ST. PETERSBURG — While on the campaign trail last year, Mayor Rick Kriseman found time to play golf at Twin Brooks Golf Course with his 11-year-old son.
He said he found the condition of the 18-hole, par-3 course at 3800 22nd Ave. S to be disappointing: Its irrigation system was worn and had no real drainage. Built in 1957, Twin Brooks is the oldest municipal course in the city. It can't compare with Mangrove Bay's regulation course and its smaller nine-hole, par-3 course at Cypress Links, both at 875 62nd Ave. NE.
So Kriseman recently proposed to the City Council that Twin Brooks' 18 holes be reduced to 12. Three of the 12 holes would be used primarily by the First Tee in St. Petersburg, a nonprofit organization that introduces youth to golf. Adults would play on an elongated, more challenging nine-hole course.
He asked that the city's Weeki Wachee funds finance the alterations. No dollar amount has been set yet pending council's approval, but he expects a favorable result.
"All of our city amenities better be equal, no matter where you live," Kriseman said.
On a recent Monday during peak season at Twin Brooks, a dozen golfers said equal isn't an improvement. Many are comfortable with a short course that can be conquered within two hours.
"He's got to consider that this is a small golf course with families," said Childs Park resident Shelley Odom, 71, who has been playing at Twin Brooks since the 1960s. "Leave it how it is."
"It's stupid," said Jim Garvey, 76, of Tierra Verde. "It's a fun place, why change it?"
Twin Brooks, they said, is the perfect course to improve your game.
"To tighten up on a short game, this is the place to do it," said Ken Barthelette, 62, a visitor from Maine. "This is the course to get good on. Anyone can play the long game."
Twin Brooks is informal, said Eddie Barrow, 74, of St. Pete Beach, who plays the course once a week. "If they want to make it into a kiddie course so be it, but no, I won't be coming back."
Golfers are split on the necessity of a new irrigation and drainage system.
"It's nothing you can't wade through," said Jim Maxim, 84, of Scranton, Pa.
Brad Kinsler, 22, has worked at all three golf courses as a supervisor, grounds keeper and pro shop attendant. Though change at Twin Brooks is overdue, he thinks regular customers might be upset that the course will be closed in the summer for renovations.
"Separation should be good for customers when they don't see 20 kids out on the range," Kinsler said, referring to the plan to give First Tee its own holes.
The course could use a golf cart path, he said. Without a path, the course loses customers and money from cart rentals.
He says the clientele at Twin Brooks is different from those at Mangrove Bay or Cypress Links. Most of Twin Brooks' golfers are aging snowbirds who stay in the beach communities.
"It just kind of depends on how it's going to be worked," Kinsler said. "Older people like shorter courses."
The developments at Twin Brooks also leave room to build a learning center for the First Tee. The center will be home to an adult-youth mentoring program, after-school homework and study program, and a health and wellness program, First Tee executive director Rick Waltman said. The organization has set a goal to raise $311,000 for the center.
"Where we feel where we have more impact and the most relevance is the south side, and that's where we want our home to be," he said.
Colleen Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8913. Follow @Colleen_Wright on Twitter.