Playing the Highlands North Course at Innisbrook? Need some local knowledge? Host Professional Jay Overton has been at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club for three decades.
Highlands North: Overview
The small greens and distinctly different front and back nines make the North unique from the other 54 holes. It also was where Overton prepared before playing a U.S. Open or PGA Championship, paying particular attention to the accuracy of his long irons.
"Playing country club golf or resort golf or as a club professional, you just never hit enough long irons," Overton said. "On Highlands North, there's some tees you have to hit long irons from and also a couple brutal par 3s. It's a very competitive, fun, short golf course."
Highlands North: Front 9 vs. Back 9
The front nine winds through a marsh and sandhill area, which used to be the home of Innisbrook's old Sandpiper course. Water comes into play on seven holes.
The back nine looks like an extension of the undulating hills and pine and oak trees of Copperhead. Indeed, back in the day, Copperhead was 27 holes; when the North course was built, eight holes were borrowed from its big brother (a par 5 of which was broken into a par 3 and par 4 to make 18 holes). Three of the five par 3s are on this side.
Here, Overton offers his analysis on the North's design and a few of its more challenging holes:
No. 3 on Highlands North: 450 yards, par 4
A daunting test with extremely tight landing areas, this hole is the hardest par 4 on the course. Water frames everything right and left off the tee. Although the hole is mostly flat and dead straight, there's no margin for error. Then you're looking at a long approach over another pond to what looks like an island green from the fairway. You better hit a driver and 5-wood straight to even have a chance at par.
No. 4 on Highlands North: 195 yards, par 3
With its deep, elongated, hour glass-shaped green, this one takes on a very narrow look from the tee. It's guarded on the right by mounds and on the left by bunkers, characteristic of all the North's strong par 3s. Use a 3-iron or hybrid club.
No. 9 on Highlands North: 385 yards, par 4
This hole is a tricky, hard-turning dogleg right. Huge, massive oak trees guard the right side where the dogleg begins. You could try to cut the corner, but the smarter players will hit 3-wood to the generous landing area far to the left side. The hole narrows the closer you get to the green. This is a great little par 4.
No. 10 on Highlands North: 520 yards, par 5
Another of Innisbrook's signature double doglegs, the green is reachable in two shots with a huge drive, Overton said. A large fairway waste bunker comes into play off the tee to the left. It's not an overly demanding hole but tight enough to cause problems on every shot.
No. 12 on Highlands North: 200 yards, par 3
This long iron or hybrid must carry one of Innisbrook's more unusual features. A huge, grassy sand dune that looks like it was transplanted from famed Pine Valley takes up the entire front of the green and runs halfway back to the tee boxes. Be careful. It looks like it might take a week to hack your ball out of this hazard.
No. 14 on Highlands North: 390 yards, par 4
This hole features a slight dogleg left with a bunker on the right side of the landing area. But the fun begins with your approach shot over a pond and on the putting surface itself. The green drops about six feet from front to back and slopes severely from right to left. "There isn't a flat place on the green," Overton said. "It's not unfair. But it's the hardest green of all the 72 holes here."