Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: Temple Terrace golf club needs prayers and more to survive

There's an oft-told story about the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club.

As a young Bible student attending Florida College across the street from the club, Billy Graham experienced a crisis of faith. So he went for a walk to talk things over with the Almighty. And there, standing on the 18th green late at night, the Good Lord inspired the young evangelist to pursue his life's good work.

To be sure, an inspirational tale. But you should also know this was hardly the first or last time God's name was invoked in one form or another on the Temple Terrace links. And that's just the times I've found myself struggling to make my way around the course.

The Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club could use a little divine intervention these days. The facility has fallen upon some rather dire financial times as it struggles to meet its debt obligations. Recently, the firm hired to manage the course, Integrity (cough, cough) Golf Co. of Kissimmee, skulked away in the dead of night, claiming it couldn't make any money. And the club is currently in default on a quarterly loan payment of $31,000 to the city of Temple Terrace.

Things aren't good and that's a shame. The Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club has some quality golf bloodlines, having been designed early in the last century by Tom Bendelow. It is the only Florida golf course in the National Register of Historic Places.

It could also be included in the Register of Golf Courses That Drive People Crazy, too.

I'm not a member, but I have a friend who is and from time to time I am invited to play a round at the course. I'm also not a very good player, who is thrilled to break 100. But the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club, which is not a particularly brutal layout, still flummoxes me. Perhaps it is God's little joke.

Technically, though it sits on public land, Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club is a private membership operation, but it does permit the general public access to the course through special "Member for a Day" deals so the great unwashed can have the chance to be frustrated and humiliated just like me. Way big fun!

Still, it seems the fate of this beautiful 5,000 acre tract of land that wends its way through Temple Terrace could take several different routes.

It's entirely possible the club could suddenly experience a surge of private memberships to help offset its financial obligations. After all, the course is rather scenic and the clubhouse has a perfectly lovely bar and other amenities.

Or the city of Temple Terrace could simply take over management of the operation as a true public golf course open to everyone. You have to suspect given its history and reputation there would be no shortage of duffers eagerly wanting to experience the shame and suffering one can experience over 18 holes of abuse. Golfers are like that. Masochism is the first lesson of the game.

Or perhaps a deal could be worked out to have the Tampa Sports Authority, which already manages three other city courses — Babe Zaharias, Rocky Point and Rogers Park — assume control of the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club, again as a public course.

Yes, you could argue that the public course option would do away with the chi-chi/frou-frou cachet of being a private club.

But what would the club and the city of Temple Terrace prefer? Maintaining an antiquated veneer of exclusivity, as the red ink continues to flow?

Or make a decision that would save and possibly enhance a glorious, old gem of Tampa Bay's golf history?

Maybe someone should visit the 18th green some night and ask for some guidance. God might well suggest taking a mulligan on the future.

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