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With challenging par 5s, Highlands South course keeps Innisbrook Resort golfers on their toes

Innisbrook Resort's Highlands South - Hole 18
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Highlands South has a variety of excellent holes, including the closer, a picturesque par 3 over water into a deep green. (Courtesy of innisbrookgolfresort.com)

PALM HARBOR, Fla. - Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club is famous for the breezes that come sweeping off the Gulf of Mexico and caress golfers on its four championship golf courses.

The sprawling resort's most well-known golf course, Copperhead, is where the PGA Tour pros have teed it up, a superb layout that has drawn praise from the playing pros and amateurs alike.

The resort recently upgraded the Island course, and the Highlands North course has drawn praise for its scenic beauty.

But, the fourth course in Innisbrook's arsenal, Highlands South, is no slouch either.

Like the other courses at the resort, Highlands South was designed by Larry and Roger Packard. Opened in 1998, it has manageable length at 6,620 yards with a slope rating of 130, which puts it in the challenging but not overwhelming category. Four sets of tees take the length down to 4,975 yards, making it enjoyable for women.

It's a scenic golf course, a links-like design with rolling, undulating terrain, numerous fairway bunkering and ample waste bunkers. This being Florida, there is also a lot of water: 10 water hazards in all. The winds that blow in from the Gulf often make the greens very fast.

Highlands South, open to resort guests and members, doesn't get the publicity the Copperhead and Island courses enjoy, but for golfers who love challenging par 5s, this could be their favorite: All of the par 5s on Highlands South are ranked as the hardest holes on the course, which is unusual.

It starts with the 500-yard second hold. Fairly short for a par 5, the hole doglegs to the right off the tee, with a lake dead ahead, so a long draw is the best bet off the tee. It's a classic risk/reward hole. Water cuts across the fairway, forming into a large pool on the right. Do go for it or lay up? If you go for it, water runs up close to the green on the right, with scant bail-out room left because of bunkering and more water.

No. 8 is 525-yarder that's rated the hardest hole on the course, a beautiful hole that features a serpentine lake ahead of you when you tee off. If you don't play far enough left, you'll be hitting your second shot over water, coming into a small, tricky, circular green.

The 13th hole is the longest hole on the course at 560-yards. It's another interesting, risk-reward layout. It's a fairly straight hole until you approach the green, which is set at a sharp left angle to the fairway. A good drive will set you up to reach in two, but you'll be hitting over a series of big bunkers, and the fairway to the right shrinks down to a thin ribbon. You're coming into a green that drops off sharply to the left.

No. 15 is the last of the three-shotters you'll face, the second-hardest hole at Highlands South. It also has water to be avoided on both sides of the fairway. The hole bends gradually right, and you're second shot is over a canal that cuts across the fairway. The fairway then narrows, with water right and left. The green drops off right; don't be long, there are bunkers in back.

Highlands South has a variety of excellent holes, including the closer, a picturesque par 3 over water into a deep green.

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