Innisbrook Copperhead



Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Gets Its Bite Back

I recently had the opportunity to visit the magnificent Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida to learn firsthand about the restoration of the Resort’s “Crown Jewel”, the Copperhead golf course. The Copperhead is where Jordan Spieth started his remarkable winning season of 2015 at the age of 21, out dueling Sean O’Hair and Patrick Reed on the third playoff hole to win the Valspar Championship presented by BB&T, which will be played this year March 10-13, with Jordan defending. Copperhead, which opened in 1972, has hosted a professional golf tournament for the past 25 years. It was time to sharpen the fangs and get ‘Its Bite Back’.

NBC Golf Commentator and PGA professional Gary Koch was our host for the press conference at Packard’s Steak House, named for the famed golf course architect, Larry Packard, who originally designed all of Innisbrook’s four outstanding golf layouts and known as the ‘father of the double dog leg’. Koch, a long time Tampa resident, grew up playing what he called “The Grand Dame” of Florida golf courses, Copperhead. He introduced Sheila C. Johnson, Founder & CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, the owner and force behind all the new amenities and refurbishings going on at Innisbrook Resort. Sheila told us that at the end of the 2015 Valspar tournament, she decided to commit millions of dollars to get the bite back in the Copperhead. Larry Packard’s design was always a favorite of the Tour players, and they loved bringing their families to the Resort. The course didn’t need any real changes made to it. What it needed was the tee boxes rebuilt and laser leveled, new Celebration Bermuda grass in the fairways to improve the hitting surface, Tif-Eagle Bermuda on newly rebuilt greens to USGA specifications that were restored to their original size, and a more efficient irrigation system to make sure the course gets even coverage.

The restoration project also included the reshaping and rebuilding of Copperhead’s strategically placed bunkers, including the addition of a set of staircase traps on the already tough uphill 18th hole. Some of the bunkers were repositioned to allow for the additional distance of the Professionals’ shots. At the practice facility, an additional tier was added to the driving range and a new short-game area was added as well. Many holes had new forward tees put in to make the high handicappers and ladies able to enjoy their Copperhead golf experience more.

In the spirit of recent sustainability initiatives by the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association, which Sheila Johnson is an officer and executive committee member, the course’s irrigation system was improved to include 500 new sprinkler heads and save 11 million gallons of water per year-enough to fill 1,100 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

jordan spieth“We are excited about the impact of the design enhancements and agronomic improvements which undoubtedly will further Copperhead Course’s reputation as a favorite among the players,” said Andy Pazder, Chief of Operations for the PGA TOUR.

“While the integrity of Larry Packard’s original green designs has been maintained and in some instances actually restored, work in and around a number of the greens has given us the flexibility of utilizing new hole locations in conjunction with expanded areas or reduced severity of some slopes. Between Salamander’s investment to make these improvements and the continued strong commitment by the title sponsor, the Valspar Championship is very well positioned for the future.”

For more information on the tournament in March, visit

“This restoration project respects and protects the vision of Larry Packard and his signature design, and further elevates the golf experience for our guests, members, partners and playing professionals,” said Sheila. “This project is the latest of numerous improvements Salamander has made to Innisbrook, cementing its reputation as one of America’s top golf destinations.”

Innisbrook is operated by Salamander Hotels and Resorts and is situated on 900 wooded acres of rolling hills in Palm Harbor on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Once inside the gates you are immediately captured by the beauty and extent of the resort amenities.

Innisbrook features 72 holes of unparalleled championship golf, 550 spacious and beautifully appointed guest suites and rooms, four restaurants & three bars, the Innisbrook Golf Academy, 11 tennis courts, the luxurious Indaba Spa with 12 treatment rooms and state of the art Fitness Center, six heated swimming pools, a nature preserve and three conference halls with over 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space. Getting around the lovely landscaped property is as simple as getting on one of the buses with drivers who have been here for ages and know every point of interest at the Resort.

For additional information visit or call 727-942-2000.

salamander resort

Dave Daubert

Lehigh University graduate, Procter & Gamble retired. Previously a Managing Editor and Feature Writer for a regional golf monthly magazine for 11 years. Married to wife Carol and residing in Solivita, an active adult community in Central Florida

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