Mangrove Bay Golf Course: A St. Petersburg public golf institution
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Mangrove Bay Golf Course is one of those municipal courses nobody seems to ever bad-mouth. A lot of St. Petersburg golfers learned the game here, and most of them seem to have fond memories.
It's been around since 1977 and has the three main ingredients you want in a muni: It has cheap green fees ($30-$41), it's well conditioned, and it's convenient, sitting here in the heart of St. Pete.
Mangrove Bay is located in one of the city's parks; you pass the ball fields to get into the golf course. It even has a lighted driving range and short-game practice area, convenient for those who want to swat some balls after work. They have some active marshals to make sure people get around the course in a reasonable amount of time.
"I used to play here when I was a kid," said Randy Butterworth. "Me and my buddies used to come here and spend all day sometimes. They keep the place in good shape, I have to say."
Mangrove Bay was designed by Bill Amick, and though it isn't overly long - 6,779 yards from the back, or black, tees - with a lightweight slope rating of 119, it will still give you a short-game test, particularly around the greens.
There are greens with multiple tiers, like the par-3 third and the short, par-4 10th. Many of the greens have some fairly dramatic slope, and if you aren't careful, your putt will roll back and re-introduce itself. On the October day I played, the greens were set up particularly difficult, with many of the flags set in the middle of some of the more dramatic slopes. There were some three-putts this day, my friends.
Otherwise, it's pretty player-friendly. Most of the fairways have plenty of room, and there is little rough to speak of - if you take the sign's advice and stay away from the rattlesnake areas.
The par 5s are reachable, and even some of the par 4s are drivable.
Mangrove Bay Golf Course: The verdict
The course is right next to Cypress Links, another city-owned facility, which is a nine-hole, par-3 course.
Mangrove Bay is an excellent golf course for walking and a good one for women with its lack of forced carries. Golf for Women magazine included it on a list of the top 100 courses that are most friendly to women.
Even so, there are some holes that will test you from the back tees, especially the par 3s, including the 193-yard eighth and the 196-yard 15th.
Nor is it hindered by development as are so many Florida golf courses. Since this is a city-owned park, there are no houses along the perimeter. It's well-treed, with pine, palm and some oak trees.
The course does have quite a bit of water, but there is only one real, forced carry off the tee.
St. Petersburg/Clearwater lodging
The Beach Place in Madeira Beach is the spot you want to be if you want to gaze at the broad expanse of the Gulf of Mexico after your golf game.
The Beach Place, together with Sandy Shores next door, has individually owned and newly furnished condos, from one bedroom up to three. You can lay in bed, turn your head and see the sun setting over the Gulf - and occasionally watch dolphins feeding close to shore - the condos are that close to the beach. You can also watch as boats head out to the Gulf through the channel a few hundred yards away.
They're located in Johns Pass, a little village that both tourists and locals like to visit, with all the little shops and restaurants. There's no need for a car here, just walk across the street.
If you're too lazy to walk or drive, you can catch the beach trolley that runs right past the front doors of the condos. The trolley can take you to Pass-A-Grille to the south or up to Sand Key.
Combined, there are 60 condos overlooking both the Gulf and a swimming pool. The condos have private balconies, fully equipped kitchens and wireless Internet access. There is also a sundeck and beachfront picnic area. Your towel is reserved for you.
October 24, 2008