The 10 best driving holes at Tampa Bay area golf courses

The tee box is the best place on a golf course. Everything starts at zero. Optimism reigns. This is the hole in which it all comes together: a perfect drive, a soft approach shot, a tap-in birdie.

But on some holes, the tee box can be an intimidating place. There might be water to clear or trees to avoid. There is a fairway out there somewhere, but all you see are the hazards.

While there are plenty of such holes at our area courses, here are 10 we believe are the best driving holes. (Yardages are from the white tees.)

No. 13 at Brooksville Country Club

Par 4, 362 yards

Why we like it: The tee box is on top of a quarry, and you are looking down into the canyon. From there, it feels like you can hit the ball 500 yards. Just get the ball airborne and watch it sail to the wide fairway below. There aren't many shots in Florida with this kind of view.

Why it scares us: Spray the ball even a little, and there is trouble everywhere. There is thick brush and homes to the left, rocks and sand to the right. And you can't get away with a "worm burner" either because right in front of the tee box, there is brush down the hillside. Oh, and there is water short and right. Good luck.

No. 18 at Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, Belleair

Par 4, 408 yards

Why we like it: There is a lot to look at, including the beautiful clubhouse behind the green. It is also a wide fairway, so there is one last chance to grab the driver and hack away.

Why it scares us: It's straight, but the hole looks soooo far away. There is marsh and water right in front of the tee box, so the shot must get off the ground. There is sand to the left and back yards to the right. Hit it too long and right, and there is water.

No. 18 at Fox Hollow Golf Club, Trinity

Par 4, 429 yards

Why we like it: The hole is long and requires a bomb to have a short second shot. It is one last chance to take a full swing and, perhaps, salvage the day.

Why it scares us: There is a carry over water, and water is on both sides of the fairway. The fairway pinches in near the landing area. Some of the water is not visible from the tee box, so hit it dead straight or risk losing your ball.

No. 18 at TPC Tampa Bay, Lutz

Par 4, 404 yards

Why we like it: A challenging finishing hole that gives you options. You can try to cut the lake down the right side to the fat part of the fairway, or you could aim at the fairway bunker and have a better approach to the green.

Why it scares us: There is trouble on both sides, and the fairway is narrow. There is nowhere to lay up, so it's best to take a full swing and hope for the best.

No. 11 at Lake Jovita, South Course, Dade City

Par 5, 511 yards

Why we like it: A very non-Florida view from the tee box. There is a 94-foot drop from the fairway to the green, the largest natural elevation change of any course in Florida. Try to hit your tee shot down the left side, away from the fairway bunkers, and you will have a beautiful view down the green.

Why it scares us: There is reachable trouble on both sides. Aside from the bunkers, there are thick trees lining the fairway. A good drive is rewarded with a downhill shot toward the green. A sprayed drive could have you hacking all the way to the green.

No. 14 at The Golf Club of Cypress Creek, Ruskin

Par 5, 431 yards

Why we like it: It's kind of like playing the windmill hole on a miniature golf course. Once the ball goes through the tube, you don't know where it ends up until you get there. A straight drives goes down into a valley and could funnel toward sand traps. There is a chance to reach in two with a good drive.

Why it scares us: It's basically a blind shot. There is waste area to the left and sand on both sides of the fairway. It's like driving into a bowl. And unless it's a perfect drive, you're pretty much guaranteed an uneven lie.

No. 15 at World Woods Pine Barrens, Brooksville

Par 4, 330 yards

Why we like it: There is so much stuff to clear, but driving the green is so tempting. If you can hit the ball about 280 yards, then take a shot at clearing the waste area and water down the right side for an easy chip to the green. Or play it safe down the left side and have a downhill approach shot. Risk and reward.

Why it scares us: Look at all that sand and water! It's hard to find much fairway out there, which makes it a visually challenging hole. Make the right choice, and it's a fairly easy hole.

No. 5 at Westchase Golf Club, Tampa

Par 4, 410 yards

Why we like it: You have to love (or hate) a hole that has a little water off the tee box to keep you honest. There are also trees that line both sides of the fairway. So the hole allows you to rip a driver, but it better be straight.

Why it scares us: The fairway pinches in near the landing area, so there is little margin for error. It's always intimidating knowing a straight drive is a must. Hit the ball into the trees, and it becomes a long hole.

No. 14 at USF Golf Course, Tampa

Par 5, 538 yards

Why we like it: Any hole with a nickname like "The Claw'' is fine with us. Another one of those risk/reward holes. You could play an iron off the tee and lay up to the first dogleg. Or you could try to cut the dogleg and flirt with "The Claw,'' a huge tree with a branch at the top that tends to swat balls into the woods.

Why it scares us: It's a huge hole to begin with, but add double doglegs and it's hard to figure out how to hit the green in three. It may be one of the area's only par 5s that requires an iron off the tee. Of course, you could try to cut the corner, but the hole has its nickname for a reason.

No. 18 at Saddlebrook Resort, Saddlebrook Course, Wesley Chapel

Par 4, 441 yards

Why we like it: It is one last chance to bomb a drive, and you have to bomb it to be in good position. There is water down the fairway on the right, so the farther you hit it the less you contend with the water.

Why it scares us: Trees on the right and left create a narrow chute to hit the ball through. Well placed fairway bunkers are waiting near the landing area, and a ball in those makes for a layup second shot.

The 10 best driving holes at Tampa Bay area golf courses 10/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 7:06pm]

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