Much like a perennial favorite Cabernet Sauvignon wine you order at a steakhouse to accompany a butter slathered, grilled New York Strip, Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa provides a welcome comfort zone for golf vacationers. A mainstay on Florida’s golf resort menu for more than 35 years, Saddlebrook is designed with golfers in mind.
The most appealing aspect of the 480-acre resort is that most of its accommodations, its restaurants, two golf courses, and all of its major amenities are never more than a short walk away, thanks to the resort’s innovative walking-village concept. No long commutes or vans are needed here: Simply walk a few steps from your room or suite, and , voila, you stroll into the golf pro shop, dine at the restaurants or lounge by the pool. GOLF The golf menu at Saddlebrook consists of two on-site 18-hole courses that take full advantage of the lush, palm-, pine-, -cypress and lake-dotted rolling terrain. Both courses-the Palmer and Saddlebrook- are not long, but they’re testy because of the undulating terrain, sometimes narrow fairways and strategically placed bunkers.
Both of these Arnold Palmer designed courses are exceedingly fair, though. And if you can keep it in the short grass off the tee and make solid approach shots, you can score well.
If I had to pick a favorite between the two, it’s the Palmer. The combination of fairways that often dip like a roller coaster, greens with lots of movement and aesthetic beauty with brightly colored flowers and lush foliage make it a joy to play.
The Saddlebrook is an excellent resort track as well and its finishing hole with a pond and towering cypress trees populated by egrets and wood storks lining the right side near the green is one of Florida’s best.
Finally, if the putts don’t fall and your scorecard has more strokes than points at an NBA All-Star game, you can either drown yourself in sorrow at the adjacent sports T.D.’s Sports Bar or grab your swimsuit for a refreshing dunk the Superpool, which is a few steps from the pro shop. ACCOMMODATIONS I stayed in one-bedroom suite with a tropical Bahamas decor accented by dark wood furnishings. There are 540 rooms and suites at Saddlebrook with 800 bedrooms. More than 75% of Saddlebrook’s accommodations are suites. Conveniently, the accommodations are clustered around nine park-like courtyards, each made up of four buildings (50 suites). Thanks to the car-free walking village concept, every major amenity and restaurant is just a few minutes or less walk from your front door.
If you want to stock up on groceries and brewskis, there’s a Publix and Wal-Mart just a few blocks from the resort on State Road 54. Here’s a list of highlights in my suite: –A full-kitchen with a regular size refrigerator, microwave and serving bar. –42 inch flat screen television in the living room (32 inch in the bedroom) –A private patio (also private balconies for second story units) –Marble appointed bathroom –100% Egyptian cotton sheets and white goose down duvets and pillows –Keuring coffee and tea maker –High-speed Internet access RESORT AMENITIES –45 tennis courts, including 4 Grand Slam surfaces –7,000 square-foot European style spa with 12 treatment rooms –500,000 gallon free-form Superpool
–Fitness center –Saddlebrook Golf Academy –Bicycle rentals –Sports village with volleyball and basketball courts 10 Little Things I Liked 1. The amazing wood storks and egrets you’ll see up close and personal in the cypress trees overlooking the 18th green on the Saddlebrook Course. 2. The superb tennis pro shop with a varied selection of top-notch fashions you don’t see at resorts. 3. The expansive Superpool, one of the largest pools I’ve seen at the countless resorts I’ve visited. 4. Dew busting on both courses. Early morning play at Saddlebrook rewards you with excellent playing conditions and a chance to see fantastic birds and wildlife. 5. The Greek salad I had at the Poolside Cafe. Wow. It was loaded with chicken, feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes and more. 6. Dempsey’s Steakhouse’s menu, which not only has great steaks, but the Shrimp Scampi pasta is exceptional. 7. The Keurig coffee maker in our suite. 8. The very functional and convenient kitchen in our suites with a bar counter, full refrigerator, microwave and dishwasher. 9. Convenient and fast valet parking. 10. The friendly staff that always offered golf cart rides back to your room. DINING/LOUNGES Dempsey’s Steakhouse The Guru loves a great juicy steak and Dempsey’s (on-site at the resort) delivered big-time. My New York Strip was excellent and Mrs. Guru had what she considers the best Shrimp Scampi pasta dish she’s ever tasted. This pronouncement is from a lady who seemingly orders the dish at just about every restaurant that has it on their menu. A nice touch at Dempsey’s is the Caesar Salad prepared table side. Other menu highlights include Home-Made Pasta Bolognese, Steak Diane in a Cognac Sauce and Sesame Seared Tuna. Tropics Restaurant Overlooking the 18th green of the Saddlebrook Course, Tropics is renowned for its great breakfasts and buffet highlighted by their signature Pecan Crusted French Toast. Lunch features innovative items like a Grilled Mahi Club Sandwich with Mango Avocado Salsa and a Chopped Greek Salad with Chicken. T.D’s Sports Bar Next to the pro shop and adjacent to Dempsey’s Steakhouse, this place has all the elements needed for a great sports bar. A horseshoe shaped wooden bar, several elevated televisions and a wide selection of liquors, beer and wine make T.D’s a must stop after a round of golf. I like the menu, too, which has selections like Irish Nachos, Hot Pastrami Sandwich and Open-Faced Grilled Ribeye Steak on Grilled Pumpernickel Bread. Poolside Cafe Adjacent to the Superpool, it offers comfortable and relaxing poolside, al fresco dining with a great selection of salads and sandwiches. THINGS TO DO NEARBY –Shops at Wiregrass (3.6 miles) –Tampa Premium Outlets (4.7 miles) –Busch Gardens Tampa (20 miles) –Downtown Tampa (24 miles) Lowry Park Zoo, Florida Aquarium, Ybor City, Glazer Children’s Museum, Tampa Cruise Terminal and more. LOCATION Situated one mile east of I-75 at exit 279 on State Road 54 about 30 minutes north of Tampa International Airport. GET THE SCOOP For reservations and information, call 800-729-8383. For golf package information at Saddlebrook click to Saddlebrook Golf Deals.