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Planning a buddies trip? The Snake Pit at Innisbrook Resort

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Innisbrook

Recently, I was elected by my group of buddies to plan a golf trip for my brother’s 30th birthday. It’s a thankless job with little reward and maximum risk. If it goes wrong, it’s your fault. If it goes right, well, let’s not get carried away…

I polled the guys on what destination they wanted as a humble and democratic leader. The destination had to be in Florida, somewhat affordable, have fun things to do besides golf, with accommodations capable of housing all of us, a great 19th hole for watching the games that weekend, and, the real kicker, it had to be a PGA Tour stop.

Ridiculously lofty demands, I know. Lucky for them, I had an ace in the hole — the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club.

The Innisbrook Resort near Tampa is one of those places that can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. With resorts like Sawgrass, Doral, Streamsong, and a slew of others filling the landscape of Florida golf destinations, standing out in the crowd is no easy task. Even Innisbrook’s Tour stop — the Valspar Championship — is somewhat overshadowed thanks to being sandwiched between two titans of the game: The Donald (as in Trump) and The King (as in Arnie).

And yet, Innisbrook was the only logical choice to appease the audacious trip-planning stipulations of my buddies. The enormous two-bedroom villa was plenty of space for our group, and it’s location on the hole No. 14 of the Copperhead course was handy for a bit of glow golf under the moonlight. The bar at Market Salamander was also a great spot to enjoy a few beverages while watching college football and exchanging mildly (read: wildly) exaggerated stories around the outdoor firepit. But what really made Innisbrook the obvious choice for our group had nothing to do with golf, accommodations, or where we watched the big game…

It was all about Ribfest.

Just across the bay, and through an incredible stroke of luck, the annual St. Petersburg Ribfest was being held the very same weekend. If there’s any bit of sage wisdom I can pass along to someone planning a buddies golf trip, it’s to check and see if there is a festival or local event taking place nearby. Trust me when I say it will improve any golf trip by epic proportions — and your buddies might… they just might… commend your wisdom.

Although an abundance of mouth-watering barbeque goodness temporarily convinced us otherwise, golf was still the real reason we made the trip to Innisbrook. That part of the adventure began on the Island course — the lesser known, yet equally impressive layout designed by Larry Packard. The Island started out with a bang, an intimidating stretch of holes right of out the gate, before going tame on the back nine. The par-3 4th hole was particularly memorable, with a single cypress tree standing in a bunker directly in the line of play.

Innisbrook1

The Island made for a great tune-up, but it was the next day’s match on Copperhead that brought us to Innisbrook. Like its sister course, the Copperhead featured a great deal of elevation change — at least relatively speaking for Central Florida — as well as a few blind shots, which always add some excitement to the play. For this reason, I’d suggest picking up a yardage book so you know what lies ahead in these places. Driving the ball is key at the Copperhead, but the course plays very fair and was never unjustly penal, though the greenside rough was no walk in the park. My favorite hole was No. 5 — a beast of a par-5 that plays up and over a ridge, and thanks to the wind, was every bit of 650 yards.

Innisbrook2

It’s a thrill anytime you can tee it up where the pros do, and in this way Copperhead did not disappoint, though my scorecard would disagree. The closing stretch of holes, known as the Snake Pit, gets much of the attention when the Tour rolls to town. But, like the Island course, I preferred the front side to the back. Of course this is highly subjective, but I came away from Innisbrook pondering how great it would be to play a composite course using the front nines of both the Island and Copperhead.

Innisbrook3

For those planning a Florida golf trip, Innisbrook makes a solid choice for home base. In addition to the great golf on property, there are several noteworthy courses around the Tampa area, with Orlando and Streamsong within reach for those looking to branch out for a day. The traveler who also wants the vibe of a city may find Innisbrook’s sleepy atmosphere and location in relation to Tampa a little wanting, but in terms of a true golf resort destination, it’s hard to beat.

Standing out in the crowded Florida golf market is no easy task, but anytime Innisbrook registers on my golf travel radar, I’m always really glad it did.

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D.J. Jones is a lifelong golfer and plays to a 6 handicap when he’s not too busy pursuing his other great passion – travel. Tag along with his golf and travel adventures on his blog, The World of Deej.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. TPgolf

    Jan 5, 2015 at 8:18 am

    All of these are great but I must also recommend Lake Jovita country club. Two courses both a must play when your in the Tampa Bay area. Its not uncommon to see tour players there as they have a few resident pga tour players.

  2. Red

    Jan 1, 2015 at 10:40 am

    I live in SW Florida and my wife and I are fortunate enough to stay at Innisbrook now and then. We prefer the Island course and have been told by staff there that the PGA event would be best played on the Island, but that course has little room for the gallery. That said, we love Innisbrook!!!

  3. Square

    Dec 31, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    I’ve played Innisbrook many times. It’s nice, but there are better courses in the area, Southern Hills Plantation, World Woods, TPC of Tampa Bay. If you want a buddy’s trip, it’s a good place for a resort but the course, meh…..I still don’t know why the pros say they love it so much.

    • Bert

      Jan 27, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      Can’t go wrong at Southern Hills in Brooksville. Had a great time there.

  4. JohnW.

    Dec 31, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Great write up. This place has been on my radar for some time, I cannot wait to go.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: George Dunne National in Oak Forest, Illinois

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member DeeBee30, who takes us to George Dunne National in Oak Forest, Illinois. The course is a part of the Illinois Forest Preserve golf system, and in DeeBee30’s description of the course, the challenge provided is underlined as just one of the highlights of the course.

“Really fun tree-lined parkland layout with some interesting holes that cover rolling terrain that you don’t find in many Chicago-area golf courses.  Coming in at 7262 yards and 75.4/142 from the tips, Dunne offers four sets of tees that will provide a good test for most golfers.  The course gets a lot of play, but it’s always in great condition.”

According to George Dunne National’s website, 18 holes during the week will cost in the region of $40, while the rate rises to $75 should you want to play on the weekend.

@ThomasRWitt1963

@GolfTfs

@Kurtis1908

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Hidden Gem of the Day: Gearhart Golf Links in Gearhart, Oregon

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member Mr Guy, who takes us to Gearhart Golf Links in Gearhart, Oregon. Established in 1892, Gearhart Golf Links is the oldest course on the Oregon coast, and in his description of the track, Mr Guy praises the design of the course.

“Super fun links design out on the northern Oregon course. Ocean not visible but right near it and there a few holes that would not be out of place anywhere.”

According to Gearhart Golf Links’ website, 18 holes can be played for $50, however, to play in peak summer months will set you back $85.

@rg_ducksports

@mauilou808

@tonijdear

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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19th Hole

Exploring Ireland: Where to golf, drink and stay on the Emerald Isle. Pt. 4. Bearna Golf Club, Galway

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In these series of articles, I will be taking you around the Emerald Isle providing you with great golf courses to visit in some of the loveliest spots in Ireland. I’ll also be highlighting the best and most authentic Irish bars in these spots, as well as places to stay, eat and how to get there. Whether you’re taking a golfing holiday to Ireland in 2019 or are interested in doing so sometime in the future, I’ll make sure to let you in on the best places to spend your time.

In Part Three of our Exploring Ireland Series, we went west and focused on Spanish Point Golf Club in Clare. Now it’s time for Part Four, and we’re staying on the west coast and taking the short trip up to County Galway.

Galway city is famous for its bustling nightlife, and in terms of bars to choose from, there are few better places in Ireland. Whether it’s a quiet night out and a meal, enjoying a few pints with some live traditional music, or a wild all-nighter you’re looking for, Galway certainly has you covered. Conveniently, the city also homes some top golf courses, which makes it a must-visit destination for anyone coming to this island.

Bearna Golf Club, Galway

@kevinmarkham

Galway Golf Club and Galway Bay Golf Resort are usually the two golf courses that people think of when they mention this county. But lurking under the radar is Bearna Golf Club, which will provide you with just as incredible an experience as those two courses, at a lower price.

Located within a 15-minute drive of Galway City, Bearna GC offers an authentic Irish golfing experience. Surrounded by bogland, you can expect your nose to take in all of the scents of Ireland as you navigate your way through the rugged land of humps, gorse bushes and ditches that will give your game a real workout.

@kevinmarkham

Creeks will appear on most fairways, so don’t expect to be able to turn up and grip it and rip it. Bearna is a golf course that is going to make you think, and with the challenges provided, will most likely test your patience as well as your skill.

The track offers five different sets of tees, all of which provide for a fun test. The course ranges between 4,897 yards and 6,271 yards and plays as either a Par 72 or 71 depending on the tees you choose. Thirteen holes feature water, and the one relief that you will find here that is different than other courses in the area is the lack of fairway bunkers.

@IrishGolfPhotos

Robert J. Browne designed the course back in 1996, and as well as the feeling you will have of being amongst nature, you will also have impressive views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and the famous Burren.

During the week, 18 holes around Bearna GC will set you back just under $50, while to play on the weekend the rate rises to $75. Don’t be surprised if after your round you want another crack at this deceptive course.

Food & Drink – Tig Coili, Galway

@DBloom451

There is no “best pub in Galway.” The city has an inordinate amount of amazing watering holes to spend your night, and it just comes down to personal taste and what experience you are looking to have for your night. As someone who loves the feel of an old traditional Irish pub though, Tig Coili gets my vote.

@stacy_sobieski

Located in the Latin Quarter of Galway City, this place will often have swarms of people flooding out from the bar onto the street. Traditional music plays here every night, with 14 music sessions each week. The pub prides itself on its music, with pictures of famous musicians that have played here in the past covering the walls.

Also, Tig Coili’s pint of Guinness is renowned for being one of the best in the area, and it’s what 90 percent of folks will be drinking for the night here.

@MeetInGalway

As for food in Galway, it can only be oysters. Described by multiple top chefs as the “best flavoured in the world,” the oysters here come from Galway Bay and are so popular in the city that should you visit here in September you can enjoy Galway’s three day Oyster festival.

You can hop into most bars in Galway serving food and throw back half a dozen oysters, but if you want to experience them for a sit-down meal then go and visit Oscars Seafood Bistro, where the flavour will blow your socks off. An early bird two-course meal of half a dozen oysters and a plate of steaming hot mussels with fries will cost just $20. The perfect drink pairing for oysters? Guinness. Ideal.

Where To Stay

My recommendation is to stay in the center of Galway. We’ve gone traditional in our visits to Donegal and Clare, but for Galway, the city is so alive that you will want to stay right in the heart of it. The Jury’s Inn is a solid option, which will leave you within walking distance of the best bars, restaurants and sights to see in the city. A double room here will set you back in the region of $100 a night.

@WriterVicYates

If you like to shop then visit Quay Street, where you can take in the shops while plenty of buskers on the street entertain you, while the bronze statue of Irish writer Oscar Wilde and Estonian writer Eduard Vilde is an imposing outdoor sight that is a trendy spot for a photo.

@IndoSport

But as we’re sports lovers, then when in Galway do whatever you can to catch a game of hurling. Galway’s hurling side are currently one of the best teams in the land, winning the All-Ireland title in 2017, and they possess some of the most passionate fans. Just try not to mention the last final when you get here.

How to Get There

Galway is about as accessible as it gets from anywhere in the island. You can take the train from any major city in Ireland, and it’ll take you right into the city center of Galway. A direct train from Dublin City will arrive in Galway in just over two hours.

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