The Best of the Bay: Some Might Say

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

TAMPA, Fl - Innisbrook's Copperhead Course and the Tournament Player's Club of Tampa - best of the Bay? Well some might say. Sure, arguments could be made for a number of Bay area courses including Old Memorial, or even the Island Course at Innisbrook. But with Copperhead standing in at No. 43 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 you can play, and the TPC hosting the Senior PGA Tour's GTE Classic, you can't go wrong with either of these challenging, often awe-inspiring layouts.

"I think it is one of the few courses on the senior tour where you really have to play golf shots,'' Nicklaus says of the TPC of Tampa. "Most of the golf courses are very short and really don't require you to do too much. Here it's one of the places that actually requires you to play pretty good golf. So if you play poorly here, you know you played poorly. If you play well, you know you played well. It's not just putting.''

Located just a 20 minute ride from the Tampa International Airport in Lutz, which is just north of Tampa, TPC of Tampa Bay is the area's premier public golf facility and is open to the public seven days a week. Designed by architect Bobby Weed and founded in 1991, TPC of Tampa Bay is part of a network of courses owned and operated by PGA TOUR Golf Course Properties.

Looking for a classic south Florida course complete with no hills, 100 ponds, alligators and some palm trees? If you want to tee it up at the Copperhead Course at Westin's Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, you won't find any of the above signature sunshine state golfing elements. What you will find is layout more reminiscent of north Georgia, or even North Carolina.

"Quite frankly it's a Carolina course, and we take great pride in it," says Innisbrook Golf General Manager and professional golfer Jay Overton. "There are only two pieces of land like it in Florida - Copperhead and Jupiter Hills. I have played in fifteen majors, and it's in the top ten tracks that I have ever been around."

While it ranks behind Orlando's Bay Hill, Overton and anyone that has walked the pristine fairways of the Copperhead Course will tell you that it compares favorably to any course you put it up against. In fact, the former home of the silly season's J.C. Penny Classic has turned enough heads on the PGA Tour to become the host of a regular season PGA event - The Tampa Bay Classic.

"We had to modernize the course for the (Tampa Bay) Classic so we added 180 yards to the course," says Overton. "We are going to add two more tees for the Tampa Bay Classic. We have strengthened the golf course without changing things from the amateur side.

And strengthening either of these layouts is attune to Tiger Woods trying to work on his length off the tee - it's nothing short of playing with perfection. Tampa Bay may not have the highly touted tracks to go head to head with Orlando, but the TPC and Innisbrook put the Bay area on the Florida golfing map like few other courses could. Oh, and try going to the beach in Orlando. See you in Tampa.

Course Information

Copperhead at Innisbrook
36750 US Highway 19 North
Palm Harbor, FL 34684

TPC of Tampa Bay

5300 W. Lake Fern Road
Lutz, FL 33549

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of from 1997 to 2003.

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