Story by: Mike May

Just east of Tampa, you’ll find the City of Temple Terrace, originally billed as “Tampa’s most beautiful suburb.”  Temple Terrace is also the home of the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club, one of the 53 golf courses on the Florida Historic Golf Trail. The construction of this golf course (200 Inverness Avenue, Temple Terrace, FL) has been interwoven with Temple Terrace’s history since the early 1920s.  With a rolling terrain along the Hillsborough River, the golf course was a key part of the developer’s marketing plan to build an exotic resort community that was exclusive, yet accessible.

Early promotional literature for Temple Terrace Estates prominently featured the golf course, stating, “The eighteen hole Temple Terraces Golf Course, destined to be one of the finest in the South, was built for the pleasure of the club members and their guests, and when you buy a grove, you automatically become a life member of the club.”

Scottish-born golf architect/designer Tom Bendelow, a pioneer in the growth of golf in the U.S., was hired to design the course.  In 1921, Bendelow arrived from Chicago to examine the Temple Terrace property. He was impressed with the beautiful, natural location for this golf course. Work began on the course later that year and the first nine holes were open for play in 1922. In 1923, the 18-hole golf course was completed and officially opened.  Measuring more 6,600 yards, it was one of the longest golf courses in Florida at that time.

It’s worth noting that Bendelow, whose career as a golf course designer lasted more than 35 years, is credited with designing hundreds of golf courses across the U.S. and Canada.  Two of his best known layouts are Medinah Country Club in Chicago (host of three U.S. Opens and the 2012 Ryder Cup) and Olympia Fields Country Club (host of two U.S. Opens) in Olympia Fields, Illinois. 

1925 Florida Open Golf Tournament at Temple Terrace

The course is laid out in a figure-eight formation, with a “returning nines” design -- meaning the golf course has two loops of nine holes, each beginning and ending at the clubhouse.  The unique design features no parallel fairways and roads on both sides of most holes which, historically, allowed galleries to follow play in automobiles.

While many golf courses have adjusted to improvements in equipment by adding length to their golf courses, the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club is the exception.  This course challenges players with its narrow fairways and small greens.  As a result, this golf course that rewards the skilled golfer who has a strategic and patient mindset.

While this golf course does not have a driving range, it does offer four hitting areas located on holes 2, 7, 10 and 14.  And, there’s a practice putting green overlooking the first tee.  Plus, there’s 65-yard short game practice area located along the 9th hole, which provides pitching, chipping and both grassy and sand bunker practice areas.

One important footnote about this golf course is that it was the site of a notable historic event when evangelist Billy Graham, who was attending what was then known as Florida Bible Institute (now Florida College), decided upon his career while meditating on the 18th green one night in 1939.

At Temple Terrace, you can experience the roots of the game of golf by playing with a set of hickory golf clubs.  The pro shop has two sets of vintage 1920’s/1930s hickory golf clubs which are available to use.  A group in the area known as the Florida Hickory Golfers is dedicated to preserving golf’s pureness and authenticity when hickory clubs were used.

In 1990, a 17,000 square foot clubhouse was opened which features a grand ballroom, fine dining, the Grille lounge, and a dining patio overlooking the first tee box. The Terrace Pool Pavilion features a heated swimming pool, jacuzzi, kiddie pool, locker and restroom facilities, and a custom-designed tiki bar.

In 2012, the Temple Terrace golf course became the first 18-hole Florida golf course listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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The writer of this story, Mike May, is a south Florida-based golf writer.  Mike can be reached at mmaymarketing@gmail.com