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Play your own Florida Swing near Innisbrook during the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship

Ed SchmidtBy Ed Schmidt,
Wentworth Golf Club
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Wentworth Golf Club, a Steve Smyers design, is less than 10 minutes from Innisbrook. (Courtesy of Wentworth G.C.)

The PGA Tour's Florida Swing stops at the Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort near Clearwater every March for the Valspar Championship.

While many in the media understandably focus on the great golf offerings at Innisbrook, there are other excellent places to tee up in the area.

With its white sand beaches and easily accessible golf courses, the Clearwater area is ideal for those seeking the quintessential Florida golf vacation. Better still, for those who want to travel across the bay to Tampa, there are even more excellent places to tee it up.

The sprawling Innisbrook resort has four championship layouts, highlighted by the Copperhead Course, where the PGA Tour pros tee it up in the Valspar Championship.

Here are some other options in the area.

Minutes away

Less than a 10-minute drive north of Innisbrook on Highway 19 is Wentworth Golf Club in Tarpon Springs. Opened in 1990, this meticulously conditioned Steve Smyers design is uncontrived with naturally rolling terrain, beautiful tree growth and speedy greens with new Platinum Paspalum turf.

In Clearwater, two excellent options are Cove Cay Golf Club, which is situated along Tampa Bay with water on 12 of its holes, and Clearwater Country Club, a fairly flat layout built in 1920 dotted with mature oak and palm trees.

For short-course enthusiasts, Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club in Clearwater is a 5,454-yard, par-69 course with two-tiered greens, 70 sand traps and grass bunkers. It's a great place for juniors, seniors, beginners and those who want to sharpen their short games.

Let's play 36

The Eagles Golf Club in Odessa, about a 15-minute drive east of Innisbrook, is a 36-hole complex ideal for those who want to play till the sun goes down.

With its contoured fairways and well-protected greens, Eagles' Forest Course is a shotmaker's delight. NBC-TV commentator and course architect Gary Koch designed the front nine, and Lakeland, Fla.-based designer Ron Garl designed the back nine.

The Eagles' Lakes Course can best be described as "water, water everywhere" as water comes into play on virtually every hole. Both nines on the Lakes layout begin with risk/reward par 5s, so you will quickly find out where your game stands.

Heading to Largo

Approximately a 20-minute drive from Innisbrook in Largo is East Bay Golf Club, one of the area's more established courses.

Opened in 1961 and designed by William Mitchell, the course is completely overseeded in the winter months and is considered by many as one of the best values in the Tampa Bay area.

Mitchell's design provides generous landing areas off the tee, however. Water comes into play on 14 holes, and undulating greens provide additional challenge.

Tampa-area golf courses

Tampa has dozens of golf courses throughout its metropolitan area. It's about a 25-minute drive from Innisbrook to downtown Tampa.

Two of the closest Tampa courses to Innisbrook are Westchase Golf Club and Rocky Point Golf Course.

Designed by Lloyd Clifton in 1992, Westchase is a wonderland of natural wetlands, lush fairways, large greens, wooden bridges and bulkheads. It has been recognized by the National Golf Foundation for its outstanding course conditions, service and value.

Rocky Point, located near the Tampa International Airport, is a traditional course that opened in 1911. Mature tree growth, wildlife habitats and bird sanctuaries enhance the overall golf experience.

A rewarding and fun short course is Countryway Golf Club. Owned by two families, which include Dave Creighton and his son Adam, who both played in the NHL, the course is affordable and playable for all skill levels. Designed by Smyers, the par-61 layout consists of seven par 4s and 11 par 3s.

Another option

If you don't want to stray too far from Innisbrook, there is another good place to tee it up within a 15-minute drive: Countryside Country Club, which features 27 holes of golf, three nines -- Bayhead, Lake and Pine -- designed by Gary Player.

More photos

The Eagles Golf ClubEast Bay Golf Club - 14th holeWestchase Golf Club

Ed Schmidt, publisher of The Golf Travel Guru Blog, is the author of two books on Florida golf and more than 2,500 articles and columns on golf resorts, courses and destinations around the world. Follow Ed on Twitter at @golftravelguy.

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