ST PETERSBURG, Florida – Seminole Lake Country Club has a long and storied history. Back in 1911, William Cunningham moved his family to the St Petersburg area from Fletcher, North Carolina. The Cunninghams opened a hardware and grocery store on Central Avenue that from all indications was very successful. In the early 1930’s William’s son Howard was able to purchase a 300-acre piece of property west of St. Petersburg with some of the profits from their successful business ventures. The property was named Pine Ridge Farm and became a working cattle ranch with all of the family members contributing to its operation. Because it was a long way from their home in the city the family members used the farm as a getaway. What’s left of that old family cabin can be seen on the property just west of the current clubhouse.
Fast forward to the 1960s. The Cunningham brothers – Gene, Book, and Doc -are approached by a local real estate developer, who convinces them to convert the cattle ranch into a housing development and country club. In 1962, Seminole Lake Country Club Estates was born and within a short period of time, the Cunningham brothers regained control of the property.
As the community flourished, the club acquired a reputation as one of the premier country clubs in Florida. Membership had a waiting list and the members had an active social events calendar. The club hosted several of the premier events in the Tampa Bay area during this time and for over four decades the club remained a successful private club. Renovations followed; the clubhouse in 2002 and the golf course in 2007, including the resurfacing of all greens, refurbishing the bunkers, and the addition of a complete practice facility. Although these improvements were well received by the members, the economic downturn in 2008 led to a severe decline in membership.
In 2009, Seminole Lake Country Club became a semi-private club and to this day remains one of the favorites of golfers throughout the Tampa Bay area. Coincidentally, membership has grown due to the course’s consistently good conditioning, playability, and service level. The club is still owned by the Cunningham family and there’s still that same friendly feel as it was when the brothers opened the club in 1962.
Seminole Lake Country Club is located on the banks of Long Bayou and Cross Bayou and is one of only a handful of courses in Florida that features SeaDwarf Seashore Paspalum grass on the tees, fairways, and greens. Paspalum is one of the most versatile turfgrasses out there, it’s tolerant to various mower heights as well as salt. Its upright growth habit allows golf balls to sit up in the rough and fairways. It also produces a firm and fast putting surface that has a lot less grain than traditional Florida Bermuda greens. If I have a choice of what turf to play on, Paspalum is the clear winner!
The length at Seminole Lake is not going to overwhelm most players. This par 71 golf course was designed by Chic Adams, and plays 6,501 yards from the back tees, with a course rating of 72.1 and a slope of 133. Five sets of tees provide an enjoyable experience for golfers of all abilities. They also have a great practice facility too, with a recently renovated driving range, a complete short game practice area with a bunker, and two large putting greens. The majority of the fairways are very wide and generous off the tee. The Paspalum greens are also large and receptive with great undulation and contouring.
The course has plenty of doglegs and like most Florida courses, plenty of water; each hole has its own unique character. Bunkers are strategically placed throughout the course and water hazards come into play on nearly every hole. With the Gulf of Mexico nearby, birdlife is abundant and a family of bald eagles has claimed residency on the property. Look for them as you make your way around the course.
Seminole Lake has several holes that will stick in your memory for a while. My favorite par 3s are the two on the backside: Number 10 and Number 16. These two holes are very similar. They both play slightly uphill, feature a water hazard that needs to be carried off the tee, and are well protected by bunkers. They both play similar distances too – 175 and 173 yards from the Blue Tees, respectively.
My favorite par 4 is Number 6 which plays 337 yards from the White tees. It’s a tight driving hole, with water on both sides and a narrow landing area. Move back to the Black Tees (368 yards) and the tee shot is downright scary! Launch a long tee shot right and you’re most likely in the houses. Success off the tee on this dogleg right will leave a short iron or wedge into a relatively flat green, protected with sand on both sides. Take a par and run!
The Members’ favorite Par 5 is Number 12, a 485-yard slight dogleg left. It’s another interesting driving hole, especially if you’re long off the tee! Beware of the water down the left side and the creek that crosses the fairway about 295 yards from the tee. Playing your tee shot down the right side will leave the best angle into the green and give you the best chance to get on in two. The left side is a lot tougher as you will have to shape a long approach shot around an old oak tree that sits about 180 yards out from the green and over a pond in front of the left side of the green. If you decide to layup short of the green there is a trio of palm trees in the middle of the fairway 65 yards short of the green. A single bunker guards the right side of the green. Good scores can be had here!
Holes 17 and 18 are two of the best finishing holes in the area. Seventeen is a 404-yard par 4, dogleg right and requires a pretty good drive to reach the corner of the dogleg to have a clear shot into the green. The water on the right off the tee shouldn’t be a factor. Success off the tee will leave a mid to long-iron into a large, elevated green protected on the right side with a large bunker.
The finishing hole is a straight 352-yard par 4 with all kinds of trouble on the right side. The water on the right side starts about 76 yards from the tee and stretches for about 160 yards, plus there’s a bunker in the landing area about 200 yards off the tee on the right side as well. A good tee shot that favors the left side is best and will leave a short iron or wedge into the green, which is protected front right by a bunker. Par (or better) is always a great way to finish.
Seminole Lake Country Club offers several membership options including Full Memberships which entitle you to all of the club’s amenities (golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool, kayak launch, clubhouse, and member-only social functions), Golf Memberships, Tennis Memberships, Seasonal Memberships for both golf and tennis, and Social Memberships. Dues are quite reasonable.
Last Word: Pay attention to the yardages, a lot of the par 4 doglegs look longer than they are. Hitting something less than driver off the tee will prevent you from hitting it through the fairway and out of bounds and incurring penalty strokes. The course is a lot of fun to play and although the parking lot might be full when you arrive, play moves right along. We played on a Saturday afternoon in a little more than 4 hours.