If you get a chance to play Old Memorial and then take lunch or dinner after the round, make sure you order a steak. Old Memorial Golf Club was the brainchild of the founders of the Outback Australian steakhouse restaurant chain. The headquarters of Outback Steakhouse is located in Tampa, Florida and the founders wanted their own private club close to the HQ so they could slip off for a few holes after work. They commissioned Steve Smyers to fashion the course at Old Memorial, a designer with local knowledge and a member of the University of Florida’s national NCAA championship team in 1973.
Steve Smyers already had a number of high profile designs under his belt by the time construction of Old Memorial began in 1996. Perhaps his finest achievement to date is Wolf Run Golf Club in Indiana, but his work alongside Nick Faldo at Chart Hills Golf Club in England should also be applauded. “On an ecologically challenging site, close to Tampa’s downtown area, Old Memorial exists in a setting of great variety, offering natural lakes, mature woodlands, and open, rolling, former grove land.” Commented Smyers. “This “walking-only” golf course was built for the principals of The Outback Steakhouse restaurants.”
Routed across more than 300 acres of sandy ground, Old Memorial – named after a nearby road – plays in a links-like style with firm surfaces and teasing, fickle coastal winds. Opened for play in 1997, the most notable feature of the course (in a similar vein to Chart Hills) is its dramatic, sweeping bunkers which frame the landing areas and putting surfaces, striking fear into the hearts and minds of most golfers.
The Smyers design philosophy is that “Golf Courses should not be designed to conform to whimsical trends of the day. Rather, they should be designed according to proven, classical principles that withstand the test of time.” We will wait and see whether his design at Old Memorial fulfils his philosophy.
Old Memorial in Tampa, while difficult to get on, is well worth the effort. It is the brainchild of the Outback Steakhouse founders Chris Sullivan, Bob Basham and Bob Merritt. It is a Steve Smyers design that is a links style course. Old Memorial opened in 1997. Smyers used bunkering to create the allusion of difficulty. Don’t get me wrong. I spent way too much quality time in his bunkers. While potentially intimidating, they do add to the overall course aesthetics. I was told that the 12th hole has a bunker that covers over one acre! There is also a statue between the 10th green and the 11th tee at the course’s highest elevation to honor members who were lost in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This is a new throwback course, walking only. After your round, head to Bern’s Steak House, and make sure you tour the wine cellar. Don’t forget to thank me later.