Unheralded golf courses in Tampa, Florida offer great play at affordable green fees

So you're facing that familiar travel dilemma: You're on a strict budget, but you still want to play some of Tampa's best golf courses, right?

The key to staying on budget is to find exceptional daily fee courses that may be unknown nationally yet are highly regarded and treasured by Tampa residents.

Tampa has a great line-up of golf courses with green fees less than $45 and several are cheaper than that even during the busy winter months. During the summer, you'll find green fees at these courses among the best deals in the state.

Bloomingdale Golfer's Club

Designed by Lakeland architect Ron Garl as a signature course, Bloomingdale Golfer's Club takes full advantage of its beautiful terrain, which is dotted with 100-year-old oak trees, tall pines and natural marshland.

If you're looking for a serious challenge at an affordable price, Bloomingdale Golfer's Club delivers on both counts. Beware, though, it has an uber-challenging collection of par 5s that can wreak havoc on your scorecard.

Big hitters who want to see where their game stands can play the "tiger tees" from 7,165 yards with a 74.4 rating.

Crescent Oaks Country Club

A Steve Smyers design with consultation from Jim Colbert, Crescent Oaks C.C. opened in 1991. It's situated adjacent to the lush Brooker Creek Preserve, so the tree growth on the course is mature and impressive.

Water is incorporated on 14 holes on this 6,941-yard, par-72 layout, and the designers have strategically placed bunkers to create varying shot angles. It's a difficult test from the back tees (silver) with a 73.8 rating, but there are seven sets of tees ranging from 6,914 to 4,260 yards, so all skill levels are attracted to Crescent Oaks.

The Claw at USF

The home course for the University of South Florida golf teams, The Claw is a supreme challenge for the limber and aggressively playing collegians. Long, tight fairways demand consistency off the tee on this 6,863-yard, par-71 layout designed by William F. Mitchell.

Framing the fairways are towering cypress and pines and large oak trees that make you feel like you're playing through a nature preserve. The Claw at USF recently introduced new greens with Champion Bermuda grass. Former PGA Tour Player and current NBC golf analyst Gary Koch, a Tampa native, holds the course record with a 64.

The Club Renaissance at Sun City Center

Designed by Bradenton course architect Chip Powell in 2002, the Club Renaissance course has two distinctive nines.

The front nine has a wide-open links feel where you can grip it and rip off the tee to generous landing areas, and the back nine is more of a target golf experience as it weaves its way through a conservation area loaded with tall pines and large oak trees.

There are six sets of tees on the par-72 course ranging from 6,701 yards to 4,651 yards. When you get to the green, you're welcomed with speedy TifEagle Bermuda grass putting surfaces.

Heritage Isles Golf & Country Club

Blessed with a naturally beautiful piece of land, designers Gordon Lewis and Jed Azinger, PGA Tour great Paul Azinger's brother, did their best to preserve the setting at Heritage Isles Golf & C.C.

Natural wetlands, stunning cypress trees, ponds and native wildlife give the course an uncontrived feel. Most of the bunkers have low lips so the course is playable for high-handicappers who play from the correct set of tees.

There are five sets of tees ranging from 6,976 yards to 4,832 yards. Heritage Isles has a challenging group of par 3s and its great finishing hole, a 399-yard par 4, requires a tee shot over water.

Temple Terrace Golf & C.C.

Built in 1922, Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club is one of the oldest courses in the Tampa area and was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Designed by Tom Bendelow, who also designed Palm Ceia in Tampa and Medinah in Chicago, Temple Terrace is an old-school, traditional, tree-lined course with no parallel fairways and an ample number of bunkers guarding the greens.

Playing to 6,443 yards, the par-72 layout has colorful names for each hole such as Grove View for the 12th, Twin Pines for the 13t.h and Hillside for the 18th.

Ed Schmidt, publisher of The Golf Travel Guru Blog, is the author of two books on Florida golf and more than 2,500 articles and columns on golf resorts, courses and destinations around the world. Follow Ed on Twitter at @golftravelguy.
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Unheralded golf courses in Tampa, Florida offer great play at affordable green fees