Tampa's Rocky Point Golf Course gives golfers a look at the way it used to be
TAMPA, Fla. -- Rocky Point Golf Course is not going to break you. But it is a track you need to play on a golf junket to the Tampa Bay area.
Located within minutes of the Tampa International Airport, the course plays to 6,315 yards from the tips. There are not a lot of doglegs and few traps, but it still has a bite. There's also a history angle. Built in 1911, it is celebrating its 100th anniversary and is believed to be the first golf course built in Tampa. In fact, Rocky Point G.C. is so old that no one at the club can identify the architect.
Rocky Point was actually built for the Tampa Automobile Club and was one of the most popular golf courses in Florida until it was turned into a facility in World War II to house prisoners of war. Eventually, Tampa got its golf courses back, and it is now one of three courses operated by the Tampa Sports Authority.
The course itself is unspectacular but it is a good warmup for some of the more difficult courses in the Tampa Bay area. The first two holes are benign par 4s, but the par-5 third hole is where things can get a little dicey. It's a dogleg left with water down the left side. Keep it in the fairway off the tee, and the green is reachable in two.
The four top handicap holes at Rocky Point G.C. are the par 5s, but true bombers can reach all of them in two. The eighth and 12th are straight with no hazards, and the 15th is reachable with a drive that stays away from the water that runs parallel to No. 3.
Rocky Point Golf Course: History everywhere
What makes Rocky Point worth a visit, especially if you are on a golf junket to the Tampa Bay area and want to get in 18 before checking in (there are plenty of hotels with all different price ranges within minutes of Rocky Point), is the history.
Many of the best golfers in the early years of the PGA Tour made Rocky Point a stop on the way to Miami. The course goes against the grain of almost everything that is criticized about Florida-style golf, which is almost a derisive term to some. The course is flat without a lot of gimmicks. If you hit it straight, you are on flat ground with no mysterious mounds coming into play. The greens aren't surrounded by water and, while smallish, aren't roller coasters. Pete Dye would cringe at the simplicity, but golf traditionalists will appreciate it.
Two retirees -- Tampa's Gene Brewer and Al Bartow -- play the course often. It's one of the best bargains in Tampa Bay, and club golf professional Kevin Kenny -- who is also the lead coach for PGA Tour winner George McNeill -- said the course is fair but not as easy as it looks.
Brewer and Bartow said the course is unspectacular, but it's worth it for the bargain. "We can play some of the courses around here and spend $100," Brewer said. "It isn't worth it. We can get out here, have fun and still have money for a beer at the end of the round."
"That's right," Bartow added. "It's a fun course and completely different than anything else. This has been around longer than I've been alive, and that says something."
Rocky Point Golf Course is equipped with a full-service pro shop and a large driving range. LPGA member Brianne Murphy is only one of the professionals who offer clinics at the location.
Rocky Point Golf Course: The verdict
If you want to play golf in Tampa the way it was meant to be played -- at least in 1911 -- check out Rocky Point, one of the last dinosaurs before the term "target golf" was invented and changed the face of Florida forever.
It is easily accessible, and there's plenty to do within a couple of miles of the course. It isn't Augusta National, but it's great for a quick golf fix.
July 12, 2011