Sports converge for the community members and guests of Saddlebrook in Wesley Chapel near Tampa, Florida. Tennis and pickleball courts are busy as are the two Arnold Palmer golf courses. Arnie’s legacy of friendliness lives on in the staff that supports his championship courses, The Palmer and Saddlebrook. The Palmer Course reflects his playful side, wide open, friendly, with fluffy sand bunkering and lightning-fast greens. His competitiveness comes out on the Saddlebrook course which is a little tighter. Bellman Chester Thomas has worked here for 15 years and just started golfing a couple years ago. He marks his ball with TW, not for Tiger Woods but for Trees and Water because that’s where his ball goes. Trees are on every hole and water on most providing the habitat for lumbering gators and strutting sandhill cranes throughout both courses. Greens are sloped fairly with no tricked-up pin placements. This is fun Florida golf.
Drive over a mile after the gated entrance to Saddlebrook Resort passing well-manicured fairways and residences. Upon arrival, your vehicle will be efficiently tagged for valet service. Register inside the open, inviting lobby and be whisked away with your luggage to your sweet suite by Chester or another bellman in a cart, dropping your golf bags at the starter station on the way.
Accommodations are spacious and homey, equipped with a kitchen and laundry machines are available downstairs, no quarters necessary. Our second-floor balcony overlooked a little pond filled with Florida fowl and fauna and the 18th green of Saddlebrook course providing constant entertainment of incoming shots and golfers thanking each other for what always appears to be a fun round. On a rainy afternoon, a red cardinal landed on the balcony and chirped at us through the window. In addition to the glee of golfers and bird calls, the sound of the green side lake fountain is soothing. The same view is in reverse from the Tropics and Dempsey Too restaurants and patios across the water off the main lobby.
The Tropics is where to go for breakfast and Dempsey Too is the place for lunch or dinner. It was hopping on Friday night with live music and multiple groups dining. Shrimp is decoratively stacked on a tender filet for surf and turf and the teriyaki sea bass is flaky. The server from Boston who came for school and is not returning advised that the “pencil asparagus” may not be that thin. They were perfectly cooked.
Another Dempsey Steakhouse and sports bar are open in normal times as is the spa and jacuzzi, but not quite yet. Check for expectations before you go. Whenever you do go, the availability of golf, accommodations and great food is above par. Cold and rain couldn’t dampen our spirits playing Arnie’s courses, relaxing and dining at Saddlebrook Resort. www.saddlebrook.com