Florida, with over 1,000 golf courses, is blessed with many great golf resorts and Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor is certainly one of the best the state has to offer.
Nestled deep into 900 wooded acres of rolling hills in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Innisbrook not only has all the amenities a visitor could ask for but it is served up with mellow and relaxing hospitality. While many resorts overwhelm visitors with all the “service” being given to them, Innisbrook delivers all you need without overwhelming.
It all starts at the top with CEO Sheila Johnson of Salamander Resorts, probably the sharpest businesswoman Florida has seen since old Bertha Palmer bought up most of Sarasota County in the early 1900’s.
Salamander, which also operates Reunion Resort in Orlando and Hammock Beach near St Augustine, has a policy of hiring people who are outgoing and have the right attitude. As Johnson says, “We can teach them how to do a job but we can’t grow them a personality.”
The sprawling property features 72 holes of championship golf, 550 spacious guest suites and rooms, four restaurants and three bars, the Innisbrook Golf Academy, 11 tennis courts, the luxurious Salamander Spa with 12 treatment rooms and state-of-the-art Fitness Center, six heated swimming pool complexes, a nature preserve and three conference halls with 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
The golf is just outstanding. Lead by The Copperhead, a Top 100 course in America, and home of the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship, Innisbrook also features the Island, North and South Courses.
All four of the courses were designed by the late Larry Packard, a Chicago native who fell in love with the area enough to spend the last 40 years of his life there. Much like Donald Ross did with Pinehurst #2, Packard refined the Copperhead over the years to make it his masterpiece. To play the Copperhead is to see true design genius where every shot requires thought and will require every club and shot in your bag. Oh, and no bad shot goes unpunished.
The course recently underwent a six-month restorative enhancement including the regrassing of all fairways and roughs, the rebuilding of each green and the reshaping of the bunkers to stay true to Packard’s masterful design. Fifteen new forward tees were also added to enhance the experience for players of all skill levels, but the length remains challenging for tour professionals. An additional tier was added to the driving range and a new practice green was also added, which may very well be necessary to prepare for an experience Innisbrook describes as “the Copperhead Bites Back.”
The Island Course features six holes bordered by beautiful Lake Innisbrook and lateral water hazards that require pinpoint accuracy on tee shots and approaches. Similar in terrain to the Copperhead Course, the North Course is known for its daunting par 3s, well-bunkered greens and recent course enhancements including additional yardage to selected par 4s and 5s. The par 71 South Course is reminiscent of a links-style design and has become a favorite for its rolling hills and breezes sweeping in from the Gulf of Mexico, just minutes away by property-shuttle.
Innisbrook Resort caters to all golf lovers with their Classic Golf Package, offering guests a round of golf per night of stay. The full package includes spacious deluxe accommodations, $10 per person retail credit in the Pro Shop, unlimited use of practice facilities, free same day replay round, one round of golf per golfer per night of stay, club storage and locker room service and advanced starting times at time of reservation.
Apart from golf, the property invites guests to stay active at the Innisbrook Tennis Center, home to 11 Har-Tru® courts, a fully stocked pro shop and three racquetball courts. The resort regularly customizes programs for players from beginner to advanced levels and offers daily resort clinics, match play arranging, junior clinics and summer camp programs.
The family-fun never ends with Innisbrook Resort’s six heated swimming pools scattered around the 900 acres of property grounds. The favorite of the resort is the enormous Lochness Monster Pool. There’s an activity for everyone with two sand beach areas, a 15-foot waterfall, two winding water slides, water volleyball, a separate plunge pool with bubbling jets and fountains, sunbathing areas, sand volleyball and a monster-sized spa that seats up to 36 people. During the summer months and holidays, the younger crowd is sure to enjoy the many poolside games and family activities put on by Innisbrook’s friendly staff.
For those who wish to just sit back and relax on their vacation, Innisbrook’s newly remodeled Salamander Spa takes the art of healing to an elevated level.
The destination begs to be explored with spots like Honeymoon Island State Park. A resort shuttle drives nature lovers right to the edge of the white sands of the Gulf Coast’s most romantic beach. With strong currents along the island, travelers who enjoy scouring for shells will have a particularly good experience, as there is an incredible variety that gets deposited on the shore.
For additional information visit www.innisbrookgolfresort.com or call 727.942.2000. To interact with the resort socially, visit @innisbrook on Facebook and Twitter, as well as @innisbrookresort on Facebook and Twitter.
Member- Golf Writers Association of America
Course Rater Golfweek Magazine