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Terrible at golf? There are ways to play in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — It turns out I’m a terrible golfer. But at Topgolf’s newest location in Pinellas County, that’s okay.

I was 20 feet up off the grass on the three-story Topgolf facility set up in the Carillon office park in St. Petersburg. And my puny putt still made it 30 yards to the center of the red target to give me 10 points on the score board.

Topgolf is golf for people who don’t play golf. But for people who do, it’s good practice. And a party.

With our unbearable heat in Florida, and the sport of golf itself waning for millennials, the game is working hard lately to revamp its image as a country club hobby.

There are golf simulators at Ferg’s in St. Petersburg, and the new Lona at Tampa’s Water Street has an air-conditioned spot to practice your swing. South Tampa has a new indoor golf bar called Birdie Club, and there are endless putt-putt options.

Pinellas County welcomed its first Topgolf location, the eighth for the state and the 90th worldwide for the company, earlier this summer.

But we still have stifling heat. Topgolf uses fans and air conditioners in its 102 climate-controlled bays to reduce sweatiness, but that’s an impossible goal in a Florida summer.

There are also three floors of bars behind the doors that offer sweet, sweet air conditioning and a menu of burgers and wings in the $12-to-$15 range — plus great dessert options such as injectable doughnuts. You get a platter of donut holes and syringes loaded with Bavarian cream, chocolate or raspberry.

While golf courses around the world have struggled in recent years, with many in the Tampa Bay area closing, Topgolf has found a niche.

It takes a bowling alley approach to the sport, using balls that are embedded with microchips to show you how far and where your ball landed.

Players rent the driving range at $32 to $62 per hour, and it’s half price on Tuesdays. That comes with comfortable seating for up to eight. There are numerous games to choose from, and both hardcore golfers and those who never play can find some challenges at the same time.

On my pitiful attempt to play a virtual round at Pebble Beach, the better golfers in my crew got points for landing their ball on the green, according to the screen. When we switched to an Angry Birds theme, this duffer knocked those towers down.

“I’ve been dreaming about this,” said Kiona Singleton, a St. Petersburg attorney who trekked often to the Topgolf Brandon location and now has one 15 minutes from her home. She recommends playing the top second or third levels if you are a bad golfer like me, and playing at night when the course is lit up.

“I love it because whether you are really good or not so good you can have fun. I love that you don’t even have to play golf. You can just relax and get something to eat. I’ve been waiting.”

If you go

Top golf: The golf entertainment complex is open 10 am-midnight Monday-Thursday, 10 am-1 am Friday, 9 am-1 am Saturday and 9 am-midnight Sunday. Prices change depending on the day. A bay that fits six people starts at $32 per hour before noon and goes up to $62 per hour in the evening. On Tuesdays prices are half-off all day. 220 Carillon Parkway, St. Petersburg. 727-870-4030.