TAMPA — Since 1911, Rocky Point has been hosting some of the best golf in all of Tampa Bay. That was before Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer — or even Ben Hogan — were born.
And while the course has been through a lot of changes, it still looks much as it did when it was first opened more than a century ago. For more than 100 years, it featured straight fairways, not a lot of hazards and thousands of golfers getting their start at Rocky Point.
So you might say it was time for a makeover.
The course is owned by the Tampa Sports Authority, along with the Babe Zaharias Golf Course and the Rogers Park Golf Course. They are run by the city of Tampa, and after renovations at “The Babe” and Rogers Park, it’s time for Rocky Point.
The old girl is going through a major makeover. The $700,000 renovation project will keep the front nine closed until September, when the back nine will shut down. Kennie Sims, vice president of golf operations for the Sports Authority, said that the full 18 should be ready by November, but it will look a lot different.
“The greens were too old, uneven, slow; it was time for a change,” said Sims, who is a PGA professional himself. “We knew we had to do something.”
The entire project is being funded by the city of Tampa. All 18 greens will soon have new grass, be re-undulated, and be state-of-the-art, Sims said.
The key to Rocky Point, according to Sims, is to keep it challenging for low handicappers and easier for beginners and other golfers looking to have a good time who aren’t really worried about their scorecard.
There will be openings in front of the greens for the high handicappers that can still make reaching the green challenging for more experienced golfers.
In addition, there will be all new sandtraps and new irrigation systems. Tee boxes are being redone, and the new Bermuda grass will make the greens much more playable.
Rocky Point has many regulars who have been patient throughout the renovation process.
“We meet with them on a monthly basis and they keep us going,” Sims said. “They are going to love this course when we finish.”
When the course is ready to open all 18 holes, Sims said, the regulars will get the first shot at it. There will be customer appreciation events and larger events for the regulars. Sims said that he hopes to have the grand opening on Thanksgiving weekend.
Sims is also proud that the renovation is going more quickly than expected and that it is under budget so far.
He wakes up to check the Weather Channel every day and, as long as the weather holds, he doesn’t foresee any delays.
“The city is really committed to golf,” he said. “We’re committed to getting this done. It’s going to be a great place when we finish.”