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Window Shopping: Golf beyond Innisbrook in Tampa

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Innisbrook Golf Resort, highlighted by Transitions Championship host Copperhead Course, no doubt receives the most publicity among the many golf courses in Tampa. 

But area residents and snowbirds who come down to Tampa-St. Pete's each year know just how deep the region's roster goes beyond Innisbrook. With courses of all classes, from little municipals to world class facilities, you can name your price to play golf.

Besides the Copperhead and next door Island Course, the two other serious medal courses are located an hour north at 36-hole World Woods Golf Club. These two Tom Fazio designs are not only among his portfolio's best, but also the most affordable. Rarely does the name 'Fazio' and green fees under $100 coincide, but if you play in the afternoon, it can be done on either the Rolling Oaks or Pine Barrens courses. 

If you're not ready to head back towards civilization from remote World Woods, you can take on nearby Brooksville Country Club, which, thanks to its quarry back nine is anything but your predictable Florida golf course. Or, also north of Tampa, 45-hole facility Black Diamond Ranch recently began offering guest play. 

Closer to the city, the top golf resort besides Innisbrook is the Saddlebrook Resort (pictured above). While predominantly known as one of the area's best tennis prep schools, the golf product and resort is also quite suitable to grown-ups. There are two golf courses that run between about $55-105: the original Saddlebrook Course, plus the newer Palmer Course, which has entirely different, challenging green complexes that are often raised with multiple tiers. Saddlebrook also just launched the Bann Lynch Golf School, who partnered with resort ambassador K.J. Choi to construct a brand new practice facility that can accommodate practically every type of golf shot imaginable.

Besides the resorts, daily fee golf courses are everywhere. One traditional, friendly course I found located between Saddlebrook and Busch Gardens is Pebble Creek Golf Club. It's a gentle, shady layout with friendly staff, GPS and recently-installed Champions Bermuda greens. It's also great bang-for-the-buck with morning tee times available under $40.

If you're based further south and closer to St. Petersburg, you can play Seminole Lake Country Club, a course within a whiff of the gulf coast and a former private club that now offers public play. Green fees here top out at about $65 in the morning. Head even further south and you'll end up at Bobcat Trail, a 4 1/2-star semi-private facility right between Sarasota and Ft. Myers as rated by Golf Digest. Peak morning tee times are $69. 

Lastly, having just interviewed Chi Chi Rodriguez in Puerto Rico over the weekend, I feel I obliged to mention Clearwater's Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club, which is a youth-friendly, par-69 municipal facility that offers 'Let's Play 9' rates as low as $15 on GolfNow.

World Woods

Pine Barrens at World Woods Golf Club