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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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up


TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.