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Congo River fun flows along U.S. 19 in Port Richey

Jade Kim, 30, celebrates sinking her putt on the first try while Arik Chellew, 30, watches on Thursday afternoon at Congo River Golf on U.S. 19 in Port Richey. Soon, there might be baby alligators living in the fenced-in lagoon on the Port Richey course.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Jade Kim, 30, celebrates sinking her putt on the first try while Arik Chellew, 30, watches on Thursday afternoon at Congo River Golf on U.S. 19 in Port Richey. Soon, there might be baby alligators living in the fenced-in lagoon on the Port Richey course.

PORT RICHEY — Heather and Wes Francis didn't wait long to hit the jungle Thursday afternoon. But first, they needed a crucial tool to make their way through the dangerous terrain.

Putters.

The couple, who lives in nearby Jasmine Lake Estates, were among the week's first guests at Congo River Golf, a miniature 18-hole golf course that opened Tuesday on U.S. 19.

"I said, 'Why not?' " said Heather Francis, 37, who lives in nearby Jasmine Lakes Estates. "It's fun."

The course, the only one of its kind in Pasco County, is owned by the same group of investors connected to Congo River Golf in Clearwater, which opened in 1992.

Like the Clearwater course, the one in Pasco features waterfalls and a black-and-white plane crashing into boulders. Manager Stephen Baker said he is working with state wildlife officials to bring baby alligators — about 2-feet-long — to live in the fenced-in lagoon on the Pasco course.

Baker said the market includes retirees, especially those with grandchildren, as well as teenagers on the weekends and young families. He expects to draw people from west Pasco as well as Hernando County, many of whom were driving to the Clearwater course.

"There's a lot of built-up interest," he said. "Everyone you talk to in the community is just ready for it."

The prices to play are $10.45 for adults and $9.45 for seniors and children ages 5 to 10. For an extra $3.50, you can play another round.

Congo River has a small arcade and a party room that can be rented out for birthdays.

The course sits on an acre at U.S. 19 and Jasmine Boulevard, on the west side of the highway, just south of the Holiday Inn Express. Entrance is off U.S. 19. Parking is in the back.

Congo River is close enough to U.S. 19 that passersby can easily spot golfers' moves. And the golfers can hear the steady stream of traffic. Sort of.

"You kind of ignore it after a while," said Heather Francis. "All the water noise covers it up."

Not too far north, Stop N Play, an arcade center, has an indoor nine-hole miniature golf course. General manager Charles Moholland said he welcomed the competition. The price is $3 for one round, he said, adding: "Indoor. Air conditioned. Weatherproof."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Congo River fun flows along U.S. 19 in Port Richey 06/05/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2008 3:13pm]

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