It’s never too early to start thinking about a winter escape to Florida.
When you get there you pull up to the valet, let the guys take your car, you are shuttled to you villa and it’s time to play! It is by no means all-inclusive although it has that feeling of – “I don’t really need to leave here!”
Play, play, play, you can do as much of that as you like. For us golfers there are two Arnold Palmer designs to keep you meandering the fairways.
Tennis anyone? Saddlebrook has its own Tennis Center, with 45 courts and a coaching staff of 25 or more. The team at the Harry Hopman Tennis Academy can customize a program for one or for 20. And talk about a group of tennis aficionado’s that have come through this program – the likes of Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Martina Hingis, James Blake, Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick, and currently, John Isner, and Alexander and Mischa Zverev. You might just say that you are in a good place here.
So you came to relax did you?! You can do that at any time of course. The property is spread over 480 acres so it would be easy to hide but why not put on your shades and just chill by a half million gallons in the “SuperPool!”
You’ve played a round of golf, smacked a few balls on the courts and just not ready for the pool yet, you could go for a bike ride, or how about fishing… anyone? How about volleyball or some double dribbling on the basketball courts? A little stretching, Zumba or Yoga might be your thing, or maybe just a visit to the 7,000 sq. ft. European Spa.
I mentioned that you never need to leave – guess what – some people don’t! They stay for a month, and some for six, and some for the better part of a year. Many of these people on extended stays have a reason for doing so. Every year Saddlebrook Resort plays host to students, usually about a 100 per year, some from within North America, but many from around the world. Students are attending the Saddlebrook Preparatory School and are either enrolled in the Golf Academy or the Tennis Program. The comfy cozy villas make so easy for the parents to call Saddlebrook home for extended periods of time! One of the best of such facilities in the world.
Tampa, Florida is so easily accessible from around the world and especially from the Northeast USA and Canada. The Tampa area offers up so much to do and a revitalized downtown area has added so much more to the many attractions such as Busch Gardens, the allure of major league sporting events, and professional sports teams such as The Lightning, The Rays and Buc’s!
The Resort, with just under 500 rental units, has been in a revitalization program and with Patrick Farrell, Director of Golf Sales, at the helm has been putting Saddlebrook back on the map as a must stop when it comes to Stay & Play golf! The golf courses are pretty much completed with all accommodations anticipated to be complete by Mid-2019!
What we came for – The Golf – coincidently so did Matt Ginella and his Golf Channel Team and while I was there this 20 minute program aired – CLICK HERE in case you missed it!
THE PALMER GOLF COURSE
While many of the holes provide generous driving areas, level ground is rare and the firm green fairways are contoured to resemble a rolling New England course. Facing the green from the slanting fairways, the small elevated emerald islands are framed by white-faced bunkers, azure ponds and gently swaying palm trees. Hilly lies and sweeping Florida breezes make it challenging to attain the accuracy needed to find these targets. The Tif-eagle greens are firm, fast and undulating, allowing only a crisply struck shot to hold their surface. Surrounding the greens, the thick, gnarly Bermuda rough tangles around the club and complicates the soft touch needed to play short pitch shots. Miss the green, and you face a difficult par. Several holes require length, all reward finesse. The Par 4 fifth hole is a beauty, with water to the right and sand to the left of the green.
SADDLEBROOK GOLF COURSE
As you travel the green fairways set in a hammock of cypress and oak, the natural beauty will transport you back in time to the Florida of the Conquistadors. The signature hole, the 425-yard 18th, magnifies this sensation. The drive must be sent down an emerald ribbon between stands of towering cypress, whose branches are adorned with Spanish moss, swaying gently in the breeze. Three white-faced bunkers in the landing area are framed by the lush green of the fairway. The soft afternoon sunlight glints softly off the deep pond fronting the green, where gators and turtles rest on the bank. Blue herons stand in the water waiting for lunch to swim by, while white egrets and wood storks nest noisily in the trees. Two solid, aggressive shots will reach the green and award the player with par. The course got a nice sprucing up with five new greens last summer.
“On the Saddlebrook course, it’s about course management,” said director of golf Kyle Bruce. “There are water and tree lines on both sides of the fairway, you basically want to get the ball to the 150-yard marker, then move the ball from there. The greens are relatively flat so it’s easy to get up and down. It’s more course management than a grip-it-and-rip-it type of golf course.
“The Palmer course is more of a links style course. You want to try and get as far as you can down the fairway. It’s open off the tee box, left and right. Your second shot is most important, if you’re above the hole, it’s going to be a three putt, pretty much, with the undulation of the greens. If you’re not on your short game that day, it can be very tough.”
If you are steak lover, you do not want to miss out on one of the finest steaks in the State of Florida at Dempsey’s Steakhouse! If you are like me then you make your first stop (same building as Dempsey’s) at TD’s Sports Bar – very warm and welcoming setting with a damn good martini!
For more info on golf packages, check out http://www.saddlebrook.com/tampa-golf/saddlebrook-golf-packages/