Saturn 5’s intergalactic theme seeps into every corner of its 20,000-square-foot fun center, which encompasses an 18-hole mini-golf course illuminated by black lights, a laser-tag arena, a 400-square-foot bouncy obstacle course, an arcade with more than 70 games, and a billiards room. The indoor mini-golf course takes after its fresh-air counterparts with diminutive greens and obstacles, but it replaces the sun with black lights that illuminate holes lined in green, red, and blue. A rainbow of hues also embellishes the behemoth bounce house, where kids careen down slides and scramble around cushy pillars to get to meshed-in areas for jumping.
At the arcade, the perimeter of an air-hockey table glows a space-age green, and retro pinball machines exude a vintage air akin to the black-and-white makeup worn by ‘50s-era TV stars. In the billiards room, a 40-inch TV and an 80-inch projection screen are emblazoned with the day's games, which can be watched atop bar stools with snacks, beer, and wine from the concession bar.
It’s not uncommon to stumble upon fake alligators as you make your way around a mini-golf course. But at Smugglers Cove's locations, live American alligators snap their jaws in exhibits nestled amid the miniature fairways. With an old-fashioned bamboo pole players can dangle a treat above 20–50 of the predatory alligators, which leap from the water to snatch their treat. Between feeding frenzies, games take place on Smugglers Cove’s 18-hole outdoor courses, where balls roll past rushing waterfalls, into caves, over mountainous terrain, and into a hole in a pirate ship.
After founding The Golf Boot Camp in California and Washington state in the ‘90s, Cathy Schmidt has since set up two locations in Florida—one at Timber Creek Golf Club in 2009 and more recently at Terra Ceia Bay Golf Club in 2012. At all of the locations, Cathy helps students improve their swings by leveraging a two-decade career, including stints on various professional tours and a certification as a LPGA Class A instructor.
Whether an individual lesson or a three-day intensive golf boot camp, all of The Golf Boot Camp's programs begin with an on-course evaluation to assess each student’s swing habits and allergies to fairway landing zones. Lessons utilize V1 video technology to capture every movement of the swing, using the data to provide corrective feedback that fits each golfer's unique physical capabilities. The goal of lessons is to satisfy five key components: a steady head, weight forward, flat left wrist (or right wrist for lefties), correct sweet-spot path, and control over the clubface.
Pinebrook/Ironwood’s 3,964-yard executive course challenges every golfer’s stroke and strokes every retina with its beautiful Gulf Coast surroundings. Water borders 16 of the fairways, with 37 bunkers, or 6.4 million years in hourglass time, buffering the well-manicured greens. Budding Ben Hogans can cruise the course in their own golf cart and line up on super-quick Champion Ultra-Dwarf Bermuda grass, which is said to outperform traditional Bermuda for producing a true roll and distorting Mayday signals.
Tim Conaway does not believe in a one-swing-fits-all approach to golf. That’s why he helps his clients develop swings based on golfer-specific factors, such as size, strength, and whether or not a student has a third arm. With more than a dozen years of teaching experience under his belt, Tim supplements his ability for spotting flaws with state-of-the-art video technology. He also focuses on the mental aspects of the game, teaching students how to visualize shots and manage the course to their advantage. After the lesson, students get virtual “lockers” on Tim’s website stocked with lesson notes and personalized recommended resources.
Designed by Ted McAnlis to take advantage of the area’s natural wetlands, the fairways at The Preserve Golf Club are riddled with water hazards and marshy areas. Water comes directly into play on 9 of the course’s holes, and players end up traipsing across 11 bridges as they hit their way from beginning to end. Many stumble at the 3rd hole, whose aim-blocking sabal palms earn it a handicap of 1, or at the course’s signature 17th hole, which drowns balls left and right. The course’s greens are newly recarpeted with ultradwarf bermuda grass, and pines, oaks, and palms line the fairways, their branches grasping at stray balls like nature’s catchers' mitts.
Before tackling the aquatic mischief of the championship course, golfers can take aim at the island target greens of the aqua driving range, where 40 hitting stations let players gear up for the watery course. After facing down the fairways, players select from a deli-style menu at Ryder Cup Grille, which features live music from artists such as Larry Crane, longtime guitarist for John Mellencamp.
Course at a Glance: