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Davis Islands Golf Course

December 15, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

Davis Islands Golf Course

by Rodney Kite-Powell

Curator, Tampa Bay History Center

 

Of all the amenities originally designed and constructed for Davis Islands in the

1920s, the Davis Islands Golf Course was the largest in scale and the latest to be

completed. Designed by “internationally known” golf course architect A. W. Tillinghast,

the golf course occupied a large portion of the southern half of the Islands, was entwined

within the streets and canals of the southern half of the Islands.

Construction began on the course in late January 1927, four months after the

engineering firm of Stone & Webster purchased Davis Islands from D. P. Davis, and

three months after Davis’ mysterious death at sea. The start of construction was heralded

by the development’s newspaper, Life on Davis Islands, with the banner headline “Golf

Course is Begun.”

The straight forward course layout consisted of nine holes, covering 3,060 yards.

The only water hazard of any significance was the 100 foot wide Grand Canal that cut

across the middle of the second hole. The same canal sat behind the green on Number

One and ran along the left side of the fairway on Number Three. Sand bunkers seemed

the bigger obstacle, with as many as five appearing on a given hole.

The clubhouse, located between the fairways of Number One and Number Nine,

was constructed and open three years before the course opened. The Mediterranean

Revival structure stood two stories tall and featured dining rooms, meeting space and a

dance floor. More unique, however, was the retractable roof which could be opened to

allow dancing under the stars. The building operated as a supper club before being

converted back to its original purpose, that of a proper Country Club.

Opening festivities took place on December 31, 1928, with revelers

simultaneously ushering in the New Year and the new golf course. A members-only

tournament was held the following day to officially open the course. Membership to the

country club was restricted and set by a meeting of “prominent Tampans” in December

1928. Memberships for winter visitors, still a big target demographic even after the Bust,

were also available.

Despite its grand beginnings, the golf course eventually fell into disrepair. In the

early 1950s, a young Tampa Tribune reporter named Leland Hawes played on the Davis

Islands golf course. In speaking of the course years later, Hawes, a Tampa historian now

retired from the Tribune, recalled that it was not in very good condition, to say the least.

By this time, the Davis Islands golf course was public and owned and operated by the

city. Though not necessarily neglected, the course did not receive the same attention it

did as a private, members-only course.

Florida in general, and Tampa in particular, was experiencing another land boom

during this time. Fueled by the confluence of a booming economy, new home

construction under the GI Bill and the advent of affordable home air conditioning, the

boom in part completed what the 1920s land boom started. All of this meant that land on

Davis Islands was again marketable, and a nine-hole golf course was expendable in the

face of potential profits.

Another, more sinister, theory exists to explain the course’s demise – the idea

that, with continued successes of the Civil Rights movement, African Americans would

have to be allowed to play on the city-owned course. The Davis Islands course was the

only municipal course during this time that ran through a white residential neighborhood,

which potentially could explain this idea. Again, this is just a theory with no supporting

evidence.

Whatever the reason, the Davis Islands golf course was transformed into the

Byars Thompson addition to Davis Islands in the mid-1950s, with hundreds of homes

appearing on the former fairways, greens and tee boxes. The Davis Islands Country Club

transition into the “Davis Municipal Building” and by 1966 was demolished, too. All

that survives of the golf course today is the incongruently named “19th Hole” cantina,

which is now a private residence.

Category: Association News

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  1. Judy says:

    Hello, I was just reading your site. I used to live in this golf course/ country club when I was a very small girl. I believe this is when it was fallen into disrepair. My family was very poor and I believe my dad knew Mr Tinsley somehow. I think that he let us live there as care takers because we were homeless at the time. I remember this grand place with a wooden dance floor, grand bar, a fabulous portico. I wish there were some pictures to see what this place looked like in it’s heyday. Do you know of any or how I can see them?

    I also lived on the island for many years sometime later. I really feel that I am an island girl but would love to know the history of this building where I first became an island girl (<:

    Thanks so much.

  2. Melissa Knight Nodhturft says:

    Sadly, the incongruently named “19th Hole” cantina, which was a private residence, is also gone. It has been demolished and is being replaced with a large, new private residence. The large eucaplyptus tree on the corner of the residence has also been cut down by the City of Tampa as of June 4, 2013. Quite sad to lose these pieces of DI history.

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