PALM HARBOR, Florida – Not sure about you but I get an adrenaline rush when I have a chance to play a world-renowned golf course and one that the best golf professionals in the world play every year.
The PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship will tee up at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort March 17-20, with 19 of the world’s top 50 players set to compete with other commitments on the way, according to tournament director Tracy West. After attending Valspar Championship Media Day on February 28, I had the opportunity to play the exquisite and famed Copperhead Course and it was a real treat.
Designed by Larry Packard, the 18-hole par-71 Copperhead Course features five tee boxes for golfers to choose from and runs nearly 7,300 yards when the pros play during the Valspar Championship. Both the fairways and greens at Copperhead are made from Bermuda grass. Today’s round was played from the white tee boxes which measures 6,243 yards.
1st hole “Innisbrook’s View.” This Par 5, 521 yards starting hole quickly takes you to the world of a PGA golfer. The fairway looks endless as it slowly curves to the right hiding your vision to the green and leaving you with bunkers to the left. A well place drive will give you a good chance to leave your 2nd shot in striking distance to a raised green protected by a “Bear Claw” bunker across the front.
2nd “Second Thoughts” Par 4, 359 yds, and 3rd “Narrow Neck” Par 4, 386 yds holes share the same water hazard that runs along the right side of each fairway. Tee shots on both holes need to be down the left side of the fairways. A 200 yd drive on both holes will still leave you with a long approach shot to receptive greens.
4th hole “Bunkered” Par 3, 140 yds is appropriately named. Bunkers surround the entire from of this green starting 40-yards from the front. A front pin placement on this hole will make you think long and hard about your club selection.
5th Hole “Longview” Par 5, 526 yds is a monster. This fairway leads straight up a steep incline that starts out with 2 fairway bunkers waiting for an errant tee shot. Your 2nd shot is a blind shot over the top of the hill to a fairway that curves just enough to the left that you could leave a well struck ball in trees lining the left side or deep rough along the right side. A small green awaits your 3rd shot.
6th “Sidewinder” Par 4, 406 yds and 7th “Hidden Gem” Par 4, 345 yds holes both share the same hill. The 6th hole tee shot needs to stay right as the fairway slopes quickly left at 160 yds. A well-placed 2nd shot to a raised green will give you a birdie opportunity. The 7 hole requires a tee shot down the left side. Your approach shot will need to deal with a bunkered green, but a well-executed shot here will be rewarded.
8th hole “Drop off” Par 3, 176 yds is exactly what its name implies. Straight down the hill with a green that will hold a tee shot that is both well struck and lands softly. Otherwise, you might find yourself looking at a bogey or worst.
9th hole “Hideaway” Par 4, 378 yds brings you back up the hill to the clubhouse. It’s a beautiful hole that allows you to swing away with the tee shot but makes you think a little bit about your approach shot. It plays longer than it looks so either trust your fairway wood or fine a nice landing area to work from.
10th “Descent” Par 4, 374 yds and 11th “O’s Alley” Par 5, 514 yds are great beginning holes on the back nine. They both play relatively straight and seems to carry your tee shots further once they hit the fairway. Both give you a good chance to pick up a stoke but watch out for “O’s Alley” approach shot to a well fortified green with bunkers in front just waiting for a miss-placed long iron.
12th “Bridge Hole” Par 4, 343 yds is the beginning of aura of playing “Copperhead” spelled out on the side of the hill right of the tee box. It’s also your first water hole since the 5th tee shot. Be careful with your tee shot here as the fairway slopes towards the water. Approach shot is over water to a receptive green and a great birdie opportunity. Enjoy your trip over the bridge and take a picture!
13th “Forced Carry” Par 3, 148 yds has water from tee to green. It’s not a difficult hole to carry the water. Be courageous and swing easy. There’s a birdie waiting for you on the other shore.
14th “Packard’s Double Dogleg” Par 5, 532 yds is all about placement. There are no problems on your first two shots except for your execution. The doglegs do not interfere with any of your shots and the water on the right side of the fairway should not be a problem with your 3rd shot if you stay out of the bunkers.
15th “Snake Bite” Par 3, 171 yds starts out over water than over a long vertical trap before you reach a somewhat receptive green. This is a downhill shot that will require a shorter iron that will insure a softer landing on the green.
16th “Moccasin” Par 4, 376 yds is the beginning of the “Snake Pit Holes.” The next 3 holes are the most difficult finishing holes on the PGA Tour. Water runs along the right side to about 90 yds from the green. Trees along the entire length of the lefts side of the fairways seem to be stretching their branches towards the fairway. It’s a challenging hole that requires two well placed shots.
17th “The Rattler” Par 3, 171 yds is a slightly up hill tee shot to a well bunkered green. The bunkers are both somewhat deep and the green is pitch to the front. Hitting the green is almost the only way to insure a par on this hold.
18th “The Copperhead” Par 4, 376 yds sets the stage for a great finish to a challenging round of golf. Strategically placed bunkers from your tee shot to the green will shake the nerves of any golfer. The green is raised above the golfer’s head on the approach shot and anything left of the green may result in a bogey or better.
Copperhead Golf Course is made to challenge all levels of golfers. Its history speaks for itself, and its future will continue to add to its legacy. There’s nothing like “playing where the pros play” and walking in the footsteps of golfing legends is what golf dreams are made of. For me that dream came true!