Waterlefe Golf & River Club offers scenery and a great round of golf


BRADENTON, Fla. -- Unlike most Florida golf courses, you don't have to worry about getting soaked at Waterlefe Golf & River Club south of Tampa. The course features water on almost every hole, but it rarely comes into play.

That doesn't mean that the course is any easier than some of Bradenton's toughest tracks. With a backdrop of the Manatee River, Waterlefe is scenic and tough, playing to 6,908 yards from the tips. There are five sets of tees, but even the shorter ones are tough with bunkers everywhere and a 429-yard 18th hole that plays to an island green.

Designed by Ted McAnlis, the golf course features plenty of scenic holes, including the signature 17th with a long carry over water into a green guarded by bunkers on the left and the right.

If you check the Waterlefe scorecard, yes, water can possibly come into play on most of the 18 holes, but rarely does it affect your score. It is more important to look out for the oaks that line most fairways. The oaks, along with the Manatee River that is visible for several of the holes, make Waterlefe one of the more picturesque courses in west Florida. You can get a good look, because the fairways are wide and an experienced golfer is not likely to post a big number.

Waterlefe Golf & River Club's greens are large but tricky, and hitting it to the right tier is important. With the wide fairways and few hazards to navigate, it isn't too demanding for the slightly above average golfer to reach the green in regulation, but read the greens carefully. At Waterlefe, speed and direction both count since they are very fast. Make sure to spend some time on the practice green since, unlike many courses, they offer a true reading.

The course starts out with a par 5 that's 547 yards from the tips. There's plenty of water on both sides but a generous landing area. Only the best can go for it in two, but the layup areas are large enough that a pitching wedge should get you home in three.

The 199-yard, par-3 fourth is surrounded by water that actually does come into play. There's water all along the left and the back of the hole, but there are bushes to stop anything that goes too far. It could get dicey if the pin placement is on the left-front, kind of like No. 16 at Augusta National. You can make up any lost strokes at the easy short par-4 fifth.

It continues along like that with plenty of water that really doesn't come into play, wide fairways and little shade. If you can putt, you are looking at a decent score, but if you are looking for decent scenery, Waterlefe Golf & River Club provides it. You will find plenty of wildlife all along the course and the water, and the boats make for a pleasant afternoon.