East Bay Golf Club in Largo is a refreshing change from the status quo
LARGO, Fla. -- How many times have you and your foursome made plans, got to the golf course, checked in, paid green fees, and then made it to the first green before finding out the greens were being aerated and you were ready to putt with the sand wedge?
It happens. Not all the time but often enough that it can be very annoying to most golfers. And some courses, while taking your credit card number and giving you a tee time over the phone, don't let you know in advance that work is being done on the greens.
It's a way of life, especially in a place such as Florida where the courses are open year-round and get beaten on by the sun and occasional droughts. It comes with living and playing in the Sunshine State. But to have a course come right out on the phone and tell you that they want your business but the greens are being aerated and aren't in top shape, that's a rarity.
That's why Largo's East Bay Golf Club is such a refreshing change from the status quo. With competition fierce for golfers on the nearly 300 courses located in the seven-county Tampa Bay area, East Bay is one of the few that comes right out and says that the course isn't in the best shape because of the aeration of certain greens.
If honesty is the best policy, East Bay gets the job done.
East Bay Golf Club: The course
Head Professional Jeff Meyers said the course is usually in great shape, but like all courses, it needs to be tweaked once in awhile.
"It's being aerated, and it's best we let players know," Meyers said. "We want them to come back. There are a lot of options, and East Bay is a great course. We just want them to know what to expect."
East Bay carts also come with the Pro Shot GPS System, one of the best offered in golf. So not only does it offer a professional staff, all the amenities of a top-notch course, it is also minutes away from the beaches of St. Petersburg.
With water on 12 of the 18 holes, it's easy to get wet on the par-71, 6,451-yard William Mitchell design. The fairways are tight, so don't let the shorter yardage make you think about going for the green.
The third hole, for example, plays to 339 from the tips, but only a bomber could reach the green that bends around a lake and is surrounded by some menacing bunkers on both sides.
On the other hand, the par 5 is reachable in two for anyone willing to take a risk. The opening hole is a 467-yard par 5 with no water, but the dogleg left means driving through the fairway is a possibility. A safe 3-wood and a nice long iron can get your round off to a really great start before things start to toughen up.
The fifth hole is a 533-yard par 5, the longest on the course. It's a sharp dogleg left, but keep the driver in the bag or end up through the fairway. Reaching in two is out of the question, with a narrow green surrounded by bunkers awaiting the approach. Keep it safe, and set up a short wedge to give yourself a shot at a birdie.
After No. 5, there's water everywhere for the rest of the front nine, and it doesn't get any tougher then No. 8, a 454-yard par 4 that is the top-handicap hole at East Bay. Meyers described it as one of the toughest par 4s in Pinellas County.
East Bay Golf Club: The verdict
East Bay regulars John Brandman and Conner Freestone said that they keep coming back because the crowds are never too much, and it's simply an enjoyable experience.
"You keep your driver in the bag and don't take chances, and you can do well here," Brandman said. "It's right up there with the best of the courses in Tampa Bay."
"I always get an extra sleeve when I play here," Freestone added, "but it's worth it. They treat you well here, but you have to respect the course."
East Bay Golf Club is worth playing because it offers a challenge with all the water -- plus great service. You don't have to ask about course conditions; the customer service staff will let you know before you have the chance to ask.
It's a rarity in golf, so that alone makes East Bay a great destination, especially if you are in town with the family and want to play 18 while the family spends the day right down the road at the beach.
September 26, 2011