Hole-by-hole: Innisbrook's Highlands South course combines the best of past and present

By Tom Spousta, Contributor

Playing the Highlands South Course at Innisbrook? Need some local knowledge? Host Professional Jay Overton has been at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club for three decades.

18 Holes | Resort | Par: 71 | 6620 yards
Highlands South at Innisbrook
Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club's Highlands South course opens up considerably on holes 5-13.
Highlands South at InnisbrookHighlands South at Innisbrook - Fairway

TampaBayGolf.com recently sat down with Overton and asked him to take us through the Highlands South, Copperhead, Island, and Highlands North golf courses.

Highlands South: Overview

The South is a combination of nine holes of the original Sandpiper course that was set in a lowland area. In 1995, the resort carved out nine more holes from a citrus grove and cattle farm, forming the new loop. The younger holes are a little more wide open at the landing areas; the older holes resemble a tighter, more Florida-style, tree-lined layout.

It features long par 3s, five of them all told, and from the black tees, they measure from 170 to 215 yards. Even from the green tees, only two are under 160 yards.

Highlands South's front 9 vs. back 9

You don't make a turn on this course. The South goes in continuous links, with about the only major difference being the three par 3s on the front nine. Another: The golf course ends with a par 3, a 185-yard hole from a tee box that juts into the water.

Overall, the Highlands South's length comes from the par 3s on both sides and the two hefty par 5s on the back. In a unique twist, you have to make up your scoring on the par 4s.

"The course plays a lot longer than the card indicates," Overton said. "But there are no overpowering par 4s on the golf course."

Here Overton offers his analysis on the South's design and a few of its more-challenging holes:

No. 2: 500 yards, par 5

This is another one of course architect Larry Packard's signature holes, a double dogleg par 5 with water coming into play twice. It's easily reachable in two shots, but the second one better be perfect across a pond and over a greenside bunker. Or just layup to the 84-yard marker in front of water at the end of the fairway. Basically, you can hit anything here.

No. 8 on Highlands South: 525 yards, par 5

This is a gorgeous hole that works up a hill and meanders to the right. A long pond sits to the right side of the landing area and narrows the fairway, forcing you to really think about your tee shot. The green can be reached in two shots, but most people just play a 3-wood off the tee and layup to 80 yards. Water, bunkers and trees frame this hole perfectly.

No. 9 on Highlands South: 190 yards, par 3

It's rare that you see a downhill par 3 in Florida, but here's a subtle, eye-catching shot to a peninsula green surrounded by water and marsh and framed by a bulkhead. It's one of the best par 3s on the property, Overton said. You'll need a 5-iron or hybrid club.

No. 13 on Highlands South: 560 yards, par 5

There's no water but plenty of strategy on this linksy-looking hole in order to avoid several bunkers in the fairway and at the green. This is the last of the new holes built, as well as the last of the spacious driving areas. It's a critical hole to have a good score on, because you can't expect to score easily the last five holes. Unreachable. Period. "I don't know of anybody whose gotten there in two," Overton said. "Same for No. 15."

No. 15 on Highlands South: 555 yards, par 5

Water winds down both sides, and at about 280 yards off the tee, a pond cuts all the way across the fairway. You cannot go over that, so it strategically neutralizes the longer players. The layup is no bargain, either, what with water and sand creating a very tight landing area. You have to play it back about 110 yards from the green, according to Overton. Even if you hit driver or 3-wood off the tee, you might still need a 5-wood or hybrid for your layup.

No. 16 on Highlands South: 190 yards, par 3

This hole is a bruiser. It can play 225 yards or longer, depending on the wind. There's water on the right, left and behind the green. The bunker on the left looks closer to the green than it is. You need a high, soft shot to get it close to the hole. "I have to hit 4-iron or a hybrid club here, and I have a hard time hitting this green," Overton said.

Tom SpoustaTom Spousta, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tom Spousta keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. He has covered golf and other sports for USA Today and The New York Times. Tom lives on a Donald Ross-designed golf course in Sarasota, Fla.


 
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