……And Now the Rest of the Story
Hidden Gems just north of Tampa Bay……..
When golfers turn their thoughts to golf in the Tampa area, the first properties that generally come to mind are Innisbrook Resort with its fabled Copperhead Course, home to the PGA Tours Valspar Championship and Saddlebrook Resort with its two Arnold Palmer designed courses. Both Innisbrook and particularly Saddlebrook I have stayed at many many times and loved every minute.
This time around, you might say I went Resort-less. Staying at a very cozy Hyatt Place, pretty much in Saddlebrook’s backyard. Hyatt Place Tampa / Wesley Chapel is 35 miles north of Tampa, conveniently located on State Line 54 and I-75, across from the Tampa Outlets and walking distance to no less than 10 restaurants and bars, with a Pop Stroke Popstroke that has just had it grand opening. The cozy bar at the Hyatt became a place for last call with generous Bourbon pours.
And with the mention of bars and restaurants because us golfers are known for the need to refuel and refresh, approximately 10 minutes from the Hyatt Place are the Shops at Wiregrass. More shopping for sure, no Outlets here, similar to indoor malls in the northern States and Canada. The big thing here is that most of the perimeter of Wiregrass is a collection of 30-40 fun and fine dining establishments to satisfy any pallet. The likes of Chuck Lager America’s Tavern, Craft by Fire Grillsmith, The Brass Tap, Irish 31 – Pub House and Eatery and The Living Room with its global cuisine. The Shops at Wiregrass
The golf takes you on daily short drives to some pretty exceptional courses at exceptional value. I can’t speak for you but I certainly don’t mind a 20 – 35 minute drives through some quaint towns and countryside as long as when I get back to the hotel the car stays parked and we just enjoy. No drinking and driving.
Some of that exceptional golf that you need to check out in this area are:
Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club
Southern charm radiates as you approach an impressive clubhouse. There is a country club atmosphere throughout, golf is semi-private, so yes you are welcome…….. and Villas on site are available for Stay & Play vacations.
Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club courses are hidden gems to say the least. They are two distinctly different styles of courses. Both courses take advantage of undulating and rolling terrain that is not often found in Florida.
The Tom Lehman / Kurt Sadness designed South Course; I would label as a player’s course. Certainly, much tighter than the North and with every imaginable hazard; ponds, marshes, creeks and bunkers too many to count, as you make your way around the well manicured and often tree lined fairways. A good sand game will be an asset, I invite you to visit this link, South Course – Lake Jovita 9th and 18th holes of the south course and you will see what I mean. While you are at it might as well check out the rest of the holes. Take note the exceptional par 3’s!
A bombers delight, you can grip it and rip it on Lake Jovita’s North Course, a Kert Sandness design which is a great contrasting compliment to the South Course. You deal with a lot more in elevation change here but with that comes some scenic country side views. There are no where near the number of bunkers on the North Course, certainly enough to make you pay attention, and plenty of water to deal with as well.
Check it all out here: Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club
Plantation Palms Golf Club
Is a Premier Semi-private club that for 3 straight years has been selected “Best of the Best” by a Tampa Bay Times reader poll.
The links style design was carved from a 400-acre citrus grove that slopes from west to east, providing interesting elevation changes. The course opens up with a welcoming par 5 and then slowly steps up with a mixture of strong par 3s. It won’t take long to notice the attractive framing of fairways and greens with pine trees, water and large snow-white sand traps. Water is in play on 17 of 18 holes. Greens are elevated with some undulation to take note of, read carefully!
What’s more fun than ending your round at an Irish Pub?? Noy much!! You will definitely want to make it part of your day, to have lunch and maybe a round or 2 at Mulligan’s.
Plantation Palms Golf Club
Fox Hollow Golf Club
WOW factor sets in from the moment you look onto the courses from the clubhouse window. Good golfers will drool in anticipation of playing the water laden holes in sight. While a lesser golfer might have a lump in his or her throat, thinking that more golf balls will be required as surely they will not escape without sending a few pellets to a watery grave.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., you know that this semi-private track will be challenging. Hole deigns vary from parkland style wide open, to appearing wide open, (beware of water), to links style tight and tree lined. Conditioning is top not and greens are large and rolling.
There are 76 large bunkers to navigate with water coming into play on virtually every hole on the back nine, a little more forgiving on the front. Par threes, two of which have water in play all around are outstanding.
A local, and long time friend told me that he and his wife have either breakfast, lunch or dinner at Fox Hollow at least 3 times per week. Take note of that, and enjoy the view!!!
Fox Hollow Golf Club
I would be remiss if I did not tell you about a small city that after 2 short visits has left a lasting impression. New Port Richey, nestled along the banks of the Cotee River and the Golf of Mexico. A hot spot for the stars of the silver screen back in the day, Gloria Swanson and Charlie Chaplin, bad boy Al Capone, and baseball slugger Babe Ruth hung out. The first ever golfer to win all four majors, Gene Sarazan had a home here.
The quaint downtown area is home to a number of restaurants and bars. The place to hang your hat for a few days, the historic Hacienda Hotel originally built in 1927 and re opened in 2015 is the place you want to stay.
Upon entering The Hacienda, guests will be transported back in time to New Port Richey in its original heyday, when the quaint town quickly became a notorious hot spot for celebrities and dignitaries from across the country. New Port Richey earned the nickname “Hollywood East” as notable figures made their way to the riverside town to set up homes or spend an elegant evening at The Hacienda.
The Hacienda features 40 comfortably appointed rooms, each styled with a classic elegance, reminiscent of the hotel’s original, Spanish-Floridian charm. You will discover the original accents and architecture from the 1920s, complimented by modern amenities. Historic Hacienda Hotel
Just out the doors and across the road from The Hacienda you might want to grab a cocktail on the Rooftop Bar at The Social we did and we will do that again. A fun dinner option on the water and only minutes away is Whiskey Joes Bar and Grill, sunsets are amazing! Whiskey Joe’s Bar & Grill