tampabay.com

Time is right for an executive decision

A shorter course can be more fun, and played in just a few hours.

By BOB HARIG
Published May 24, 2007


CLEARWATER - Not everyone has the time or inclination to play a regulation round of golf. Some prefer a more forgiving venue, where water and sand do not ruin their day. And others might simply want to make golf an adventure lasting just a few hours.

That's why an executive course makes for an excellent alternative.

Often scorned because it is not regulation length, an executive course nonetheless fulfills a purpose.

"Most of the people I see playing golf would have a lot more fun if they played an easier course, " said John Huston, a PGA Tour veteran who lives in Palm Harbor - and who operates one of the area's executive courses.

Huston leases the Clearwater Executive Golf Course from the city of Clearwater and has turned it into a family business.

His father, Jerry, oversees the operation, including course maintenance. Sister Julie Jones is the club's general manager.

"Even when it's slow out here, it never takes more than three hours to play, " Huston said. "It's a great way to work on your game."

Huston, who grew up in the area and attended Dunedin High, played the executive course as a youngster and remembers the entire place being lighted.

The course has nine par 3s and nine par 4s, playing to par 63. It measures approximately 4, 400 yards.

And the fees are smaller, too. A greens fee and cart is just $20, $16 after 2 p.m.

"There are a lot of courses but this is more affordable, " Huston said. "In the summer, it's not much more than going to Putt-Putt."

Huston got involved with the course several years ago when he entered a partnership that included Clearwater Executive and Tarpon Woods Country Club in Palm Harbor. In 2004, Huston and his partner, Greg McClimans, decided to branch off, with Huston taking just the executive course.

"The best part for me is my sister has a good job and my dad looks over everything, " Huston said. "I have no worries about it."

He has a 20-year lease with the city, including stipulations that the course undergo some renovations. The Hustons have refurbished the greens, clubhouse and driving range.

"It's been a real learning experience, for both me and my dad, " said Jones, who caddied for her brother when he won the 1998 Hawaiian Open. "But we enjoy it. John and Suzanne (Huston's wife) put this opportunity out there for and we appreciate it.

"You think you know what's going on one day and then the next day it's something different. You wonder if your prices are too high, too low. It can be a guessing game, nothing constant. There is a big learning curve but fun."

Executive branches

A sampling of executive or 9-hole courses by county:

CITRUS

Point O'Woods Golf Club, Inverness, 9 holes, par 30

HERNANDO

Heather Golf and Country Club, Weeki Wachee, 9 holes, par 33

Quarry Golf Course, Brooksville, 9 holes, par 29

HILLSBOROUGH

Countryway, Tampa, 18 holes, par 62

Persimmon Hill, Tampa, 9 holes, par 29

MANATEE

Palm View Hills, Palmetto, 18 holes, par 60

Palmetto Pines Golf Club, 9 holes, par 37

Peridia Golf and Country Club, Bradenton, 18 holes, par 60

Pinebrook/Ironwood Golf Course, Bradenton, 18 holes, par 68

Timbercreek Golf Course, Bradenton, 9 holes, par 27

Woodlands Golf Course, Ellenton, 18 holes, par 60

PASCO

Forest Hills Golf Course, Holiday, 9 holes, par 35

Hidden Creek Golf Club, Zephyrhills, 18 holes, par 60

River Ridge, New Port Richey, 18 holes, par 68

Sea Pines, Hudson, 18 holes, par 59

Springers Gulf Harbors Golf Course, New Port Richey, 18 holes, par 60

Summertree Golf Club, 9 holes, par 35

Timber Oaks, 18 holes, par 60

PINELLAS

Baypoint Golf Club, Seminole, 18 holes, par 61

Chi Chi Rodriguez, Clearwater, 18 holes, par 69

Clearwater Executive, 18 holes, par 63

Cypress Links, St. Petersburg, 9 holes, par 27

Largo Municipal Golf Course, Largo, 18 holes, par 62

Mainlands Golf Course, Pinellas Park, 18 holes, par 65

Palm Hill Golf & Country Club, Largo, 9 holes, par 30

Pine Crest Golf Club, Largo, 18 holes, par 55

St. Andrews Links, Dunedin, 18 holes, par 54

Twin Brooks Golf Course, St. Petersburg, 18 holes, par 54

For a complete listing of area golf courses with contact information, visit www.golf.tampabay.com.

Fast Facts:

 

Regulation

Any nine-hole or 18-hole course that includes a variety of par-3, par-4 and par-5 holes and is of traditional length and par; a nine-hole facility must be at least 2, 600 yards in length and at least par 33, and an 18-hole facility at least 5, 200 yards in length and at least par 66.

Executive

A short course with a variety of par-3, par-4 and/or par-5 holes; 18-hole facilities are 5, 200 yards in length or less, with a par of 65 or less.

Source: National Golf Course Owners Association