For years, TPC Tampa Bay has been regarded as one of the best public access facilities in the Tampa market. After all, whenever the letters TPC precede anything to do with golf, expectations are automatically raised, and TPC Tampa Bay delivers.
Recently, the best got better! Originally opened in 1991, TPC Tampa Bay was designed by renowned golf course architect Bobby Weed with a lot of input from PGA TOUR professional Chi Chi Rodriguez and has consistently received a 4.5-star rating from Golf Digest. Florida Golf Magazine claims it as one of the top 5 courses in the state. For more than twenty years, The Champions Tour held an event here. Some of the greatest players of all time have won at this historic property, including Nicklaus, Watson, Price, Langer, and Irwin. Yet with all of these accolades, the owners – aka the new Heritage Golf Group -believed there was room for improvement. So shortly after the busy Florida golf season ended in late April, TPC Tampa Bay closed for renovation.
In mid-September 2022, TPC Tampa Bay reopened to rave reviews. For the most part, the outstanding design that Weed and Rodriguez created was left intact. The greens were regrassed with Champion G-12 hybrid Ultradwarf Bermuda, the tees and fairways were regrassed with Bimini Bermuda, and enhancements were made to the practice facility. Extensive work was done to improve the drainage throughout the course. For General Manager Steve Ostroff and his staff, it’s all about a “Return to Glory” and bringing the club back to what it once was.
TPC Tampa Bay is extremely diverse – not only has it challenged the best golfers in the world, but every day it is played and enjoyed by golfers with abilities that range from future professionals to those who are simply on vacation. TPC Tampa Bay offers golfers six sets of tees to choose from; the TPC Tees play 6,898 yards. From back here you can get an idea of what the pros experience. At 6,008 yards, the White Tees provide a lot of enjoyment and may even let you leave with a little dignity still intact. For those that may feel overwhelmed, try the Forward Tees at 4,990 yards. Pick the set that best suits your game and you’re sure to have an enjoyable round.
TPC Tampa Bay winds its way through an upscale neighborhood in Lutz, FL and as you make your way around the golf course, you can tell from all of the mounds around the greens and on the peripheries of the fairways that this course was built with spectators in mind. Heritage Golf Group is determined to bring professional golf back to TPC Tampa Bay. The 2022 Finals of the PGA TOUR Champions were held here, and the intent is to bring it back in the upcoming years. It is the perfect venue for what many regard as one of golf’s most difficult competitions.
The course is set among natural wetlands with strands of cypress trees and several manmade and natural lagoons. The majority of holes at TPC have generous fairways that leave manageable shots into the green. Miss the fairway off the tee and you can easily find one of many sculpted fairway bunkers that dot the landing areas. Most of the greens are raised, placing a premium on accurate approach shots. Hit a poor approach shot and you can easily find yourself in one of the many grass swales or in the mounding that surrounds many putting surfaces. The greens themselves have a lot of undulation; many have multiple tiers and are usually protected by bleach-white bunkers. The difficulties around the green will give you a new appreciation for a PGA TOUR player’s short game!
There are several risk-reward opportunities and if you ever feel overly challenged on a particular shot, odds are there’s a place where you can bail out and still give yourself a chance to make par. TPC requires you to think your way around the course, for the most part, it’s brains over brawn.
Picking memorable holes at TPC is like trying to pick a favorite child, but the three I remember most are 14, 15, and 16, which are handicapped as three of the toughest holes on the back nine. Number 14 is the beginning of the “Gauntlet.” It’s a monster par 5, dogleg left that plays 588 yards from the TPC Tees. There’s water down the left side and the deep, cavernous bunker between the water and the elevated fairway can spell disaster if you find it off the tee. A tee shot slightly right of center will leave a good angle into the green. You’ll need to hit your second shot over the strategically placed fairway bunkers on the left to have any chance of getting on the green in regulation. Two well-played shots will leave a short iron or wedge into a narrow two-tiered green protected by sand on the right and water on the left.
Number 15 is like Number 14, a dogleg left with wetlands and a lagoon framing the left side. The hole plays 452 yards from the TPC Tees and a good drive short of the fairway bunker on the right will leave a mid-iron into an odd-shaped green, well protected with sand and water left. It is rated the toughest hole on the inward 9 and the 2nd most difficult hole on the card.
The 16th hole, handicapped number 8 is a beautiful but devilish par 4. You’ll want to favor the right side of the fairway to avoid the two large fairway bunkers that seem to attract most tee shots down the left side. Be careful not to go too far right or you’ll have to deal with the cypress trees on your second shot. Hit a great tee shot and the bunkers short and right should not come into play.
TPC features some amazing practice facilities as well. Since they are a daily fee property, those playing the course are welcome to use any part of the practice area before or after their round. If you’re looking for a place where you can work on your game, TPC Tampa Bay offers a Practice Facility Experience pass which provides you with access to the driving range, short game area, and putting green for the entire day. Get there early to get the biggest bang for your buck!
After your round, golfers can dine in the TPC Grill and enjoy a variety of delicious entrees and signature cocktails. General Manager Steve Ostroff and his staff are doing their best to create awareness of TPC Tampa Bay and its relationship with the PGA TOUR Champions. The Club pays tribute to the 2022 PGA TOUR Champion Qualifier winner Rob Labritz who has a wedge salad named after him. The Labritz Wedge is served with ranch dressing because Rob is not a fan of bleu cheese! The menu also includes the Kuhlman Club, named after Head Golf Professional Donnie Kuhlman. Feeling thirsty, order the “Krane” and take home the signature cup. The new “Krane” logo appears on a lot of apparel in their well-stocked pro shop.
TPC Tampa Bay is a must-play for all golfers and if you are visiting Tampa, come to the place where many of the greatest players of all time have played. TPC Tampa Bay…. play it once and you’ll come back for more. For more information or to book your next round, visit their website.
TPC Tampa Bay is owned by Heritage Golf Group, the fastest-growing golf club ownership company in the country. Their attention to detail at their clubs is second to none. To see some of their other courses, visit them online. at www.heritagegolfgroup.com.