Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf
2000 Cortez Road West Bradenton, FL 34207
Adult: $10.49 plus tax, Children (12 & under): $9.49 Daytime Specials Before 7 PM: Adults $9.75, Children $8.75
2nd Round Special: $1.99 if played before 10:00pm.
Smugglers Cove is one of Florida’s most popular adventure golf chains. It has five locations along the Gulf coast – all of which promise “rushing waters, mysterious caves, and waterfalls on mountainous tropical terrain for a truly unique Florida miniature golf experience!” Oh yeah, they also have live alligators.
We recently played a game at the Smugglers Cove in Bradenton. The facility does indeed provide visitors with all of the listed ingredients of “adventure.” Players will no doubt enjoy the journey from one green to another, as they putt their way past the live gators, through a pirate ship, across unnaturally-tinted greenish rivers and water falls, and in and out of the multiple caves scattered through out the course. We have to admit it was a pretty slick design – it was clean and well kept, well themed, and very easy to navigate.
The game-play is perhaps a bit too easy; we made more holes in one at Smugglers Cove than any other course that we have played at to date. It is obvious that each hole was designed to be played by children and adults – the holes are not too difficult and are quickly finished so that groups can move briskly from one hole to the next. There is a sign at each hole that give you a rhyming hint as well as a diagram that more often than not simply tells you to shoot in a straight line to from the tee to the hole. Generally, a good direct shot will put you near, if not in the hole on the first try, so if you are a more experienced player looking for a challenge, just go somewhere else. There were relatively few, if any surprises. The obstacles are basic slopes, poles, stones and crates, you know, all the normal trappings of a pirate lair. For the most part, these obstacles are more like decoration since they rarely contribute any interest, challenge, or entertainment.
Overall we thought the course was pretty, but boring and expensive. The special price for a second round is a good deal, but since this is only an 18-hole course, you’d have to play the same overly simplistic holes again rather than getting to try an alternate course like some facilities offer.
There are signs for deals and specials, including a free replay if you make a hole in one on the day’s mystery hole, all over the course which feels a bit tacky and detracts from the theme. There is no illusion hiding the fact they want you to keep spending money once you are in.
The alligator situation is a perfect example of such a money-making gimmick. There are signs everywhere reminding you to “Feed the Gators!” Despite Smugglers Cove’s self-proclaimed nickname, i.e. “the one with the gators,” it is really commonplace to see small alligators at Floridian adventure golf establishments. We were, however, concerned for the well-being of the gators at this course since they appear to be living in the same weird blue-green water that flows throughout the cove. Whatever chemical treatment keeps the water such a bizarre aquamarine color has also dyed the inside of the alligators’ mouths the same deep teal. And we can only hope that they get a real meal once in a while and aren’t depending solely on the doggie treats that you can buy to feed to them from a fishing pole for their sustenance.