Copperhead! If you got that answer correct, then I’m sure you’d get a top score in the PGA Tour SAT test if there existed such a thing. And if you didn’t put Copperhead down as you’re answer, take solace in the fact that there isn’t a PGA Tour SAT test. The explanation however, is that the Valspar Championship is begin played on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort this week.
First some music if you’re so inclined, otherwise skip and go right to what to watch for!
No Actual Copperheads
I was curious how the course got the name Copperhead, when the other courses at Innisbrook are named Island, Highland North, and Highland South. Clearly it’s after the copperhead snake (the giant snake statue pictured above, and the Snake Pit nickname for 16-18th holes, see below). What I wasn’t sure about was where the copperhead snake exists in the wild, if only to be sure that I wouldn’t accidentally run into one here in the midwest.
In what turns out to be the least expected answer to this question, the copperhead snake is found in the wild pretty much all over the southeast part of the US, except for Florida. I searched online for how they named the course, but couldn’t find anything. Needless to say, someone needs to explain this massive oversight.
An ok field!
Seems like every week, I’ll make a mention of how great the field is. Last week especially, with 48 of the top 50. Well the Valspar does not have a great field. Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, and Patrick Reed are the only representatives of the top 10 players in the world at Innisbrook this week. Side note, how is Patrick Reed in the top 10 in the world still? He hasn’t won in a year (last year’s Hyundai when Jimmy Walker collapsed to lose), and generally seems to get lost in the fray of actual top players. All the better.
That being said, I’m at the point where I’d rather have a weaker field, because these are the tournaments where new players emerge. If you’re looking to be a hipster golf fan and know players before they’re “mainstream good”, this is a perfect event for you.
Spieth on his own
Remember how I just said that the Valspar has kind of a weak field? Well that means that it’s time for the media to start talking Spieth 24/7 leading up to the event! It’s funny, for being the number one ranked player in the world, Spieth hasn’t seemed to be getting top billing. Like at the Cadillac last week, Rory, Adam Scott, and maybe even Dustin Johnson were getting more air and talking time. Might be warranted though, because he hasn’t played too well recently, missing a cut at Riviera and not making much noise in his other events this year.
But this week will be all about Spieth. He’s the defending champ in a weakish field (where nobody wants to talk about Patrick Reed). Also, I’m guessing his mediocre play recently has to be eating at him. No more perfect an opportunity than the Valspar to get back on track before the Masters.
A restored course
Unlike the restoration at Doral a couple years ago, where they kept the routing the same but changed the contours of some of the holes, the redo at the Copperhead course was just taking what existed before, and making it look better. Basically the equivalent of putting makeup on a person – they didn’t change anything about the character, but it sure looks prettier!
The greens were reseeded with TifEagle grass and expanded back to original sizes. Fairways were reseeded with Celebration Bermuda grass (what a bizarre name), tee boxes were redone and leveled, and finally, bunkers were rebuilt with fresh sand.
I actually think the most important part of the redesign was the new sand. If you’re playing a Florida course, the bunkers had better have white sand. Check out the old pic from the first tee shot below to see the old sand in the bunkers. It just doesn’t look right.
This shouldn’t affect the players too much, but since there are going to be some new pin positions from the expanded greens, there might be a little work involved in figuring those out.
Hills! (kind of)
Well not exactly hills, but definitely terrain that makes you think the course isn’t in Florida. After the last two tournaments at PGA National and Doral, this 20ish foot drop from the first tee is a welcome sight.
I remember watching the coverage last year and it took me a second to actually realize that this course was in Florida. Bigger, fuller trees that aren’t palms don’t fit with my Florida image. Seems like the course might fit more in the Carolinas than the Sunshine State.
The Snake Pit
As any good course nowadays, the Copperhead course has a named stretch of holes – A cheap marketing gimmick to get people to care about a course. But hey, it works!
Last year, the Snake Pit averaged .402 strokes above par, which was tied 4th for the toughest 3 hole finishing stretch. If you’re sitting there thinking that’s a somewhat specific statistic, I’ll agree with you. But wait til the Wells Fargo and the “Green Mile” finishing stretch.
Because the coverage will make such a big deal out of this, let’s go through the holes so you know what the pros are in for.
The 16th hole is a long par 4 that doglegs around a lake. If you’re trying to make a course tough, it almost seems like cheating if you have water on one side and forest on the other. And at 475, you can’t exactly play short and safe on the tee shot.
The 17th hole is a 213 yard par three, slightly uphill. Any time an approach shot is over 200 yards makes it tough. Also, I don’t know if I could have picked a worse picture to show what a hole looks like, but I liked the hedges.
Finally the 18th hole, a slight bend to the left, uphill 445 yard par four. I think I’d describe this hole as stately, and definitely fits the mold of an 18th hole.
Henrik Stenson hitting 3 woods
For real though, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have a driver in the bag. Even google knows people are wondering this.