During a luncheon over a year ago at Innisbrook Resort, I met the Mayor of the beautiful city of Tarpon Springs, “the Sponge Capital of the World,” Chris Alahouzas, the first Greek-born resident to be sworn in as Mayor in 2016. Visiting Tarpon Springs is like going to Greece without leaving the USA. We discussed how the city has grown and diversified from a little village of fishermen and sponge divers located on a bayou with access to the Gulf of Mexico to a ‘Must Visit’ whenever you come to Pinellas County. I remember taking my children there and dining in the authentic Greek restaurants, tasting the many delicacies and pastries prepared by the locals and enjoying the walk along the sponge docks on the waterfront.
Then we got into my field, golf, and Mayor Chris proudly told me about their city owned and operated Tarpon Springs Golf Course, about a mile from the north gate of Innisbrook. He boasted it was the best golf value in Pinellas County and invited me to visit and let him know what I thought. The last week in November 2018 I finally got a chance to check out the golf club. Here is my report:
Tarpon Springs Golf Course is a fun and enjoyable course to play. It opened in 1907 as a nine hole track and the outward nine is in great shape and a fair challenge to most. It only has one par 5 and only one straight par 4, #9. Besides the par 3’s, all the other par 4’s and even the par 5 are either uphill or downhill doglegs which give you a different look from each tee box. Let me tell you about the greens. They are smooth and fast with subtle breaks to make your putting mind wonder. A few years ago they replaced the old greens with Seaside Paspalum and they are as good as any private or resort course in the area.
In 1927 the back nine was added by Golden Age architects Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek, and reworked the front nine. In 1957, noted Florida golf architect, Mark Mahannah, updated the entire course to what it is today. As you make the turn, the layout transforms into a more challenging inward nine. Water was not in play on the front, but comes into play right off the par 4, 10th. I nearly found the attractive pond with a fountain that borders Pinellas Avenue that accesses the golf club with my drive. Luckily, my somewhat lost short game was found and I started sticking approaches near the pin. Although I enjoy moving the ball around doglegs, the back nine suited my eye, and I was seeking low scores on almost every hole. What a diversity of challenging shots. The dogleg par 5, 501 yard 13th required a layup to the water(not knowing its depth) in front of the green to insure a tight shot to the pin to secure par. Water again had me scrambling when I found a hazard on my second shot on the short par 4, 15th. I got my mojo back on the next water hole, the hard dogleg right par 5, 16th, when I hammered my drive right along the hazard line near the bridge to give me a clear second shot to the tucked away green. Tweet, tweet! The closing hole is all uphill to a small elevated green which needs accuracy to hold.
What a great assortment of golf holes and place to enjoy the game with friends all winter long. For those who like practicing and honing their game, there is a nice size driving range, a short game area and a separate practice putting surface. Golf Course Manager, PGA Professional Howard Hunt and Head Pro, PGA Professional Steve Dedik are available for private or group lessons; PING club fittings by appointment. The Elks Lodge held its first “Glow in the Dark” golf outing in December sponsored by the Ladies Auxiliary, and every year they have a multi-day Carolinas golf tournament to benefit local charities. The clubhouse has a pro shop with accessories and apparel for sale and a friendly staff to make you feel welcome at TSGC. The 19th Hole has light fare, cold beverages and snacks with Christine serving up a convivial atmosphere.
Tarpon Springs Golf Course is one of the featured publicly accessible courses on the Florida Historical Golf Trail where players can enjoy the golf heritage of the Sunshine State. To book a tee time, get some needed instruction or arrange a golf outing call 727-934-5191 or visit TarponSpringsGC.com. Go Play!