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No third wheel: Don't overlook Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club's Highlands North Course

Innisbrook Resort's Highlands Course - Hole 5
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A lot of care is put into Innisbrook's Highlands North golf course and golfers are noticing. (Courtesy of innisbrookgolfresort.com)

Even if you've already heard of Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club - and it's hard for a golfer not to have these days with all the PGA Tour player praise and renovation buzz produced by new ownership - you might not realize that this Tampa golf mainstay has four championship caliber golf courses.

That's right, four.

Innisbrook's Copperhead Course is known throughout the country as the PGA Tour course that the best players in the world love. U.S. Ryder Cup Team captain Paul Azinger calls Copperhead, "the best course we play on Tour."

If people aren't talking Copperhead, they're gushing about Innisbrook's Island Course, which received almost $2 million in renovation work as soon as Sheila Johnson - co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) - took ownership of Innisbrook, and now has many members saying they like it even better than Copperhead.

That's only two of Innisbrook's four courses, though, and the reason it's easy to fall in love with Innisbrook just might be the Highlands North Course. Probably considered the third course at this 900-acre Florida nature wonderland that's a 40-minute drive from downtown Tampa and only 90 minutes from Disney World, Highlands North would be the showcase course at many good golf resorts.

Highlands North throws one of the more memorable water runs in golf at you - seven straight holes where Florida's wet stuff is in play starting with No. 3, which only happens to be a long par 4 that's as dramatic as Nathan Lane in "The Producers."

Stellar Highlands North golf course shows Innisbrook's depth

The third at Highlands North is a 465-yard hole with water on both sides of the fairway and a separate significant forced water carry right in front of the green. At most golf resorts, this is a hole that's used in the postcards. At Innisbrook, it just shows the golf depth at a place where you can stay for a week and never come close to growing tired of all the golf courses at your disposal.

With Johnson set on making everything at the resort better, everything first class, Highlands North underwent recent course enhancements too - geared toward adding some length to several of the par 4s and par 5s. This course is already known for its challenging, eye-pleasing par 3s, including the back-to-back No. 15 and No. 16 par 3s.

Highlands North's bunkers and waste-areas have also been improved. On a tight golf course with well-guarded greens that can make all the difference.

Highlands North actually has a very similar terrain to the much-lauded Copperhead and its course conditions are right up there too. There is a lot of care put into Innisbrook's Highlands North and golfers are noticing.

"I know everyone raves about Copperhead and Islands, but I could not help noticing the beauty of Highlands North this time," guest J.M. of Clearwater, Fla. wrote after a recent visit. "The landscaping and conditioning was phenomenal and truly striking."

Does that sound like a second-thought golf course?

What helps set Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club apart is how all four of its golf courses are maintained and the variety of golf experiences guests can enjoy. So talk about the famed Copperhead and the resurgent Island Course all you want as you prepare for your Innisbrook getaway.

Just don't be surprised if you're telling your buddies all about the Highlands North Course when you get back home.

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