Golf is a major at FSU's Seminole Golf Course in Tallahassee, Florida

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — To get to the Seminole Golf Course, you turn left out of the real world and right into the Florida State University campus, just short of the National High Magnetic Field laboratory.

Seminole Golf Course
Seminole Golf Course is owned by Florida State University.
Seminole Golf CourseThe greens at SeminoleSeminole Golf Course
If you go

Or, you could just enroll.

FSU, which owns the course, is one of 18 universities in the country to offer a PGA Professional Golf Management Program accredited by the PGA of America. Times haven't just changed, they've exploded. There was a time when people argued whether golf was even a sport.

Now it's a college curriculum — and a pretty sweet one at that.

The classrooms are on the second floor of the Seminole clubhouse, looking out over the course. If these were condos for sale, they'd be advertised as clean, bright and spacious, with a lovely golf course view.

"We have probably the nicest classrooms on campus," Program Director Jim Riscigno said. "We try to keep it a secret."

That may be hard to do with around 60,000 people parading through the golf course annually, many of them students.

Seminole itself is hardly a secret, especially after a dramatic renovation two years ago that transformed the golf course. Built in the 1960s, the old layout was showing its age; all the greens wore their original turfgrass. It's like an old, society grand dame wearing the same dress for three decades.

Architect Bob Walker of Jacksonville Beach came exactly two years ago today, and essentially started from scratch, as far as the greens are concerned. They were bulldozed, flattened and completely re-designed and re-built, with TifEagle ultra dwarf.

Walker gave the 'Noles their money's worth. Seminole's greens are the highlight of the course, elevated, multi-tiered, slanted, sloped and undulating. They're relatively large, and no two are alike.

Some of the breaks are subtle and hard to read. Some of the breaks are radical and more difficult to read. There are some three-breakers out here, heart-breakers and knee-knockers. None are unfair; they're just fun and fast.

"These are the best greens in town," said Dave McDougal of Tallahassee. "They completely re-built them and now it's just a different golf course, so much better than it was."

TifEagle can be mowed very close to the ground, and thus, the greens at Seminole routinely roll 9-10 on the stimpmeter — considered fast — and often roll over 11, officials said.

"It's about as dramatic a change as you can imagine," Head Professional Steve Soriano said of the alteration.

The rest of the layout stayed pretty much as it was, though Walker did re-design No. 14, which is now a dogleg right with a one-acre greenside lake.

Walker also designed all new tee boxes, with five sets of tees that help the non-gorillas get around the course. It plays slightly less than 7,000 yards from the back tees.

Seminole's greens don't hog all the fun. The course is a par-73, with five par 5s, so you'll get to pull out the howitzer more often.

This being one of the hillier areas in Florida — there are some pretty impressive elevation changes for the flat state — and many of the fairways are banked and tilted. Tee shots hit to the wrong spot in the fairway, can end up 30 yards in the rough on the other side.

"Gravity is the main obstacle here," said another Tallahassee resident, Eric Hamilton.

Seminole Golf Course: The verdict

With green fees ranging from $35-$42, including cart, Seminole is a bargain. Aside from the new greens and tilted fairways, the aesthetics of the course rate high. It has some dense, north Florida growth on the perimeter, but the interior of the course is spare, almost ascetic.

It also has a spacious practice facility, though much of it is reserved for the men's golf team and students of the PGA Professional Golf Management Program.

Faculty members get a 10 percent discount and students 25 percent. Students can also walk 18 holes Monday through Thursday for $12.50.

If they'd had this deal when I graced FSU with my academic presence, I wouldn't have gotten in nearly as much non-academic trouble.

Tallahassee hotels

The Governor's Inn is a 41-room, boutique hotel about a block from the capital building. You don't have to be a politician or a lobbyist to get free food and drinks here; the inn offers free continental breakfast as well as free cocktails in the early evenings. You also get free valet parking.

Each room is named for a past Governor of Florida, with a photo and information — sometimes pretty saucy stuff — on your very own Governor.

The inn is architecturally interesting and the rooms vary from atrium rooms to loft suites. The best thing about the inn is its location — in the heart of downtown Tallahassee, with bars and restaurants literally right outside the lobby.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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