It?s not uncommon to stumble upon fake alligators as you make your way around a mini-golf course. But at Smuggler's 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.
Snaking alongside the Boca Ciega Bay, The Tides Golf Club's 18-hole course confronts golfers with oceanfront breezes that are both relaxing and a challenge to tee shots on tree-lined fairways. Waterways come into play on 12 holes and figure more prominently on the back nine, where a pond imperils errant golf balls on every single track. Tidwarf grass adorns the course's elevated greens, which provide a true surface for golfers to roll their putts or roll their toy-sized golf carts.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Length of 6,329 yards from the tips * Course rating of 70.6 from the tips * Slope rating of 123 from the tips * Three tee options * See the scorecard
Missing Links Driving Range beckons to serious athletes and fun-seeking families alike with three batting cages, a 37-hitting-stall driving range, an 18-hole miniature-golf course, and a golf school helmed by two PGA-certified pros. Pin-hunters can assume their stance in virtually any conditions at the driving range, as 20 of the hitting stalls are covered and the entire complex is lighted to cater to late-night practitioners or 9 irons with a knack for astronomy. Putt-putt posses can tap like trumpet players at dawn through a mini-golf course that features a lagoon, lighthouse, waterfalls, and other tropical-themed obstacles, or hone their game more meticulously with lessons from the expert instructors at Smith 'n Barber Golf School. Line drives, grounders, and fly balls carom off of whirring bats or oversize hot dogs inside Missing Links' three batting cages, where automated pitchers serve up both fast-flung baseballs and high-arching, slow-pitch softballs. After a long day of swatting spheres, guests can cool off with 24 flavors of soft serve and other subzero savories served at the onsite ice-cream parlor.
After a $1.8 million makeover in 2007, Largo Golf Course invites visitors to meander through its fairways and experience FootGolf. The course includes 8 par 5s, 1 par 4, and 9 par 3s, adding up to a total distance of 3,700 yards. The game combines soccer with golf and is played with a regulation soccer ball. The holes are typically shorter than regular golf holes, with 21-inch diameter cups adjacent to the standard cups.
Course at a Glance:
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.
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: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Length of 7,000 yards * Course rating of 74 * Slope rating of 141 * Three tee options * See the scorecard