The best place to see some natural Florida wildlife during your round is The Claw, a certified Audubon animal sanctuary. It's common 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 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.
Recommended for Golf Courses because: The Claw at the University of South Florida is a challenging course in north Tampa, and home to the USF Men's and Women's Golf Teams.
Skye's expert tip: A key rule of golf in Florida is that you get free relief if your ball ends up near a gator.
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.
Recommended for Golf Courses because: Featuring a convenient location and budget prices, Rocky Point Golf Club is the perfect choice for busy visitors to Tampa.
Skye's expert tip: Anyone with a handicap of less than 20 should probably play the tips here. There are a few holes that feel like cheating unless you stretch them out.
If you took a poll of golfers in Tampa, chances are they will name TPC of Tampa Bay as the toughest public access golf course in the region. This award-winning course is part of the PGA Tour's Tournament Players Club network and was designed by Bobby Weed and PGA professional, Chi Chi Rodriguez. 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.
Recommended for Golf Courses because: TPC Tampa Bay, located in the northern part of the city, is widely considered the most challenging public access course in Tampa.
Skye's expert tip: Because of its pedigree, a round of golf here is on the expensive side, especially during the winter months.
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.
Recommended for Golf Courses because: The Eagles Golf Club is located west of downtown Tampa and offers golfers the choice of two premier tracks.
Skye's expert tip: Rounds are rarely slow because of the two courses. It's more than possible to get in 36 if you like.
Babe Zaharias Golf Club is a little-known gem of a course located 15 minutes north of downtown Tampa. Dating from 1926, the course is named in honor of golf champion and previous owner, Babe Zaharias. Zaharias was the club's owner and manager in the years before her death in the mid 50s. Now municipally owned, the course is usually in good condition and very reasonably priced. While not an exceptionally long course, it is a little tight with some challenging placement of hazards. This is a great course for beginners or to work on your accuracy and ball placement.
Recommended for Golf Courses because: Named after the golf champion and previous owner, Babe Zaharias Golf Club dates from 1926 and is a nod to golf's rich history.
Skye's expert tip: Even on weekends, this golf course is one of the best deals in town.
The Club at Cheval 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.
Recommended for Golf Courses because: The Club at Cheval is just 20 minutes north of downtown Tampa and offers public play with the feel of a private course.
Skye's expert tip: Cheval isn't far from either the TPC of Tampa Bay or Heritage Harbor, making it easy to swing 36 holes in one day.
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. Golfers also rave about the friendly staff and tasty food options available after the round.
Recommended for Golf Courses because: Westchase Golf Club has the reputation of being the best public course located within Tampa's city limits.
Skye's expert tip: The Westchase neighborhood where the club is located is known for its great restaurants and bars.
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.
Recommended for Golf Courses because: With dramatic elevation changes, Lake Jovita offers two of the area's most challenging courses just 40 minutes north of downtown Tampa.
Skye's expert tip: The 2nd tee on the North course is one of the highest points in the entire area with views for miles!
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 undulation 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.
Recommended for Golf Courses because: Great golf course design by Robert Trent Jones Sr. is the highlight at Fox Hollow Golf Club in north Tampa.
Skye's expert tip: The price for this course can be steep so be sure to check their rates ahead of time to get the best deal.
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 bitten! The Copperhead was completely restored in 2015, bringing the vision of the course's original designer, Larry Packard back to life. With plenty of trees, 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.
Recommended for Golf Courses because: Located just outside of Tampa is the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Golf Resort, home to the PGA's annual Valspar Championship.
Skye's expert tip: The course is only open to members and guests of the resort - check their website for stay and play packages.