TPC Tampa Bay praised by the pros, for good reason

The par-3 17th hole at TPC Tampa Bay has a huge green, but the long iron-to-hybrid shot can intimidate.

For two decades, the stars of the Champions Tour have visited TPC Tampa Bay. To a man they say it’s one of the best courses they see all year.

When your golf travels include west-central Florida, you can see what the pros mean.

TPC Tampa Bay is one of the top public tracks in the national TPC network, which of course in Florida is headlined by TPC Sawgrass. Tampa’s course (actually it's in golf-rich Lutz, about 20 miles north of downtown) is designed in the same stadium style, with spectator mounds framing each hole.

To succeed on the par-71 layout (6,898 yards from the tips), you have to leave the mounds to the annual April golf fans. Spend some extra time on the range working out the driver if necessary, because on the course it’s a must-have. Greens are generously sized at more than 6,400 square feet on average, but most are elevated and well-protected, so attacking from the fairway is key.

“Simply put, there is danger all over the golf course and the TPC Tampa Bay is not a venue that you can take lightly,” Champions Tour pro John Cook told PGATOUR.COM earlier this year.

The course winds through residential areas yet is also recognized as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, a certification reserved for courses maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in areas such as wildlife and habitat management. You can see deer, foxes, alligators, storks and other local residents around the wetlands and cypress heads.

On the day I played, the starter warned us not to veer far off the grass to hunt lost balls – and then showed us a photo on his phone of a four-foot snake he killed at his house a mile from the course. Point made.

Three cool holes

  • No. 4, 427-yard par-4: The first big driving test of the round; skirt the water down the right side for the best angle to the green.
  • No. 15, 452-yard par-4: Cook calls this one of the great holes all year on the Champions Tour, a long test that can be a beast into a crosswind. Par is a great score.
  • No. 17, 217-yard par-3: The target is a massive 11,000-square foot green, but the length demands a long iron or hybrid and there’s water along the way.

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