PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- The Island Course is one of four at the Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort, located just outside Tampa.
While the Copperhead, which hosts the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship, is the best known course of the quartet, there are those who prefer the Island Course.
Jane Blalock, who won 27 times on the LPGA Tour before retiring in 1986, is among them.
"I've played both courses," said Blalock, who is now CEO of the Legends Tour. The LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship will be held at the Island Course on Nov. 11-13.
"The Copperhead is tough, but I think the Island Course is at least as tough -- if not tougher," she added. "There's more water and there's nothing easy about it."
The Island Course plays to 7,310 yards from the tips. Designed by Larry and Roger Packard in 1970, the course has plenty of water -- including on each of the first six holes.
Water is prominent -- from the tee boxes to the greens -- on the 525-yard par-5 second and the 455-yard par-4 third. The 205-yard fourth is the shortest of the four par 3s on the Island Course.
The 570-yard seventh hole is the longest on the course and is also the toughest. You can try to bomb it off the tee, but there are trees on both sides that make it tough to set up an easy approach shot. It is reachable only to the best and longest hitters.
The back nine is longer but a bit more benign. The 16th is a long par 4 that plays over water, but the closing holes are a nice way to settle down and come away with a good feeling.
When the wind is kicking up the par 4s can be monsters. Innisbrook is about five miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and the winds that kick in from the water are the best defense for the Island Course.
When the wind isn't at its peak, the course can be tamed. There is room in the fairways, but don't take that for granted. Staying dry is tough with so much water, and the bunkers are also deep. Although the greens are large enough, they are fast, so stopping the ball is tough. Hitting high and accurate approach shots is key.
Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort offers more than just 72 holes of golf. It features a little bit of everything, including great housing, four restaurants and three pubs. There are plenty of pools, and the resort is close to the beach.
There's plenty to do here, but Innisbrook caters to serious golfers. Anyone who wants a great week of golf can challenge the four courses, and there are plenty of activities that make it great for adults. A shuttle system can get you anywhere on the property in minutes.
"You can't beat it for Florida golf," said Sam Newman, a vacationer from Miami. "The courses are different, but they treat you right and you start feeling at home. We come here every year and it gets better all the time. The food is great, the golf is great and this is one of the highlights of our year."
The Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort may be a bit pricey, but it's worth it, especially if you are coming from out of town. The resort pampers you and the courses are in immaculate condition, especially during the summer when Florida courses tend to get dry from the lack of rain. Each of the four courses is different, and even if the Copperhead gets most of the attention, the Island Course is just as tough.
October 27, 2011