They’re not Pebble, Bandon, Kiawah, or Pinehurst. Common courses are the modest 9- and 18-hole munis and semi-private clubs that most golfers play. Following is another installment in an occasional series.
WHEN I’M IN ST. PETERSBURG, Florida, visiting our friends Aly, Sheila and Christina and want to play golf, I head out to Mangrove Bay Golf Course, a 15-minute drive from downtown situated near Tampa Bay. My Mangrove Bay excursions have worked out well for Aly because when I show up on family vacation he has a built-in excuse to play. Aly is a highly infrequent golfer.
Mangrove Bay is a municipal facility that has modest green and cart fees by Florida standards. Although the course gets a lot of play, it never has seemed beat up to me. (Bermuda grass is tough.) In fact, it has always been in good condition, especially for a public course. Measuring 6,779 yards (that must be from the tips), the par-72 layout is sufficiently challenging without being overly difficult. My kind of track. I’ve played it several times, often with borrowed clubs, and probably shot 80 to 85. And I’ve played it in August (yes, August) on suffocating 90-degree afternoons. Because I have no sense.
I remember once racing off the course with Aly due to one of those sudden Florida thunderstorms. It was just as well. Air conditioning revived our bodies and spirits.
Mangrove Bay has more than its share of retirees tooling around in their golf carts. I can almost see myself there in about 20 years. I could skip playing in August and other blast-furnace months. It would be a good course to retire on: not too hard, not too expensive, close enough to everything. That is, if I retired in St. Pete.
When I looked up Mangrove Bay I was surprised to learn that Golf Digest had given the course three stars in a “Best Places to Play” issue and Golf for Women magazine once ranked it as a top 100 women-friendly golf course. Maybe Mangrove Bay is not as common as I thought, a muni gem on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Comments about Mangrove Bay from GolfLink.com:
“Some members of the pro shop are rude. Bob the starter is great, however.”
“As a relatively new golfer, this course offered some challenges but was also forgiving. The fairways were very well maintained.”
“An easy course, but very well maintained and excellent value.”
“Played this course last Monday and had a blast! I was a walk-on and was paired with a local named Charlie and two gentlemen from England who currently reside in the area. The course was immaculate, and very enjoyable to play.”
And a final comment from a 2.8 handicapper:
“If you play the back tees it will challenge every shot in your bag and has holes that will test your decision-making. Great course for the amount of rounds that are played each year.”
−The Armchair Golfer
More common courses:
Balboa Park Golf Course
Desert Aire Golf Course
(Brought to you by YourGolfTravel.com and ARMCHAIR GOLF STORE.)