Spread Out and Play Golf at Innisbrook Resort in Tampa Bay, Florida

As winter storms raged across most of the USA, I looked out the glass balcony doors and saw sunshine streaming through the Spanish moss hanging from the trees, with golfers in shorts and polo shirts walking along the fairway. At Innisbrook Resort in Tampa Bay, the players are out all year, enjoying four golf courses, six swimming pools, and a tennis center.

Innisbrook Resort Florida Golf Getaway

Innisbrook Resort is located in Palm Harbor, a mostly residential community across the bay from Tampa proper, about a half hour north of Clearwater Beach or the Clearwater/St. Petersburg Airport (PIE) that’s a major destination for Allegiant Air. Part of the Salamander Resorts Group, and a member of Preferred Hotels, it’s a sprawling 900-acre complex opened in 1970. Back then there wasn’t much around in this area, so the developers had plenty of room to build whatever they pleased. Some of the owned units are lived in year-round, some are used by snowbirds in the winter, and around 300 others are available to resort guests in buildings scattered around the complex.

Most of the activity centers around three clubhouses. The one where you check in is the Osprey Clubhouse, where hotel reception, the Marketplace Restaurant, Osprey Bar, and a pro shop for the South Course are located. Once you check in, a regularly running minibus on call will transport you to your room and can be summoned later to get you to dinner, a tee time, or the tennis courts.

The Island Clubhouse serves the Island Course at Innisbrook and is home to the Turnberry Pub with outdoor seating. Another pool is here and the tennis center is nearby.

The Copperhead Clubhouse has one of the pools next to it and in this building there’s Packard’s Steakhouse, an attached bar with an outdoor pickup window for golfers, and another pro shop.

Copperhead Golf and Other Activities at Innisbrook Resort

Copperhead golf course Innisbrook Palm Harbor

The Copperhead course ranks at the top for Tampa Bay golf courses and is famous nationally. It hosts the annual Valspar PGA tournament, where past winners include Jordan Spieth, Davis Love III, and Fred Couples. This 6,200-yard course (from the white tees) is one of the most challenging and humbling ones I’ve ever played on, partly because there are several big sand bunkers around nearly every hole that are ready to swallow your errant shots—and that’s after you’ve made it past the water hazards.

Many of the fairways are fairly wide where you tee off, so getting started is not that difficult, plus the fast greens are impeccably maintained, but accuracy is important on the approach shots. This is one of the most beautiful courses in Florida, however, with more elevation than you usually see in this sea-level state. Even though it drizzled rain part of the time I was playing, it never got too soggy anywhere. On this gorgeous number 15, I finally sunk a par shot.

Hole 15 at Copperhead golf course Florida

The three other courses are often booked as well, with many guests coming here to play all of them during their vacation or business conference. See info on all of them here. Groups of 12 or more get their own concierge to make arrangements. This person will set up tee times, dinner reservations, and any excursions in the Tampa Bay region to beaches, museums, or Champa Bay sporting events. There are two practice ranges in the complex: one at Copperhead and one near the Osprey Clubhouse.

There’s also a full tennis center with 11 clay courts for those who want to swing a racquet instead. The large gym has its own building, as does the spa offering a wide range of treatments, including massages that will get the kinks out of those sore muscles.

Of the six pools on site, Loch Ness is the biggest one. It’s a hit with families thanks to a set of water slides extending down from the top of a hill. There’s also a hot whirlpool area too.

Loch Ness pool at Florida Salamander resort

That swimming pool is heated, as is a lap pool near the welcome gate where swimmers can get some real exercise. You can also get a long walk or jog in without leaving the Innisbrook property or rent a cruiser bike or surrey to pedal the grounds. Other diversions on the grounds include a nature park and a playground.

Dining at Innisbrook Palm Harbor Resort

Packard’s Steakhouse is the fine dining option at Innisbrook Resort. It’s a traditional steakhouse with fine aged beef, several seafood dishes, and serious sides meant to be shared. We started off with a shared salad and a couple of cocktails: a bourbon and pear schnapps concoction in a martini glass and a peppercorn margarita.

cocktails at Packard's Steakhouse Palm Harbor Tampa Bay

For the main dishes, we got a filet mignon, grilled shrimp, roasted asparagus, bacon-wrapped brussels sprouts, and garlic mashed potatoes. All were expertly prepared and the accompanying service was attentive without being overbearing. We finished it off a gooey chocolate dessert that ended everything on a sweet note.

We were able to sit outside at Packard’s, on a February evening, and it was both pleasant and safe feeling. It’s an attractive space inside too though, one to settle into for a few hours of good food and conversation.

Packard's Steakhouse dining at Innisbrook Resort

We also dined outside on the big deck at the Marketplace Restaurant, where I enjoyed a Cigar City craft beer with my Cuban sandwich and really felt like I was in Tampa Bay. At night they have a big fire pit and some outdoor heaters if needed. Inside, the big windows let in plenty of light and there’s a grand bar in the center. A separate adjoining room is used for breakfast and dinner.

There’s one other option for lunch: the Grill at Loch Ness by the largest pool. This is the most casual and family-friendly option in the complex, with items like barbecue sandwiches, tacos, and chicken fingers on the kids’ menu. There’s also a full bar at the pool, plus some machines making daiquiris and smoothies.

Spacious Suites

Apart from a few rare suite rooms that can be closed off and booked as a regular hotel room, all the accommodations at Innisbrook Resort are suites. Guests with their own car can visit a grocery store outside the complex (none on site) and stock up because the suites have full kitchens as you would find in a condo residence. You get a full refrigerator, stove, oven, dishwasher, and loads of counter space. There are also some small appliances like a toaster, blender, and ice bucket.

Our one-bedroom suite in the Killarney building also had a full dining room table and a living room sitting area. There’s a basic range of dishes and glasses in the cabinets, plus a coffee maker.

Some older reviews you see may talk about dated decor, but Innisbrook has been on a major renovation binge during the past year. Very comfortable bedrooms got a revamp recently, with attractive furniture and bedding for the times.

Innisbrook Golf Resort suite

Units have made up for the age of the buildings by bringing in lamps that have multiple USB outlets and regular outlets for keeping devices charged. The included WiFi worked well during our stay and the TV got a wide variety of channels. Each unit has a furnished balcony or terrace, some of them with golf course views.

Two-bedroom suites offer more sleeping quarters for a family or group, plus more room in the common area. The top choices are the two luxury suites: a Penthouse Suite that looks out on the 18th hole of the Copperhead golf course and a Presidential Suite with two levels. Filled with natural light and feeling airy, the Presidential Suite has a staircase leading up to a bedroom and living room with TV, while the downstairs area has two bedrooms, a wet bar, large kitchen, dining area, and living room.

 

This Preferred Hotels resort has high standards for service and amenities and the staffers are both friendly and professional. The only real complaint I had was the lack of mask enforcement in public buildings during an enduring pandemic. Signs are up everywhere telling everyone to wear one, but many guests were flagrantly ignoring them, including in the enclosed gym and lobby area. Unfortunately, that’s common across much of Florida since neither the governor nor the state legislature ever took the threat seriously (despite 1.88 million reported cases in the state as I write this–twice as many as the whole country of Canada).

This is one of the top Tampa Golf Resorts for sure and the commitment to regular refurbishment means it’ll stay that way. Rates at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Florida generally start at a shade below $200 for a one-bedroom suite. Check the official website or the Preferred Hotels page for package deals that include golf, spa treatments, or other options.

If you have a group, it’s best to book direct to get tee times sorted at the same time. Otherwise, you can check Expedia for a quick getaway. Rates tend to drop a bit in the summer, when the afternoons can get too steamy for non-Floridians and afternoon rains are more likely. High season for the rest of the country is between January and April.

Editor Tim Leffel was hosted at Innisbrook Resort for review purposes. As always, all opinions are his own. All photos by Leffel.

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