I’ve played all four of the Innisbrook golf courses over the past few months. The resort, a Salamander property (owned by hotel and media maven Sheila Johnson) sits in the shady wooded suburbs of Palm Harbor, Florida, about 40 minutes north of Tampa’s airport. It has the four courses, three different practice areas, tennis, fitness center, incredible spa, and swimming pools. Moss-draped live oaks, cypress lakes, and blooming flowers make the landscape memorable. It’s all you need for a girl’s golf getaway. Innisbrook gets very high ratings from Second Chance Travels.
Find them online at www.innisbrookgolfresort.com.
Here are our findings:
Style—B: Constructed in the 1970s, the exterior of the buildings still exhibit a low-slung style, with faux Mansard roofs throughout the sizable property. Inside the guest rooms and public spaces, updated decor leans towards the country club-ish. It’s comfortable, yet sophisticated enough to make you feel like you’re getting a good bargain in an upscale place.
Accommodations—B+: Long two-story buildings hold ground floor and second story units, most with either full kitchens or kitchenettes (some are privately owned). Beds include excellent mattresses, while the bathrooms are 1970s small, with just sinks, toilets, and tub/showers. The rooms lack enough mirrors for our tastes. Living areas include upgraded upholstered furnishings. It’s a comfy spot to spend a few days. Biggest bonus? Free laundry facility in each building. That’s terrific after sweating on the golf course for a few days.
Food—B+: The rating is based on the excellent quality of the food; to achieve a higher ranking, we’d want more creativity in menus. We ate breakfast in the Salamander Grill in the main building, as well as in the Turnberry Pub by the Island Course. Food was fresh, served quickly, and no complaints. Lunches in both places were similar, always with fresh salads and healthy choices. The chef came out every day and checked on our satisfaction. In the evenings the menu at the Salamander Grill offers a few more upscale dishes. The chef excels at prepping fresh locally-caught fish. The fanciest restaurant is Packard’s Steakhouse. White tablecloths, attentive service, and excellent beef and fresh fish make for a high-end evening. The bar at Packard’s is a fun gathering spot for post-golf refreshments. We really loved the apps there as well, especially the Kona-crusted lamb chop lollipops and the bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp. A multitude of chain and locally-owned restaurants sit just off the property along US 19 if you have a car to explore.
Golf for Women—A+: Each of the four courses–the Copperhead (home of the PGA Valspar tourney), the Island, the North, and the South—have solid forward tees that provide strategic launching spots for lady hitters. These are not afterthoughts here, but well-thought out positions for striking your drive. The par 3s include a range of options too, with short and long distance options. The par 5s, especially on the Copperhead, North, and South courses, tempt birdie hitters with greens reachable in 2. The South course may be the easiest, while the front 9 on the Island is decidedly the most difficult with narrow cypress-tree lined fairways, ample water and marshes to attract errant balls.
Friendliness to Lady Golfers—A+: This is one of friendliest facilities we’ve encountered. The men running the carts, marshaling the courses, working in the pro shops, and even the male members playing in front and behind us, all treated us as if we were regular and respectable golfers. Kudos!
Extra Notables: After my first visit to Innisbrook (a work trip—see Disclosure below), I decided to return to take part in one of the 4-day Ladies Ultimate Golf Institutes. Run by Dawn Mercer, Innisbrook’s Director of Golf Instruction, a Class-A PGA pro, the program pairs Dawn with a maximum of four students. She spends half days on the practice facility followed by afternoons on the courses. Dawn’s fun energy and positive approach to golf inspires the high handicapper as well as the single-digit one looking to fine tune. I’m hooked on Dawn’s approach, and plan to return next spring for another tune-up session.
Prices: The 4-day Ladies Ultimate Golf Institute costs $1221 for double occupancy. That includes 3 nights lodging, 1 dinner, 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 half days on the practice facility, and 36 holes of golf. An incredible bargain. Greens fees at the Island and Copperhead courses are $125.
Disclosure: My first visit in November 2016, the resort hosted me as a journalist. Innsbrook paid for my accommodations, two rounds of golf, and a spa visit. My second visit in March 2017, I fully paid my own way to participate in the Ladies Ultimate Golf Institute.