The best place to see some natural Florida wildlife during your round is The Claw, a certified Audubon animal sanctuary. It's not uncommon to see gators, deer, and many varieties of birds here. As the home course for the University of South Florida's nationally ranked USF Men's and Women's Golf Teams, you would expect a challenging round of golf and The Claw definitely delivers. While the course is fairly open, a few holes require some tight shots, especially the signature and namesake hole 14 known as "The Claw". This course is located across the street from both the USF campus and the Moffitt Cancer Center.
Since the City took it over in 2003, Rocky Point has steadily improved into a fun course with an excellent location; it's across the street from the airport and the fine hotels that surround it. Anyone in town for business probably has time to jump over to Rocky Point before their flight leaves. Twelve of the holes have water in play and the course can get quite windy, adding to the challenge. Other challenges on this course include some blind shots. If you have never played here it can be tricky figuring out the direction of a few of the holes and where to aim.
Pebble Creek is a great public neighborhood course in New Tampa located off of Bruce B. Downs Blvd. They recently rebuilt their greens and tees with Champion Bermuda grass for a more consistent quality. The course isn't overly long, making this a workable course for everyone. However, there are a host of challenges located throughout the course. Many of the greens are elevated and slope from back to front and water can come into play on almost every hole. Mulligan's Irish Pub, the on-site clubhouse, provides a place to fortify before or after games with truly upscale pub grub and import beers.
Westchase Golf Club uses its setting as a former wetland and reserve to its advantage, winding its way through a variety of native Floridian terrain. The 6,700 yards quoted on the scorecard plays much longer thanks to the narrow fairways and small greens. Except for a couple of holes, houses are not really a factor during play, however, there are substantial wetlands that do come into play on a number of holes. This course is only a short jump from downtown, making it a good bet for playing hooky from a business meeting.
The Eagles has two courses that weave in and out of native Florida scenery and wildlife, all within a short drive from downtown. The courses come in two flavors: the Lakes course and the Forest course. The Lakes stretches to over 7,100 yards and is a little more forgiving than the Forest. The length, as well as strategically placed trees and water can all come into play, making this a challenge from any tee. The Forest course is only 6,700 yards but is quite narrow making accuracy important. It's a good idea to stay with tee distances that are comfortable.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr, each hole on the Fox Hollow course presents its own unique set of challenges. While some have open fairways, strategically placed water hazards and sand traps will keep you honest. Some holes have tight, tree-lined fairways that provide visual intimidation. Approach shots to the greens can be just as tricky. Most are quite large but with undulations and protective hazards that can leave you guessing. The variety of the course layout ensures you won't hit the same shot twice. With five sets of tees ranging from 5,200 yards to slightly over 7,100, you can make this course more enjoyable by choosing the most appropriate for your group.
Cheval Golf and Country Club is one of the finest semi-private clubs in Tampa Bay. Located 20 minutes north of downtown, the course is located in an exclusive gated neighborhood lending a private feel to the clubhouse and restaurant which have been recently renovated. The course itself is carved out of a cypress forest and is practically surrounded by trees. The course can play long, so make sure to choose the right tees as this course can be difficult. Each 9 has plenty of challenges with dog-legs and plenty of water and sand that can come into play.
Lake Jovita offers two golf courses that trick you into believing you are playing in North Carolina. This is the hilly section of Tampa Bay and the elevation changes have been used for dramatic effect on the course. A visit to Lake Jovita offers a lot of perks, from curb-side service to free practice balls for the driving range to the conveniently located coolers in the golf carts. Located about 40 minutes north of downtown, Lake Jovita is an easy trip from nearly anywhere in Tampa. There are also private villas overlooking the 18th hole that can be booked for visitors.
Take a poll of golfers around Tampa and the majority will say that the toughest test of golf can be found at the TPC of Tampa Bay. Because of its pedigree, a round of golf here is on the expensive side. The 6,800 yards from the TPC tees doesn't quite tell the tale of a course that weaves in and out of wetlands, woodlands, and lakes. Although a relatively flat course, many of the greens have considerable drop-offs so a missed shot will have you chipping back on. Bring your "A" game if you want to tee it up like the pros.
Just over the bridge from Tampa is the Innisbrook Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor. One of the favorite stops of the PGA Tour, this course tests even the most seasoned professionals at the Valspar Championship held every March. Especially well-known for its "Snake Pit," aka holes 16, 17, and 18, players must watch out or they will get bit! The Copperhead was completely restored in 2015, bringing the vision of course's original designer, Larry Packard back to life. With plenty of woods, water, and sand to navigate, the Par 71, 7,200+ yard course is as beautiful as it is challenging. There is also plenty of wildlife to observe and this part of Tampa Bay is home to really large squirrels, called fox squirrels. Don't be alarmed if they jump into your cart searching for snacks.