's tough to find along Florida's coast and classical course architecture by Lawrence Packard, a resident here.

Among resort staff and members, however, the Copperhead isn't even the clear-cut winner for the best course at Innisbrook. The Island Course can play as equally demanding as the Copperhead from the tips and you could argue the island delivers more photo ops, thanks to holes like the par-5 second hole, or the sixth (named Cypress Tunnel), which features holes framed by cypress trees and small lakes with a smattering of birdlife gliding about.

Golf among phenoms at Saddlebrook Resort

Innisbrook may be the most high profile of the golf resorts around Tampa, but for tennis enthusiasts all over the world, Saddlebrook Resort is a household name. A most versatile property, Saddlebrook wears hats as a boarding school, residential community and luxury resort and spa.

On certain holes of the Saddlebrook Course, the faint sound of tennis rackets pummeling balls can be heard. In the restaurant, you'll likely see a group of teenagers, tennis bags beneath their chairs, wolfing down a big meal between school and training.

Run by Tom Dempsey, offerings include 36 holes, 45 tennis courts (featuring each of the major championship surfaces) and a star-studded list of former students and residents. Most recently, the resort is making an even bigger play to attract aspiring golf talent. The resort recently signed with the dynamic Australian teaching duo of Bann-Lynch and one of their students, resort ambassador K.J. Choi, to revamp their golf school, which hosts both a prep school as well as adult individual lessons, group schools and more.

Double dose of daily fees: Seminole Lake and Pebble Creek

Tampa has a plethora of 18-hole facilities that suit any budget. Many private clubs have turned semi-private in recent years but are still very affordable. I sifted through the many options and dug out two lesser-known, affordable courses to fill out my trip:

Near Saddlebrook is a friendly, local club named Pebble Creek Golf Club. Like Saddlebrook, the course is framed with mature cypress and mossy oaks that seem to instantly drop your heart rate, and the relaxing 6,400-yard layout is toughened with some sharp doglegs and encroaching trees beside fairways.

On the other side of the 13-mile Howard Frankland Bridge is Seminole Lake Country Club, a once-private turned semi-private club within a whiff of Long Bayou. The proximity to the Gulf of Mexico makes the course a natural habitat for bird life, which is abundant throughout the course as are water hazards. That's a reminder to stop by a beach at some point at Treasure Island a chip shot away.

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Watch: Tiger birdies 3 of 4, then goes OB

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 8:30 pm

Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off in his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and another birdie at No. 10.

He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

And with this roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, the charge was officially on, with Woods just one back.

Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and sniped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 to drop back to 11 under, three behind.

(More coming...)

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.