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The Copperhead Course Bites Back

Salamander Hotels & Resorts Re-Opens Famed Innisbrook Course After Restorative Enhancements

Salamander Hotels & Resorts recently re-opened its famed Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort after a comprehensive six-month restorative enhancement honoring the guiding principles of legendary Course Architect Larry Packard

The course was officially re-opened by Innisbrook Owner and Salamander Founder & CEO Sheila C. Johnson at a press conference and ceremony attended by partners, dignitaries, celebrities and representatives from the PGA TOUR.

The project included re-grassing all fairways and rough, rebuilding each green, and reshaping bunkers to stay true to Packard's masterful design. The tree-lined layout is the host site of the Valspar Championship presented by BB&T, an official PGA TOUR event, which is held every March at Copperhead. Featuring rolling terrain uncommon to the state, the course is regarded by many professionals as one of the finest they play and includes the notoriously challenging stretch of closing holes known as the "Snake Pit."

"This restoration respects and protects the vision of Larry Packard and his signature design, and further elevates the golf experience for our guests, members, partners and playing professionals," said Johnson, who is also an officer and executive committee member of the United States Golf Association. "This project is the latest of numerous improvements Salamander has made to Innisbrook, cementing its reputation as one of America's top golf destinations."

 Copperhead has hosted a professional golf tournament for the past 25 years and opened in 1972. It is one of four layouts at the resort designed by Packard, who passed away last year at the age of 101. An architect of over 600 courses, Packard lived at Innisbrook for more than 40 years while the resort's steakhouse even bears his name. Innisbrook's three other Packard-designed courses: Island, North and South also provide championship alternatives for its members, groups and guests.

As part of the plan to faithfully restore the intent and characteristics of Packard's original design, Wadsworth Golf Construction Company - which was the original course builder - was engaged to oversee the project work. Each green was rebuilt to United States Golf Association specifications with TifEagle Bermuda grass, several were restored to their original size to allow for additional pin placements, and new drainage systems were installed underneath the green complexes.

Fairways were replaced with Celebration Bermuda grass to yield a more consistent hitting surface, and a number of viewing areas around the greens were modified to allow for larger tournament galleries in the future.

"Copperhead is one of the best courses we play every year," said PGA TOUR Professional George McNeill, who was present at the re-opening announcement and is a former Innisbrook tournament runner up. "The restoration work will ensure that it continues to offer one of the finest tests of golf in the country."

The restorative project also included the reshaping and rebuilding of Copperhead's strategically placed bunkers, including the addition of a set of staircase traps on the uphill 18th hole. At the practice facility, an additional tier was added to the driving range and a new practice green was added for chipping, pitching and bunker shots.

"We are excited about the impact of the design enhancements and agronomic improvements, which undoubtedly will further solidify the Copperhead Course's reputation as a favorite among our players," said Andy Pazder, chief of Operations for the PGA TOUR. "While the integrity of the original green designs has been maintained and in some instances actually restored, work in and around a number of the greens has given us the flexibility of utilizing new hole locations, in conjunction with expanded areas or reduced severity of some slopes. Other key enhancements include repositioning fairway bunkers on some holes to more strategic locations and significantly improving the practice areas. Between Salamander's investment to make these improvements and the continued strong commitment by Valspar as title sponsor, the Valspar Championship is very well positioned for the future."

All tee boxes were rebuilt and laser leveled, while several were expanded. Fifteen new forward tees were also added to enhance the experience for players of all skill levels. The length of the course for tour professionals, however, remains at a challenging 7,340 yards.

In the spirit of recent sustainability initiatives by the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America, the course's irrigation system was improved to include 500 new sprinkler heads and also save 11 million gallons of water per year - enough to fill 1,100 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Innisbrook is located at 36750 U.S. Highway 19 North, Palm Harbor, FL 34684. For more information, visit or call (727) 942-2000.

About Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort

Operated by Salamander Hotels & Resorts and owned by Sheila C. Johnson, Innisbrook is situated on 900 wooded acres of rolling hills in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area on Florida's Gulf Coast, and is located just 30 minutes from Tampa International Airport. The resort features 72 holes of championship golf, 550 spacious guest suites and rooms, four restaurants and three bars, the Innisbrook Golf Academy, 11 tennis courts, the luxury Indaba Spa with 12 treatment rooms and state-of-the-art Fitness Center, six heated swimming pool complexes, a nature preserve, and three conference halls with 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space. Part of Salamander's Golf Collection, Innisbrook hosts the annual Valspar Championship presented by BB&T at its famed Copperhead Course. For additional information call 727.942.2000 or visit

About Salamander Hotels & Resorts

Salamander Hotels & Resorts is a privately owned and operated company based in Middleburg, VA, just outside Washington, D.C. Founded by entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson in 2005, the company has a portfolio that features a collection of three renowned Florida golf resorts including Innisbrook Resort near Tampa, Reunion Resort in Orlando and Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast; the luxurious Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, a 340-acre equestrian-inspired property near Washington, D.C.; and the development and management of Henderson Beach Resort, a 170-room beachfront resort in Destin, FL. For additional information, call (540) 687-3710 or visit