ST. PETERSBURG — Thousands of children took their first swing at a golf ball at Twin Brooks Golf Course through The First Tee of St. Petersburg, a nonprofit group that uses the sport to teach life skills to youths.
But the 18-hole, par-3 course built in 1957 is showing its age. Its original irrigation system was never replaced, making it difficult to maintain smooth greens and fairways. Its small greens mean fewer options for pin placement, leading to more wear and tear.
Now, at the urging of Mayor Rick Kriseman, the city council is considering a $1.4 million remake of the facility into a more challenging nine-hole course with three practice holes. The project also includes new golf cart lanes and upgrades for the practice putting greens and driving range, and sets aside land for an office and classroom facility for First Tee.
A council committee agreed Thursday to add the project to a list of others in line for Weeki-Wachee funds, money the city accrued from selling land in Hernando County that is dedicated to park and beautification projects. It would have to be approved by the full council.
Kriseman said the South St. Petersburg course suffers from drainage issues and has not had as much attention as the city’s two other golf courses, Mangrove Bay and Cypress Links.
“We have a city facility in South St. Petersburg that is not up to the same standards as other city facilities in other parts of the city,” Kriseman told city council Thursday.
“A lot of parents would talk to you about the impact this program has had on their children,” Kriseman said.
If approved by the council, the existing 27-acre course would be closed and dug up next May. Construction would be completed by July, followed by a two-month growing period. The new course would open in October 2015.
Most of the children at Twin Brooks are minorities who, after learning to play golf there, mature to longer-game courses at the two other city facilities. The switch is an eye-opener, said First Tee Executive Director Rick Waltman.
“They say, ‘Wow, there’s bunkers and tee boxes and grass in the fairway,’” Waltman said.
“They’ll get to experience what kids on the north side experience at Cypress Links and Mangrove Bay, which is fair.”
First Tee has raised about half of the $330,000 cost to build a new office and education center at Twin Brooks. It currently operates out of a small converted closet at Mangrove Bay.
“It’s not allowing us to service the kids the way we want,” Waltman said. “This would be a huge benefit for us.”