Join Hickory Golf Hub’s own Richard Bullock on his personal odyssey. While traveling the U.S. and beyond to join the camaraderie and competition of hickory tournaments, Richard keeps a golfer’s eye peeled for the unusual, the intriguing and the alluring. He seeks out golf courses that might be overlooked by players with a more high-tech, contemporary view about what makes a “great” course, and reveals the beauty, challenge and complexity of these Hidden Gems.

Today’s discovery is:

St. Petersburg Country Club, St. Petersburg Florida

St. Petersburg Country Club began its long and storied history in 1924 as the Lakewood Country Club. From the beginning, the course made its mark as a championship design. Two major tournaments have been held here. One of them is still held here to this day.

The club was host to the St. Petersburg Open in years when the likes of Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Raymond Floyd and Bruce Develin won top honors on its elegantly challenging design.

The New Year’s Invitational, the oldest continuous amateur tournament in the Southeast, made its home here in 1927 and has never left. A legendary proving ground for eighty-eight years, the course has helped some the finest players earn their amateur stripes. Eddie Pearce, J.B. Holmes and Brandt Snedeker all competed in the Invitational, and Buddy Alexander –son of SPCC’s favorite-son club professional- took the championship title an eye-popping six times.

Certainly, the late Stewart Murray “Skip” Alexander, Jr. has had much to do with the character and soul of SPCC. The club’s pro from 1951 to 1985, his personal story is the stuff of inspirational movies, and brought him admiration and honor that reflected well on the club. Only a year before he accepted the head pro position, Skip was the only survivor of a plane crash that left him burned on over seventy percent of his body.

skip alexander,st. petersburg country club.hickorygolfhub.com

Photo courtesy of the St. Petersburg Country Club

Hospitalized for months, fighting for his life, Skip had to endure over a dozen operations. With his hands so badly damaged, his professional career seemed in jeopardy; until he and his doctors decided to go bold or go home. In Sue Anderson Urry’s article on the SPCC web site, Skip is quoted as saying, “They took a knuckle out and fused the [remaining] two knuckles together so they would fit a golf club.”

Barely over a year after the plane crash, he went on to play for the U.S. team in the 1951 Ryder Cup, besting British champion John Patton in the singles portion. With his hands bleeding, Skip won the match by the largest margin in the Ryder Cup’s previous history.

The SPCC continues to honor Skip not just in memory, but in course quality. One of its major strengths is a strategic layout favoring brains over brawn. This makes for a fair layout that is, nevertheless, appropriately penal if played too aggressively. Fairways don’t run parallel, giving a sense of solitude amongst the mature landscaping, trees and ponds.

All photos courtesy of the St. Petersburg Country Club

The course provides for all skill levels with tee markers set up at 4780, 5300, 5669, 6228, and 6909 yards. It is a well thought out layout for play by beginners up to professional tour players.  Raymond Floyd won his first PGA tournament here.

During my round, I found the golf course in excellent condition. The fairways were neatly manicured with obvious and above average sand tending of divots. The greens ran medium speeds, but with cooler weather I have seen them at ten stimp and faster.

While I didn’t dine there this particular day, when I competed in their First Tee Charity tournament, the banquet food and staff were awesome. Inside staff and outside cart attendants were courteous and helpful. On-course workers were mindful of minimizing movement and noise while in close proximity to players. One worker who was manually tending sprinklers would shut them off as needed so I could take my next shot. A+ for that!

 

All photos the courtesy of the St. Petersburg Country Club

It is not often that a golfing experience can combine a historic experience with a worthy and well maintained golf course. Couple that with a very pleasant personnel staff, both inside and outside the clubhouse, and you have a winning combination. Terry Decker is the Head Professional, Joe Brooks the General Manager and Rick Wahl the Greens Superintendent.

To learn more about the St. Petersburg Country Club, CLICK HERE.

The website also has a great page that lets you “tour” each hole. For that, CLICK HERE.

 

About Richard Bullock:

Richard has been an accomplished golfer for over forty years. An All-American player as well as a golf instructor while attending Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, Richard later became a professional golf tour player in the 1990’s. He competed alongside some of the greats in the game at the 1994 and 1995 USGA Senior Open Championships at Pinehurst and Congressional.

After retiring from the tour circuit, Richard accepted an invitation to join the Ben Sutton Golf School in Sun City, Florida. These days, Richard still accepts students on a case-by-case basis.

www.hickorygolfhub.com Hickory Golf Hub covers as many wood shafted golf events as we can shake a stick at.