Solid course with a few layout issues...
4 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Cliff Stephens is challenging and fair, with a variety of different carries across and around water and trees. In terms of the layout, it's a 3.5-4.0 quality course, with good signage in most places. It's a pretty course to play in, with lots of broad-branched live-oaks and spanish moss, as you'd expect in Florida, and they are woven into the layout in creative ways. Although parking is extremely limited near hole #1, it's easy to find. Another "pro," which could be awarded to any course in Florida, is that it's playable in warm weather year 'round. The only times I've played it have been in late December. During the first trip, the weather was unusually cold, according to the locals, but 50-something fahrenheit was nothing I could complain about in late December. Last December, weather was balmy, in the 70s.
Cons: There are a few significant problems with this course which lead me to bring my personal rating down a notch or two from what the quality of the layout and course conditions would normally merit. First, there are several holes that play across or right next to walking paths, and in one case, a public road. The hole right next to the road is the most problematic, with an enticing hyzer line directly out over automobile traffic as the best high-percentage shot. Even attempts to run the narrower gap between the trees, to avoid the line over the road, can be kicked out by tree-hate into the road. It would be a good hole if the road weren't there, but as it is it causes problems, in my humble opinion. The fairways that run along the walking paths are less problematic, in my experience, because there haven't been many people on the walking paths when I've played. I don't know if that's more of a problem at other times of the year or not.
The other significant problem with the course, which I believe could easily be corrected, is the confusing set of extra holes, I think named A-C, that have been sort of inserted between #16 and #17. It's difficult at best to find these extra holes on your own, but even the locals that I asked for directions seemed to lead me astray. When I was there playing, I got conflicting information about whether the "peninsula" hole just after #16, a long par 4 carry across/around water, was playable or not, and I saw more than one group of locals sitting around on the peninsula, hanging out near the basket, rather than playing that hole. Descriptions of hole #16 that I've read mention the peninsula as a possible landing zone towards the #16 basket. Hole A is a crazy-tight tunnel shot with terrible shule to the right, and an allegedly gator-populated canal to the left. The entire fairway is about 7' wide, to my memory, with walls of trees and shule packed close on both sides. This is what I'd consider the worst kind of poke-and-pray "grinder" tunnel, and does not match the quality of the rest of the course. Hole "B" is farther into the woods, parallel to this grinder tunnel, but also seems out of place on the course. Rumors of Hole "C", and maybe other extra holes, seemed to be no more than rumors, because I couldn't find them, unless maybe "C" is the supposed to be the peninsula hole. My second time around the course this past December, I gave up on the lettered holes, and moved straight from #16 to #17, which is what I'd recommend for others. I think the layout could really benefit from the removal of these extra holes, perhaps to replace them with something better. At the very least, the signage, course condition notes, and everything else about these extra holes should be corrected to match the reality on the ground. A few "next hole" arrows would also be welcome in places on the back 9.
Other Thoughts: There are a couple of World Champions who have been known to play here regularly, and I'd be interested to see them rate the course -- especially Paul McBeth, who is a DCGR member. My rating as a player, if I were a PDGA member, would hover somewhere around 900, and I'd normally choose to play "Intermediate" in sanctioned tournaments.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
2 Helpful / 3 Not
Pros: feels like 2 parks in 1. parking lot side has some tree shots & some watter hazards. Some very mature oaks that give much challenge & beauty. Cross the street for the rest of the course & the shots are more open. Great tees and new signs.
Cons: No rest room for the ladies. Just a port-a-potty.
Other Thoughts: Love it and on the fence between 3.5 - 4. I go out of the way to go to Clearwater & play each time I am on I75 from Gainesville to south Fl.
2 of 5 people found this review helpful.
10 Helpful / 1 Not
i picked the right day to buy a blizzard destroyer
Pros: Really cool layout with a lot of water and a bunch of interesting holes. But first, it's a scenic park with water views on most holes and gorgeous live oaks draped with Spanish moss all across the property. If you're lucky, you might see a gator. I'm pretty sure I saw one coming up for a breath. It could have been the world's largest fish. (It's a great course for floaters as the wind will likely be strong enough to push a disc to one side of any body of water.)
Though it's got a good bit of variety, with holes of varying lengths and shapes, and I don't think there are many weak holes I think it's more notable for its standout holes than it's consistency. The most interesting hole is definitely 16. Big arms or pros will probably go all the way across to try and reach the pin. Lesser players will probably follow the shoreline to the basket. The coolest route, designed for intermediate players is to cross in two steps. The first throw carries the bulk of the water to the peninsula with the 17 basket. It's a long walk from the tee to the lie from tee but it's a short carry from there to the basket.
12 may provide the only additional mandatory carry, (a fun hole in it's own right) that's not the end of the water here. 10, played aggressively, is a long carry across a round pond. And then you must consider 3 and 4, really fun holes that feature water to the left and favor shots that can hover over that section of river and finish right. There is enough holes that feature a water hazard at some point in the layout that it should remain interesting.
And while the holes that don't feature water can be a bit on the bland side, there is enough variety among them that this course should not get stale for a while. It does not use water as well as Trophy Lakes for example, the non-water holes here are much better than the dry holes there. Cliff Stephens is a course that, while not entirely dependent on water, only stands out because of the excellent holes that do feature it.
Cons: Holy where-are-the-next-tee-signs. Or arrows. Or painted spokes. This course is just not that friendly to new players as they will constantly be pulling up the map on their phones. It's a bit strange to overlook this. The tee signs display a lot of work. The tees themselves are fantastic. Making arrows that point out the right direction is much less work than either of those projects yet so many times on this course I was doing 360s trying to figure where to go next. This factor is compounded by the fact that in several locations where several pins are visible. It's probably one of those courses that plays better with experience but it the navigation and flow are lacking here.
Also while the tee signs are cool, I think a map would be more informative than the photos. It really just isn't easy to tell from the signs exactly where the target is. Effort commended and A for aesthetics but they aren't that helpful. Alternatively, the big numbers on top of the baskets like the ones at Coachman would clear up most issues.
A few of the fairways at the end essentially run along the bike path. I don't think this is as bad here as it often is because the path runs so straight that you will see someone coming long before they are in range. And as it is a long-range trail and not a park walkway there shouldn't be too many people on it.
Lastly, the course plays better without the three extra holes. We were following the map, which lists the three extra holes as 17,18 and 19 and the holes that have tee signs reading 17 are labeled as 20 and 21. The new holes just don't fit with the rest of the course. They're not necessarily bad, but they really just feel tacked on. This wouldn't be an issue if the course itself was labeled better and new players didn't have to use the map as it would be easy to skip extra holes.
Other Thoughts: Incredibly close to Coachman Park which makes for a great 36 holes. If I had to choose one course in the Bay Area, I'd play Medard. But if I was going to play to play two, I'd take the Stephens-Coachman combo. I don't know how much I want to walk the path between them as it's pretty far for a walk, but the drive is very quick.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful.
5 Helpful / 0 Not
Pros: Beautiful Park, nice tees and baskets. Compact yet long layout, makes for quick rounds. Lots of water in play on this course, but in an interesting way. Drives over water or around. One hole is an "island" (has land bridge but still very cool). I ran into a guy diving for discs in the lake who said he retrieves discs for people whenever he can.<- Thanks Tank!
Cons: No tee signs. Made it impossible to correctly keep score and also more difficult to follow the lay out of the course.
Other Thoughts: I'm from Tallahassee and I made a day trip to play down in Clearwater. It was awesome and definitely worth check out if you can!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
7 Helpful / 2 Not
The Champ's Course. Awesome, but it could use some work.
Pros: The course itself is set in an amazing park. The trees are HUGE in spots and some of the lines play through what can only be described as "impossible spots" to try and get a disc through. This is mostly on the front, but the back has some neat looking holes, like 16, that sit out on an "island", surrounded by gator water!
There are two pads for most of the holes. Could be all, but I did not find them all if they were there for all 18.
The baskets catch well and are in very good shape. Of the four Florida courses I played this week, ALL of them had very good baskets.
The park has a great variety of shots as well. Long, straight shots. Tight anny shots that play very tech like. And 18 is a long hole with water that comes in to play.
There are signs on most holes, and they lay out the distance from each pad.
Good use of natural obstacles like trees, palmettos, and water.
Lots of seating, trash cans and other amenities on the course.
Cons: The pads seem very short on a lot of the holes. VERY short in fact on some of them. I would like to see these fixed first.
The signs on several holes are either broken, inadequate, or missing information. For a course with so much history, I feel like it deserves MUCH better signage. (see Taylor Park's signs for PERFECT example).
Navigation is not easy on several holes, especially on the back. There are a couple of holes where you have to double back and the flow just seems wrong.
Other Thoughts: At the end of the day, I was expecting an amazing disc golf course. I mean, it is the Champ's home course, right!? That said, I feel like I got a very average disc golf course. Especially when compared to the other courses that I played in my time in the Tampa/Clearwater area.
With a little work, this could be a 4 + star course. But with the broken signs, navigation issues and small tee pads, I feel like a 3.5 is a fair rating. Calling this course "very good" is right where I feel comfortable.
7 of 9 people found this review helpful.
4 Helpful / 0 Not
Great course to play!
Pros: Variety of holes with a light mixture of different altitudes. Beautiful course location with a combination of shaded holes and sun-covered fairways. Extra long concrete tees allow for much needed space for a variety of throwing styles. Pro/Am tee choices make it an adaptable play for disc golfers of all ages and ability.
Cons: My biggest problem with this course is the lack of a few hole signs making a few holes tricky to read for first time players. The back 9 holes had some slight confusion about where the next hole is and what hole to throw to.
Other Thoughts: We stopped here while on a vacation to Tampa, and I wouldn't hesitate to stop and play it again. The great weather and overall gorgeous setting made Cliff Stephens more than just your average course. Water was in play in 5-6 holes, but not in an unavoidable state. It's courses like this one that keep me, (a below average player) loving the game.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
0 Helpful / 4 Not
Pros: Variety of holes and different shots, Very nice setting...Looks good and well put together, There were long tee-pads which is always a plus, There were amateur tee's and pro...so if you need to take a step up so you don't throw in the water or into a tree your good!
Cons: My biggest problem with the course was that some holes had missing signs...can be hard to navigate, it was pretty frustrating.
Other Thoughts: Over all a very good course!! while on a vacation to Tampa, I would like to try this course out again! This was a very nice course! Water was a factor on a couple holes, but you can avoid it. I love this game!
0 of 4 people found this review helpful.
0 Helpful / 1 Not
Well worth a visit
Pros: Well designed course, makes good use of available land. Almost every hole forced a decision of some kind, either choosing which route to take, choosing how brave to be dealing with the water or trees, or both.
The back 9 is longer, hole 16 is an excellent hole, I thought clearly the best on the course.
Cons: Available land is a bit tight on the front 9, so some of the holes are pretty easy. That said, I don't believe there are any bad holes.
Other Thoughts: I'd heard about the course for years but have never had a chance to play it before. I'd only played 2 other courses in the area, The Canyon (an all time classic, but gone), and North Watertower (forgettable). I really enjoyed this course and, given the chance, would play it again.
I drove about 30 minutes out of my way to get to it and thought it well worth the drive.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful.
1 Helpful / 7 Not
just played this course
Pros: good variety of holes, nice course layout,
Cons: too much water and poor pin placement on the water holes,hole 16 was togh to find
Other Thoughts: lots of trash in the water, took away from the beauty of the course. One of the better courses we played in the area,
1 of 8 people found this review helpful.
2 Helpful / 12 Not
A Beautiful B+
Pros: What I personally like and how this course stacks up in my list of 18 hole courses:
1) Holes with good risk/reward. Fair, but harsh punishment for bad decisions or execution. == B-
(Water is used very well on 1/3 of the holes. Going into the drink incurs both the penalty of losing a stroke and most likely losing your disc. There is not much "early trouble" (a little on 4 & 7) that will punish you with additional strokes if you are off your line. It would have been nice to see more.)
2) Holes that have rewarding birdie opportunities for me. I'm a Blue level player (950ish skill) who throws 300' accurately, 360' max. == B
(4 holes are unreachable but are short enough to to leave a 60-100' upshot....boring. The rest are a perfect challenge for me!)
3) More wooded than open - lots of variety of shots required caused by hole shape and topography == B
(This course design does a decent job of forcing particular shots - especially given that semi-open nature of the course. Overall a good mix of holes to keep things interesting.)
4) Natural beauty (Appalachian beauty preferred) and seclusion. == B+
(This course really "recharged my batteries"! I think it is the water that makes up for the lack of seclusion with the road crossing the park. Course is pretty well manicured. Very nice!)
5) Bonus points for multi-throw holes with defined landing zones, good risk/reward and multiple options to play them. == C+
(Hole 16 is a wonderful risk/reward hole for all but the biggest arms: choose how much of the water you want to bite off trying to make a tricky approach more manageable. The world needs more of these! The finishing hole (18 when I played it - now 21) is a worthy challenge based solely on distance. I wish there were a few more multi-throw holes on this course!)
Other Thoughts: It's all about feeding the addiction, so I ranked this course subjectively based on my own "personal addiction factor". The grades above tell how well this course will draw me back to itself again and again and again. See my profile for specifics on my rating philosophy.
I fancy myself as a connoisseur of good course design and I am a competitive Blue level (950-ish rated) with mid-level power (accurate to 300' with max D of 360'). Since I have played a decent number of courses (150+ 18-hole, 90+ 9-hole as of late 2009), my hope is that players/explorers who have similar addiction tastes will find my ratings list helpful as they choose courses to play and explore.
I fully expect others with different tastes/philosophies to disagree with me.....and that's the fun of things here.
2 of 14 people found this review helpful.
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