Navigating the Snake Pit
Recently, two foursomes of Dewsweepers from La Costa, including myself, embarked on our own Florida swing. Eschewing the cold and wet British Isles, for the much warmer, more manicured Sunshine State courses seemed like a good idea. Admittedly, I was pushing the agenda as I wanted to see if Streamsong; the recently opened, highly acclaimed, resort in the middle of Florida could match its rave reviews. (More on this next time.) Before trekking to the middle of nowhere, however, we decided to begin our adventure at the home of the Valspar Championship; the Copperhead course at Innisbrook. Jordan Spieth had won the tournament in 2015, with Charl Schwartzel getting back in the win column this year.
Innisbrook is a gated resort community located north of Tampa. The resort includes four courses; of
which Copperhead is the best known and nationally ranked, although the locals reportedly prefer the
Island course. Since you are likely to book a golf package, you can make your own determination,
however, it is hard to beat the very scenic Copperhead layout. By playing just before, or just after the
PGA stop, you will find the course to be in excellent condition, even if the sounds of constructing or
breaking down stands echoes through the pines.
Copperhead is not a classic Florida course. In fact, it is much more reminiscent of a Carolina track, with plenty of elevation, mature trees loaded with Spanish moss and a lushness not found on most of the traditional Florida venues. How does it compare with other premier facilities in the State? This review provides a good description I am not sure Els really believes it is the best in the state, but our
entire group gave it a thumbs up.
The most common complaint about the course is that there are a number of blind shots. It definitely
helps to have some course knowledge, so I strongly suggest a replay while you are there. With our
package it was $150 for the second round. Also, we elected to play the white tees (70.8/130), but for the medium to long hitters it was more difficult as it brought much of the trouble, especially on the front side, into play. On the other hand, this is a narrow, difficult track, so playing back can be really tough on the mid handicappers.
The best way to play the course is to book a golf package. During peak season our group paid $535 each for two nights in a double room, and two rounds of golf, including Copperhead. By comparison, this is very affordable. Further, you do not have to leave the grounds, so a car is unnecessary once you are at the resort. There are plenty of golf packages from which to choose.
The Copperhead course is best known for its “Snake Pit”. This includes the final three holes, which are
hyped as the toughest finishing holes in golf. I would not go that far, but the tee shot on 16 is definitely a white knuckler.
Finally, the course has recently undergone a major renovation, including new greens. You might have
noticed during the Valspar Championship that the pros kept coming up short. No doubt, the greens are slow now. I would expect the pace to pick up substantially as the renovation matures.
Absolutely Must Play? Yes. Any opportunity to play a PGA venue should not be missed. The topography, condition and interesting holes make for a terrific round. This is the perfect place to start a Florida swing, with pretty good access to another top 100 venue at World Woods Pine Barrens. (We skipped this course this time due to time constraints.)
My Rating: 8.5, for a highly pleasurable, challenging golf experience
Weekly Observation: Picking Jason Day in the Masters is not really going out on a limb, but it is hard to win three consecutive starts. Watch out for the lefties, Phil and Bubba, but I am still going with the
Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and
design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He has recently released Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America’s Top
100 Public Golf Courses; now available in hardcover edition. Please visit tophundredgolf.com regularly for more (im)practical information.