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.
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
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:
At Evie’s Golf Center’s mini-golf course, putter-wielding patrons embark on an 18-hole, par 40 odyssey through treacherously sloped, emerald-turf corridors kissed by the gentle mist of hole-side waterfalls. Outduel old rivals with a smooth and dependable putting stroke, or use the round as practice to fine-tune new techniques such as using your own double-gripped putter or intimidating finicky orbs until they take cover in each hole.
Each of the three courses in the Pope Golf portfolio challenges golfers with a unique layout that incorporates pristine features of Florida’s natural landscape. At Misty Creek Country Club, players share a wildlife preserve with exotic birds and try to keep their golf balls out of local vegetation and bald-eagle hairpieces. River Wilderness Golf and Country Club showcases a dramatic layout that drapes across 150 acres of an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Nearing its 40th anniversary, Bent Tree Country Club surrounds players in sylvan beauty as they play their way through a 6,863-yard track that has hosted US Open qualifiers and Florida state high-school championships.
Misty Creek Country Club at a Glance: * 18-hole, par-72 course * Total length of 6,895 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 73.3 from the back tees * Course slope of 137 from the back tees * Five sets of tees per hole
Bent Tree Country Club at a Glance: * 18-hole, par-72 course * Total length of 6,880 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 73.2 from the back tees * Course slope of 133 from the back tees * Five sets of tees per hole
River Wilderness Golf and Country Club at a Glance: * 18-hole, par-72 course * Total length of 7,072 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 74.8 from the back tees * Course slope of 134 from the back tees * Five sets of tees per hole