The architect behind Innisbrook's Copperhead course talks about his favorite course on his 100th birthday

Larry Packard
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Larry Packard, who turned 100 Thursday, designed courses all over the world, including in Egypt.

E. Lawrence ("Larry") Packard celebrated his 100th birthday Thursday, but he maintains the energy of a man half his age. A golf course designer best known for his work in Illinois, where he began his career in 1946, Packard has crafted golf course all over the world, and he possesses near total recall of events from more than 60 years ago.

One such event was when he mentioned to his mentor, Robert Bruce Harris, that there ought to be a society of practicing golf-course architects, as there was with landscape architects. Harris agreed, and enlisted Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones Sr. to form the American Society of Golf Course Architects.

"I heard him make the call to Trent," Packard said, "and tell him we have to start a society."

Packard served as the society's president in 1970. His most high-profile work is the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort near Tampa, Fla., the venue for the PGA Tour's Tampa Bay Championship (formerly the Transitions) and one of four courses he designed at the resort.

In a birthday interview with Golf.com, Packard shared his thoughts on the Innisbrook project, traveling the world for work and the keys to living a long life.

What was your initial thought when you first saw the Innisbrook site?
I thought this was the perfect piece of land to create a great golf course. It had everything you could hope for and more, and the natural roll of the land was beautiful. I could immediately see the holes in my head and how the water would come into play. There was so much variety in one piece of land. I knew this would be a special place and that is why I live here. It's why people fall in love with this resort. We knew we would have extra land, so we thought about using the land around Copperhead to hopefully be able to have some big tournaments there one day.

What set the site for the Copperhead Course apart from others at the resort?
When you play Copperhead you don't even feel like you are in Florida. When you stand on the first hole and look down the fairway you are on an elevated tee and looking down the fairway lined with pine trees on both sides. It feels more like the Carolinas than Florida.

Why does the Copperhead Course draw such high praise from PGA Tour pros?
Copperhead is a tough golf course but it is fair. I designed it so if you hit a good shot you will be rewarded. There are no gimmicks. I wanted you to have to use every club in your bag. But if you didn't have any fun while you played it, you would never come back, and golf is supposed to be fun. Even the average player can come play the course from the forward tee positions and have a good round. Not everyone can play it from the tips like the pros.

How did course designs early in your career differ from ones later in your career?
Every piece of land and every course is different. I looked at each project individually, and I created a golf course that was best for that project and the resources we had.

What was the most unusual location where you designed a golf course?
I have been around the world three times. I have designed courses in South Korea, Venezuela, Guatemala and Egypt. When you are standing in front of the pyramids in Egypt and you want to know where the water is going to come from, there is only one place: The Nile! I also learned that sand dunes don't always stay put. We had to design a special water system for that project. I haven't been back to Egypt since 1999, but I am proud to have brought the game of golf to many Egyptians.

Which golf course is your favorite?
That's like asking which woman on the beach is your favorite! They are all my favorite for different reasons, but I am very proud that Copperhead has the PGA Tour play on it each year, and they say such wonderful things about the course.

What do you enjoy most about designing golf courses?
You have to be adaptive. You have a brand new and very different project every time. It's always a new challenge, and the fun is putting the whole project together.

What is your advice to others that want to live to be 100?
It's all about what you eat and what you put into your body. No salt. Don't eat a lot of butter and fats. You also have to be happy. Make sure you like what you do every day. Be nice to others. Laugh a lot and never smoke.

 

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