Come On, Let’s Play
“Let’s Play” is what they say at Experience Florida’s Sports Coast. You might not be able to find Florida’s Sports Coast on a map simply because it is a tourism district, and tourism districts in my mind don’t get their “just rewards”. Read on and you will know exactly where it is and all that there is to do!
If you are a golfer, paddler, fisherman, beachgoer or just a toe dipper, there is a good chance that you have been to the Sport’s Coast. This region, on the Gulf of Mexico is located about 35 miles of Tampa, 90 miles east of Orlando and 75 miles south of Ocala, is a magnet to outdoor adventurers’ as well as those into Extreme Sports…..skydiving anyone?
Golfers from the Northeast USA and Canada have been flocking to Saddlebrook for years. The two Arnold Palmer designed courses are surely the number one reason and I suspect, the gazillion gallon pool with its conveniently located Tiki Bar could be number two.
There are 11 premier golf courses in the immediate Sports Coast region with the crown jewel in the region, is without a doubt Saddlebrook Resort.
Coming north from Tampa, Saddlebrook Resort is a short drive off I-75 on Route 54 towards Wesley Chapel. Wesley Chapel offers up another for of adventure, unless it is really hot outside you might not even break a sweat! Shopping!!!! The community grabs your attention like a shiny new penny with first-class retail, a plethora of restaurants and contemporary homes that look like they were built yesterday.
SHOP TIL YOU DROP
The Shops at Wiregrass lures shoppers with a pedestrian-friendly, open-air and aesthetically pleasing alternative to the generic big-box-in-a-giant-parking-lot headache that’s found everywhere else in America. No shop till you drop would be complete with the ultimate in brand name deals at Tampa Premium Outlets.
Staying and Playing at Saddlebrook Resort is almost like being at home. Except that your home here has 2 Arnold Palmer designed courses in your back yard. No walking required and if you decide not to walk to the Pro Shop from your villa, call the concierge and a golf cart will come get you. There are over 500 condo style units 1-3 bedrooms, so not everyone can be right next to the pro shop or pool.
“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.
Its fairways are lined by 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. Three white-faced bunkers staring at you in the landing area. The soft afternoon sunlight glints softly off the deep pond fronting the green, where gators and turtles rest on the bank. Two solid, aggressive shots will reach the green and award the player with par.
“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.”
While many of the holes provide generous driving areas, level ground is rare and the firm green fairways are contoured. Facing the green from the slanting fairways, the smallish greens are framed by white-faced bunkers. 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.”
The other courses in the Experience Florida’s Sports Coast region offer up a great variety in both stye and challenge making it ideal for every level of golfer. Below is a sampling of what you will find.
Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club: Two pristine courses await traveling golfers here, Lake Jovita South Course and Lake Jovita North Course designed by US Open Champion Tom Lehman and golf course architect Kurt Sandness. The 7,151-yard, par 72, Lake Jovita South Course is known for its immaculate maintenance, velvet greens and generous fairways blend in perfectly with the hilly terrain. The 7,276-yard Lake Jovita North Course is equally impressive. More contemporary in style, this par-72 course has even greater elevation changes than the South Course. In fact, from the second tee box, you can see five or six miles to the northeast!
Fox Hollow Golf Club: is one of the last courses designed and built by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., one of the most prolific and innovative golf course designers of all time. Recently rated 57th by Golf Digest’s Top 75 Courses, the par-71 championship layout features, rolling fairways, five sets of tees, mixing native trees and vegetation, sparkling lakes, sand bunkers and a variety of wildlife.
Plantation Palms Golf Club: The David Harmon design meanders through naturally rolling terrain with abundant wildlife. Considered one of Land O’Lakes finest properties with its meticulous conditioning, with each hole designed to challenge every level of golfer.
Tampa Bay Golf & Country Club: Designed by Chi Chi Rodrigues and Bobby Weed stretches back to over 7,000 yards, winding its way around beautiful lakes and conservation areas. Position off the tee is critical to good scoring as water and out of bounds comes into play on all 18 holes. With five sets of tees, the course is appealing to all skill levels.
Lexington Oaks Golf Club: Built on a stunning piece of land, Lexington Oaks is an 18-hole, Par-72 masterpiece course that’s known for its par 3s. Measuring 6,748 yards from the tips, this stunning course is skillfully routed through woods, lakes and marshlands, providing a fun challenge for golfers of all skill levels.
When not on the golf course you are in the right place to let the adventure seeker in you come out. With 35 area parks, 2 state parks, vibrant nature trails, thrilling zip line courses, hot-air balloon outings, sky-diving adventures, nearby islands with artificial reefs, year-round recreational fishing, paddle boarding and kayaking trails, the options for exploration are unlimited.
To find out more details on the adventures that abound at Experience Florida’s Sports Coast