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.
You don't want to go into the first hole Waterlefe Golf & River Club's 18-hole, Ted McAnlis-designed course cold. Like many tracks on the formidable course, the opening par-five curves around Manatee River and its surrounding ponds; the river imperils any opening drives that veer right, and a separate pond awaits to gobble up any approach shots that miss to the left. From a birds-eye view, parts of the course look like shapely crescents of green carved into the deep-blue waterways. Unfortunately, you'll have to compromise your enjoyment of the scenery with the challenge of avoiding it.
Played from the tips, the par-three 9th hole plays to 230 yards, and it's all marsh from the tee to the green. The river hugs both sides of each of the final three holes, giving each golfer one last chance to prove they can keep their ball dry without having to dress it in a tiny wetsuit.
Though the course may be a harrowing challenge to some, PGA pro Steve Dietz has made it his home. As director of instruction at The Golf Academy of Waterlefe, Steve draws from 25 years of experience as a golf pro to create the curriculum used by his staff of fellow PGA instructors. The Golf Academy's ultimate goal is to help golfers hit straighter drives, more accurate approach shots, and longer putts en route to lower scores. Lessons often incorporate a combination of video swing analysis, user-friendly online tools, and other modern training devices. In addition, the Academy's club-fitting services match golfers with their ideal club set based on swing technique and body type so they know they're getting the most out of their equipment.
Course at a Glance:
Designed by golf-course architect Ted McAnlis, Misty Creek Country Club's emerald terrain traverses a 350-acre wildlife preserve of native wetlands, forests, and lakes. The par 72 course follows the natural topography of the preserve, rife with environmental obstacles such as bunkers, water hazards, and caddy-eating Venus flytraps. Holes also offer a variety of tactical challenges that require both careful putts and meticulously aimed drives. Players can hop into their golf cart to zoom from each ball borough to open plain, enjoying the cool breeze off the marsh as they ride. The course's wildlife preserve is home to more than 70 winged creatures, including a bald eagle that lays golf balls, deer, alligator, and wild boar. Golfers are respectfully asked to adhere to the course dress code.
The fastest way to improve your swing is to undergo a procedure involving robotic arm implants and energy harvested from the tidal force of foreign moons. Following in close second is an equally effective but slightly less invasive approach: six-weeks of golf lessons at On Target Golf Schools. With today's Groupon, $60 gets you six weeks of swing refinement from golf pro Mike Stevens or one of his talented instructors, a $165 value.
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