TAMPA, Fla. -- Towering pine trees that look more North Carolina than Florida and elevation changes that look more north Georgia than north Tampa are just a couple of elements that make some of Tampa's golf courses among the more unique in the Sunshine State.
The combination of diverse topography and innovative course designers has resulted in an engaging menu of special, one-of-a-kind layouts.
The eclectic group of golf architects responsible for these courses include Tom Lehman, Bobby Weed, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Donald Ross, Tom Bendelow, Chip Powell, Larry Packard and John Sanford.
Club Renaissance in Sun City Center
You get two distinctly different golf experiences on this 18-hole course designed by Chip Powell. The Club Renaissance's front nine is wide open and comparable to links golf where you can keep the ball low to the ground with lots of bump-and-run options. Winding through a lush conservation area, the back nine demands accuracy on every shot and is more of a target-golf experience.
Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor
If you have Carolina on your mind while in Florida, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort, 24 miles northwest of Tampa, is a must play. Designed by Larry Packard, Copperhead has narrow, pine tree-lined fairways, elevation drops and pool table-fast greens. It feels more like the North Carolina Sandhills than Florida dunes. Home to the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship each March, Copperhead's yardages range from just more than 7,300 yards from the championship tees to 5,600 from the forward tees.
Dunedin Golf Club
Located 20 miles northwest of Tampa in the quaint, Scottish-inspired waterfront town of Dunedin, the historic Dunedin Golf Club is a Donald Ross design that opened in 1926. Once the home of the PGA of America, the classic Florida layout hosted 18 Senior Tour Championships from 1945 through 1962. Tampa area natives John Huston and Brittany Lincicome grew up playing this tree-laden beauty with its tiny, fast greens framed by bunkers.
Juliette Falls in Dunnellon
Jupiter, Fla.-based designer John Sanford gives golfers lots of eye candy at Juliette Falls in Dunellon, about a 90-minute drive north of Tampa, where four waterfall features, rock formations and wild flowers enhance a superb design. Adding to its appeal are significant elevation changes, mature oak trees and waste bunkers with crushed white coquina shells peppered with wire grasses and shrubbery.
Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club in Dade City
With the exception of the temperate climate and some native foliage, you won't believe you're in Florida at this golf club set on sometimes wildly undulating terrain about a 30-minute drive north of downtown Tampa. The par-5 11th on the Tom Lehman-designed South Course at Lake Jovita has a whopping 94-foot drop from tee to green. Lake Jovita's North Course evokes a north Georgia feel with rolling hills, elevation changes and lots of pine trees.
TPC Tampa Bay in Lutz
One of the region's most beautiful and environmentally conscious courses, TPC Tampa Bay is designated as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Designers Bobby Weed and Chi Chi Rodriguez capitalized on a naturally beautiful site encompassing wetlands, cypress heads and several lagoons. Golfers aren't the only species that love the beauty of this course as wildlife, such as deer, foxes, otters, alligators, egrets, blue heron and eagles all inhabit the layout.
Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club
Dripping in history, Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club has been an integral part of the Tampa golf scene since opening in 1922. The golf course was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. Designed by Tom Bendelow, who also designed Medinah in Chicago, Temple Terrace weaves through a venerable neighborhood with lots of large trees. Measuring 6,443 yards from the back tees, the course has several blind shots, no parallel fairways and smallish greens.
Terrace Hill Golf Club in Tampa
You can extend your golf day at the nine-hole Terrace Hill Golf Club, which is the only lighted course in Tampa. Featuring three par-4 holes and a 200-plus par 3, over-sized, well tended greens and 25 feet in elevation changes, Terrace Hill transcends your typical pitch-and-putt experience. For those who want to work on their game, there's a practice range and golf instruction is available.