Westchase Golf Course: Another perspective

By Bill Chastain, Contributor

TAMPA -- Golfers stepping to the first tee at Westchase are given an accurate preview of what's in store for the rest of the round at the course located 15 minutes from the Tampa International Airport.

No. 1 is a tight 344-yard par 4 with a slight dogleg right. The hole is wedged between a lake that runs the length of the fairway on the right and a paved road is to the left, making the idea of straying either way a distraction. But there is a temptation inherit to the first tee as well. The temptation to go for it. Particularly if you're playing from the white tees, where 315 yards looks reachable to the big hitters. What to do, what to do? Do you hit the well-placed iron, or do you grip it and rip it?

Such decisions are present for most of the 18 holes on the 6,710-yard, par-72 Westchase Golf Course designed by Deltona [Fla.]-based Clifton, Ezell and Clifton Golf Design Group. Lloyd Clifton, Sr., a course architect for more than 30 years, also designed such notable Florida courses as Kissimmee Bay, Indigo Lakes and Harbor Hills.

Progressing from No. 1, it doesn't get any easier. No. 2 is a 549-yard par-5 that has one of the more intimidating views from the tee box. A lake eases in from the right side, giving the appearance that the drive must be hit a long way to clear the water -- a perception that can make that normally steady tee shot stray. Once again accuracy is at a premium here as there's trouble on the left with thick growth that makes it impossible to find a ball, much less to play one if it's found. Like No. 1, if the tee shot is accurate, the golfer has a good chance to make par. The temptation comes when pondering the possibility of hitting the green with your second shot. An accurate drive with distance provides such an opportunity since the hole opens up once the tee shot has landed on the fairway.

If you haven't already butchered your round for the day, No. 3 -- Westchase's signature hole -- will exact its pound of flesh. Particularly if you're playing from the tips, where it's 221 yards to the center of the green. En route, the shot must first clear thick brush before going over a pond protecting the green. Bunkers guard the front and back of the green. A bulkhead runs diagonally across the front of the green and away from the tee, which further punishes a sliced tee shot as it must cross more water than a shot directed properly. To say 3 is a good score on No. 3 would be a huge understatement.

The other par-3 on the front is one of the more interesting holes on the course. Though it presents golfers with a 152-yard shot, the shot can at times be a blind one as cypress heads and trees surround the hole.

Finishing at Westchase requires continued patience and shotmaking as any lapses in concentration can be costly given the difficulty level of the final three holes. No. 16 is a 395-yard par-4, but it's yet another hole where the golfer must decide how much to try and bite off on the tee shot. Jetting out from the right side are palmettos and brush that punish a long tee shot; however, golfers can gamble by shooting for a bottleneck on a path to the green up the left side. However, anything but pinpoint accuracy will result in a lost ball.

Don't look for an easy blow after No. 16 as No. 17 might be one of the toughest holes in the Tampa Bay area with it's subtle hazards. Wetlands run along the left side and water along the right of this 402-yard par-4 that somehow is ranked the No. 2 handicap hole on the Westchase course.

Even after landing a perfect drive, there's much work to be done. Playing this hole the second time around, one understands the prudent move is to play a tee shot to the right. Any approach from the left side of the fairway will result in the difficult prospect of negotiating a shot that must clear a clump of pine trees set some 50 yards in front of the green like Shaq protecting a NBA hoop, ready to swat away any potential shot to the hole. The green is small and has a back bunker --- as if the golfer didn't face enough trouble from in front of the green. Escaping this hole with a par is a great accomplishment, while most who play this course on a regular basis are happy to go to No. 18 with a bogey.

If there is any criticism of the Westchase track, it would be the relative Similarities between the two finishing holes, Nos. 9 and 18. Neither of the holes are easy, but it's like eating at the same restaurant twice in the same day. No. 9 is a 404-yard par-4, while No. 18 is a 388-yard par-4. Each is protected by a hazard of high grass in the front, which prevents the golfer from cutting loose with the driver or run the risk of going too long. Each has a wide fairway, but toughens on the approach shot. Nevertheless, the finishing holes do little to distract from a nice round of golf at one of the best public courses in the Tampa Bay area.

Westchase's clubhouse is one of the club's many attractive features. Aesthetically, the look for the 9,500-square-foot clubhouse is traditional with a brick exterior and stucco accents. Inside the look also is traditional with light walls and dark furniture. Inside the clubhouse, golfers will find the total package for men and women, including showers and daily-rental lockers. A covered verandah wraps around the south and east sides of the clubhouse, which allow for splendid views of the golf course. The club has a full-service mixed grill that offers excellent food and, like the verandah, allows those dining or enjoying a beverage of choice, to watch what's going on out on the course. Breakfast and lunch are available on a daily basis, while dinner and brunches are offered on different occasions. The dining room is available for private functions, which includes tournaments, weddings, etc.

Bill Chastain, Contributor

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