It's 7 p.m. and the Terrace Hill Golf Club is open for business. The 40-acre facility, with its nine holes and 1,854 yards, is lit up from tee to green. As the only lighted golf course in the Tampa Bay area, Terrace Hill has carved out a niche for the avid or beginning golfer who has limited time to play. East Bay Golf Club in Largo had a lighted nine-hole course, but it was leveled for condos. When the sun goes down at Terrace Hill, the lights go on, and they stay on until 10:30 p.m.
"We're not just a chip-n-putt. We wanted to be more than that,'' said Cheryll Witherington, who owns Terrace Hill with her husband, James. "We wanted a place where the 12-handicapper could come out and play, or where the blue-collar person who doesn't have all day to play can come. We know we're not going to get the 18-hole country club person, but hopefully we'll get the person who wants to play nine holes and then do other things.''
The Witheringtons started Terrace Hill in 1994 on land owned by nearby Florida College. As alumni, they wanted to provide a golf area for the school. They pay the school a percentage of the revenue, and in return they get to run the golf course. As part of an agreement, if the school ever wanted to use the land for expansion it could do so.
The project started as a driving range. In 1997, the nine-hole course was added. A year later, the Witheringtons got approval from Temple Terrace to add lights.
"We wanted to do something to help the school generate some money,'' James Witherington said. "They own the land, and it doesn't cost them anything to have the golf course.''
Ethan Knapik, Rusty Lough and Roy Real are veterans of Terrace Hill. They play as often as they can, including a friendly nine-hole match on Monday night.
"We play here all the time,'' Real said. "We play all day, all night sometimes.''
The bright side
1. It took only two holes to adjust to the light. From then on it was almost like playing during the day.
2. Bring all your sticks. There are three par 4s and a par 3 that is 222 yards from the gold tees. You can break out the driver on the longer holes and try to drive the green.
3. Play at your own pace. Granted, it was a Monday night, but the course wasn't crowded so it was easy to hit a mulligan (or two, or three) and not slow the pace. It took 48 minutes to play nine holes with a cart.
4. Walk or ride. Yes, it's an executive course, but most people opted for carts. It would be no problem to walk, however.
The dark side
1. Bring insect repellent. It was a beautiful night in February, but the bugs were out. Imagine summertime.
2. Distance control. It's hard to judge the distance from tee to green. Just trust the yardage markers and let it rip.
3. Stay in play. There isn't much rough, but a ball off the fairway is hard to find.
4. Tough lies. The fairways are cut low, so there are no soft lies. And the greens are pretty fast.
By the numbers
30 Par for the course, with three par 4s and six par 3s.
$30 Cost of playing 18 holes with a cart, after 6 p.m. during the winter months.
40 Acres used for Terrace Hill Golf Club.
45 Stations available on the lighted driving range.
Some other places to play at night
Course Location Details
Jo Daddy's Lighted Golf Course Palm Bay 1,470 yards, par 29
West End Golf Club Gainesville 3,940 yards, par 60
Duran Golf Club Viera par 27
Duffy's Golf Center Englewood 18 holes, back nine lighted
Island Golf Center Fort Walton Beach par 27
Holiday Golf Club Panama City Beach par 27
Golf Garden Destin 2,455 yards, par 29
Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate par 27
Beacon Lakes Golf Course * Dickinson, Texas 6,777 yards, par 72
* Billed as the world's longest lighted golf course