Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club in Clearwater is the ideal place to work on your game

By Darrell Fry, Contributor

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Chi Chi Rodriguez loves to teach golf to impoverished inner-city kids, so it should be no surprise that Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club is an excellent teaching course for all golfers.

Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club - elevated greens
Many of the elevated greens at Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club have extensive drop-offs, testing your short game.
Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club - elevated greensChi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club - 11th
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Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club

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Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club is situated on the Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy Campus, with all proceeds from the course going to support Academy students, who use the course as a living classroom. The golf course shares its parkland setting with an abundance of wildlife.

18 Holes | Public/Municipal golf course | Par: 69 | 5454 yards | Book online | ... details »

If you're looking for the ultimate challenge for your game, this isn't the place to come. There are no monster sand traps. No 600-yard par-5 holes. No long par 3s requiring a 200-yard tee shot to carry a lake.

This course is all about fine-tuning your game, not testing it. It's a comparably short course, offering just 5,454 yards from the blue tees and a slope rating of 118. Most of the fairways are wide, making errant shots still playable. There's not a lot of water. And there are few fairway traps.

In essence, it is the ideal place to work on your golf game, to correct that nasty slice or learn to hit that oversized driver without fear of losing 100 balls. As a result, it is a favorite among novice golfers who want to be challenged but also have an enjoyable round.

Some holes are so short that you might not even need a driver off the tee. No. 2 and No. 14, both par-4s, are only 264 yards from the white tees. And the par-4 No. 7 is only 266 yards. The longest par 3 is the 171-yard No. 8. The others are 150 yards or shorter.

Water comes into play on a handful of holes, but all are easy to circumvent. The sand traps are small enough that getting out in one stroke typically isn't difficult unless you're a beginner.

"The layout was very challenging for the designer, Dennis Griffith, because it was built on a set plot of land where there were already houses in place, so he had to design the course around them," executive director Polly Bateman explained. "He had to be creative to put in 18 holes. The idea was to make it a public course with a country club look."

While the course, built in 1989, is extremely playable, there are a few holes that will put your accuracy and nerves to the test. The par 4 No. 10 is only 299 yards from the white tees, but the fairway is quite narrow with a dogleg left. You need to hit at least a 3-wood along the right side to have any chance of an approach shot to the green, but the narrow fairway makes you want to safely hit a 3-iron instead.

And the par 4 No. 12 is 318 yards, but again the fairway is frightfully narrow with a dogleg left, making the hole play more like a par 5. Your second shot must carry a small creek and there's no room to overshoot the green because it's surrounded by thick forest.

Average players are more than satisfied to get a bogey on either of those holes.

Perhaps the real jewel of this course is occasionally seeing some of the disadvantaged kids playing on the course. With some luck, one of them might be the next Tiger Woods.

"Those who play the course are helping the kids because the green fees go toward the foundation that helps the kids," Bateman said. So after you play, you can feel good that you were part of making a difference in a kid's life."

Darrell Fry, Contributor

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