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A Phantastic Retreat

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This aerial view of Copperhead’s third hole shows its size and beauty. If you like golf and the Phillies, and you plan to hit spring training at Clearwater Beach, Fla., consider checking into Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club.

Both the resort and Bright House Field, the spring training home of the Fightin’ Phils, are located on Route 19, and are just 10 miles apart. Innisbrook, a mere 30 minutes from the Tampa International Airport, boasts four super courses including the renowned Island Course as well as Copperhead (7,340 yards from the tips) home of the PGA Tour’s Transition Championship every March.

Play an early morning round at Copperhead, Island, or the North and South Highland courses and you’ll have plenty of time to catch a Phillies game at Bright House Field. Games usually start at 1 p.m., though the Phils don’t play every day. That means more time for a few afternoon rounds.

Architect Lawrence Packard, whose biography, “Double Doglegs and Other Hazards,” is telling because two of the par 5s on Copperhead are double doglegs. Packard designed all four of the beautifully maintained courses. Copperhead’s par 71 layout has five par 3s with the shortest being 195 yards.

“If I could only play one course the rest of my life, it would be Copperhead,” says Curtis Strange, the 2002 Ryder Cup Captain and two-time U.S. Open Champion. “It has that much character.”

Almost identical in length to Copperhead, the Island Course is considered by pros to be the toughest of the four courses. Ranked one of the country’s top 50 resort courses by Golf Digest, Island offers tight fairways, breathtaking views and several water hazards (including the signature par-5 seventh hole that straddles Lake Innisbrook).

Both Island and Copperhead courses offer dramatic elevation changes and numerous cedars and pines more typical of Carolina than Florida. All four courses offer four sets of tee boxes. Golfers can choose their challenge levels.

Sheila C. Johnson, founder and CEO of Salamander Farms LLC, purchased and renovated Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in 2009. As Golf Magazine’s “Top 100 You Can Play,” and Golf Digest’s “Top 75 Golf Resorts in America,” luxurious Innisbrook accommodates small and large groups. If you go with your golf buddies, couples or families you’ll enjoy condo-style, low-rise suites surrounded by 900 acres of rolling hills and 70 acres of lakes. Amenities include a 20,000-square-foot Indaba Spa, 11 tennis courts, four swimming pools, water slides, fishing, jogging and cycling trails and a nature walk.

With so many fine amenities, you might not want to leave. But Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club is so close to major attractions, you can be persuaded. In addition to Bright House Field, Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club is close to Gulf of Mexico beaches and lots of deep-sea fishing. Sports lovers can catch Tampa Bay’s professional sports teams like the Rays, Buccaneers and Lightning. And if you desire a night on the town, the Tampa/St. Petersburg dining and arts scene is a short drive away.

Hole No. 18 at Innisbrook’s Island Course.Those heading to the PGA Tour’s Transition Championship in March enjoy suites on the course, complete with views of multiple holes. Also, the LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship returns to the Island Course Nov. 11-13. Not a golf fan but are traveling with someone who is? Innisbrook hosts non-golf events throughout the year, such as “Weekend of Exotic Luxuries” Nov. 18-19. This festival showcases exotic cars, fashion, and local artisans works.

Whatever time of year, there are myriad golf packages that include golf, rooms, meals, golf clinics and practice facilities. The exceptional service—especially the shuttle bus service that takes you anywhere on the property—is designed for the golfer looking to sharpen his or her game. Do consider hopping the shuttle to the Innisbrook Golf Institute, rated one of the “Top 25 Golf Schools” in the nation by Golf  Magazine. Staff male and female instructors will strengthen your game and evaluate your equipment, or they’ll teach strengthening and
stretching exercises.

It will be hard to leave Innisbrook. That is, unless the Phillies are playing.

Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, 36750 U.S. Highway 10 North, Innisbrook, FL 34684; innisbrookgolfresort.com, (727) 942-2000, (800) 492-6899.

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