The city of St. Petersburg owns three golf courses. Mangrove Bay and Cypress Links are in northeast St. Petersburg and are lush, well-maintained courses, each with a long list of amenities. The third and oldest course, Twin Brooks, is south of downtown, not nearly so well groomed and still dependent on a 1950s irrigation system. Mayor Rick Kriseman was bothered by the difference at Twin Brooks and recently persuaded the City Council to approve a $1.5 million renovation of the course. In that decision, and in some others since he assumed office in January, Kriseman is telegraphing that no area of the city will be left out when it comes to distributing attention and resources.
While campaigning for mayor last year, Kriseman played golf at Twin Brooks, which opened in 1957. He said he was disappointed by its condition. Within three months of taking office, Kriseman was working with staffers on a renovation plan. "We want all of our amenities, all of our facilities, to be of the same high quality in all areas of the city," he told the City Council in June.
Twin Brooks, at 3800 22nd Ave. S, has 27 acres, but only 17 to 18 are usable for golf. Yet the course has 18 holes, which has resulted in greens so tight that the city had to plant trees to stop players from getting beaned by golf balls. Drainage is poor in some areas and grass is spotty.
The city staff reviewed options for keeping the course at 18 holes or converting it to 12 or nine holes. The option recommended by the staff and approved by the council was for a 12-hole, par 3 design. Nine holes will be open to the public. Three will be reserved for use by an adult golf development program and by First Tee, an award-winning junior golf and life skills training program. First Tee is based at Twin Brooks, and the nonprofit group hopes to build a center there.
The renovation plan also calls for larger tees, a new irrigation system using reclaimed water, an upgraded driving range, better drainage and healthy grass.
The city will gather community feedback on the course design and then close the course next May for construction, which will likely take four or five months.
The City Council departed from policy in its unanimous decision to pay for the renovation from the fund created by the sale of the city's Weeki Wachee lands. The city's golf courses operate as an enterprise fund, meaning they are supposed to pay their own way through fees and sales. But a portion of Weeki Wachee funding is reserved for recreation, and no one on the council opposed using that money to raise standards at Twin Brooks.
Some Twin Brooks golfers argued against the renovation. The course is said to be ideal for learning to play golf, and it is popular with older golfers because of its tight design. Some who enjoy playing there said Kriseman should leave the course alone.
But the renovation of Twin Brooks is about more than just golf. It affirms that all of the city's golf courses deserve equal stewardship, no matter where they are.