North Course is the perfect opening play at Innisbrook golf resort near Tampa

By Jeff Berlinicke, Contributor

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- With four championship golf courses -- all in immaculate shape -- great resort housing, four restaurants and much more, Innisbrook has about all there is to offer when it comes to West Florida resort golf.

Innisbrook resort - North golf course
The 6,325-yard North Course is a great way to start a week at Innisbrook golf resort near Tampa.
Innisbrook resort - North golf courseInnisbrook resort - North golf course - no. 3Innisbrook resort - North GC - hole 3Innisbrook resort - North golf course - No. 10
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Highlands North Course at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club

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The 18-hole Highlands North Course at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club in Palm Harbor, FL is a resort golf course that opened in 1970. Designed by Larry & Roger Packard, Highlands North Course at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club measures 6325 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 127 and a 69.9 USGA rating. The course features 4 sets of tees for different skill levels. The greens are tiff eagle grass and the fairways are bermuda grass.

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 70 | 6325 yards | ... details »

There's a lot more. Innisbrook golf resort, located just north of Tampa and minutes from the Gulf of Mexico, features four golf courses, two of which play host to professional events.

The Copperhead is the centerpiece of the resort and hosts the PGA Transitions Championship every March.

In November, the Island Course, which some say is even more challenging than the Copperhead, will host the LPGA Legends Tour Championship.

Two other courses -- the North and South -- are also challenging and, between the four courses, it's easy to spend an entire week without leaving the Innisbrook property. In fact, the shuttle buses that carry guests all over the property are so convenient that you might not even want to leave the property, although there is plenty to do nearby, so a rental car might come in handy.

Not only are the beaches some of the nicest you can find, mostly quiet and serene without music blasting from boom boxes every 10 feet, but Tarpon Springs, a quaint little fishing village, is about 10 minutes away. Tarpon Springs is known for its shopping, its Greek food and, mostly, for its sponging industry. It's a great day trip to stick into the middle of a week of golf.

North Course at Innisbrook resort: The course

Let's start with Innisbrook's North Course, the shortest of all of the resort's courses.

It plays to 6,325 yards and is a great way to start a week at Innisbrook. The course has water on 11 holes and is a par 70, but don't let that fool you. The par 3s are monsters and all require carries over water. There are only two par 5s, but neither are reachable for anyone but the longest hitters.

"It's fair, and just because it isn't the longest course, it's still tough," said Tom Wiggum, a visitor from Orlando. "The course doesn't make you hit it far, but it's like a lot of Florida golf, just like Orlando. Hit it to the right place, and you can score. Otherwise, you're taking a drop."

The course gives you a break on the first two holes before a par-4 third hole gets things started. At 465 yards, it is long with a dogleg left that requires a draw, otherwise it's a layup and an up and down for par.

The par-3 fourth is 220 from the tips and is the longest par-3 on the course. The weather conditions in North Tampa are usually docile, but the wind kicks up in the winter and early spring, so No. 4 is no fun when the wind is up. Ask anyone on the PGA Tour who shows up for the Transitions Championship.

The 510-yard eighth hole is unreachable for most golfers, especially with the bunkers that surround the green. Getting on in three is the best bet, although like most holes at Innisbrook, the greens are undulating and fast. Do not be certain of a two-putt.

The back side is the shorter of the two, but the 510-yard, par-5 10th isn't a great way to get started. Like the eighth, it isn't reachable unless you can bomb the second shot. Lay up and get the par and get out. That's the last par-5 you have to deal with.

The North Course isn't the most difficult of the four Innisbrook courses but some say that it is tougher than the much longer South Course.

"The North Course is my favorite," said Tom Johnson, of Jacksonville. "It isn't brutal like some of them, and, to be honest, it gives me some confidence before I hit the Copperhead and the Island. It's tougher than the South Course."

North Course at Innisbrook resort: The verdict

The North Course is a great warmup for the Copperhead Course and Island Course.

It's in immaculate shape, and the resort has everything you could want, although there is not a lot for the kids.

Innisbrook is a great week for a golf junket with superior facilities and four challenging courses. They are all tough in their own way, and it is tempting to stay the entire time at the resort. But take a day off and head to Tarpon Springs and get some great Greek food.

Jeff BerlinickeJeff Berlinicke, Contributor

Jeff Berlinicke is a golf writer based in Tampa, Fla. He writes for multiple publications including the Tampa Tribune, Golf Fitness Magazine, and the Associated Press. He has also received multiple honors from the Florida Press Association.

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