World Woods Pine Barrens Course Rankings:
Golf Digest: #66 US public, #23 Florida
GolfWeek: #112 US modern, #5 Florida public
Golf.com: #36 US public, #5 Florida public
Designer: Tom Fazio (1993)
A perpetual top five course in the state of Florida, and top 100 in the country (currently number 60), the Pine Barrens at World Woods is commonly referred to as “Pine Valley of the South.” Pine Valley Country Club in New Jersey, of course, has been the top rated course in the world since the early 1900’s, and is the kind of private club serious golf golf enthusiasts “pine after” playing once in their lives.
While I might never have the opportunity to play Pine Valley, it is said to feature many of the same characteristics as the Pine Barrens: Huge elevation changes, beautiful course design and a whole lot of sand.
Named by the PGA as one of the ten most beautiful courses in the world, the Pine Barrens is one of the most exaggerated golf courses I have ever played, in a wonderful way, including massive wastelands, highly elevated green complexes, and greens that break so much it is almost comical.
That being said, the Pine Barrens is absolutely beautiful, and there is no wonder it was named the second best course in the state of Florida in 2012, behind only the esteemed TPC Sawgrass but ahead of PGA Tour destinations Bay Hill, Innisbrook (Copperhead) and PGA National.
Every spot on the Pine Barrens can be played from, and all of the sand is considered wasteland, allowing players to ground their clubs and take practice swings (I love being able to play from sand this way).
Owned and operated by World Woods Corporation in Japan, the owner of World Woods visited top courses around the world to find the perfect course architect to develop these 2,100 acres in Brooksville into Florida’s premiere golfing destination.
Tom Fazio was the right man for the job, and World Woods’ original development includes 36 holes of championship golf (the Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks), an 18-hole executive course, and quite possibly the world’s finest practice facility with a three-hole practice course (one par three, a par four and a par five), driving range, irons range, 36-hole putting green and more. Future expansion plans also include a third 18-hole championship course and on-site accommodations and meeting rooms.
These world-class facilities, and affordable rates, attract hundreds of thousands of golfers to World Woods on an annual basis, and numerous professional golfers to hone their games.
The first hole on the Pine Barrens is a typical par four for this course: Tree-lined with a landing area bordered with sand. Losing my initial tee shot right, I dropped three and blasted a long hybrid up the left side of the fairway. A challenging round on a beautiful golf course was underway.
A slight dogleg left, the main sand hazards on the second hole are on the left side of the fairway approaching the bend. The right side has plenty, though, too, as evidenced by the second picture below. The green on the second hole slopes unbelievably heavily toward the front left. Watching one of my playing partners hit the middle of the green and see the ball roll some thirty feet to the left, I nixed the idea of aiming for the pin.
One of the only holes on the Pine Barrens with water, the third hole is a picturesque par three with a pond that runs all the way to the green. Bailout is right, while the green’s slope veers again from right to left with a huge break dividing the front and back.
The sixth is a long par five where the most important shot is the second. Stay left on the fairway to set up the best approach and avoid the tree line that will otherwise lock out the green.
A medium-length par three, the seventh has one of the larger looking greens on the course. Entirely surrounded by sand, though, it is no pushover.
With sand to the right and short of the driving area, hit a hard fade on the eighth to get a great roll on this left-to-right fairway. The green complex is risen well above the bunkers that defend it on all sides, and an even lie on the approach will be rare to come by.
A long dogleg right par four, the ninth is relatively straight-forward off the tee, but requires absolute precision on the approach. Deep green-side bunkers border the left and right side of the uphill finish on the ninth, and slopes heavily from left to right.
With a par three start, the back nine does not let up. With a back-left hole location on ten, the middle of the green allowed low tee shots to run toward the pin, while anything hit front-middle was grabbed by the false front and rolled back off the front.
Driving over a sprawling sand box, the tee shot on eleven has to be hit in the fairway. A dogleg right, a left-side hole location leaves a ton of sand to carry on the approach.
With another carry over sand, the thirteenth is another dogleg right par four that has to be hit in the fairway for any chance for par. Unless you make an absolutely miraculous second shot from the trees, of course, which I somehow pulled off.
Finding my ball behind a tree, I somehow hit a low fade beneath the overhanging branch to the left side of the green. The left side somehow rolled slowly uphill, then sharply to the right, falling just past the pin and leaving a five foot uphill, right-to-left slider for birdie. I was happy to salvage par with that leave.
Fourteen and fifteen is one of the most fun back-to-back hole combinations I have found anywhere. A long par five, the fourteenth drives straight away. That’s where the fun starts. Bisected by an enormous waste hazard, the fairway splits while heading uphill and to the left. Stay right on the second shot to help set up an unimpeded approach to this elevated green complex.
The fifteenth is the signature hole on the Pine Barrens. A true risk/reward hole if there ever was one, the fairway on the left is most easily hit and will result in a downhill approach that can carom off the left-side bank.
While leaving a shorter and more direct approach shot, the right side fairway must carry 225 yards to fly the sand. Reach the right-side fairway and find yourself with under 100 yards to a recessed green that is fronted by sand hidden by five-foot tall berms.
The seventeenth is a straight-away par four with wasteland lining the right side of the fairway. Favor the left side to be safe off the tee, but then face a riskier approach with the sand also running along the right side of the green. The best approach is from the right side of the driving area.
The eighteenth on the Pine Barrens is a great finishing hole. With a sharp right-to-left dogleg, you need enough length off the tee that the play in is not too long, but need to hit the elbow accurately.
I tried cutting off the bend and found myself deep in the woods. Among the many animals found on the World Woods courses are tortoises, large bird species, and huge squirrels that look almost like small monkeys. One of these monkey-like squirrels was hanging out next to my ball (shown below).
With deep bunkers fronting the green, this is a tough finish for a very challenging round of golf.
After having had the wonderful opportunity to play the Pine Barrens at World Woods, I agree with the PGA that this is one of the most beautiful golf courses I have ever played. If you find yourself in Central Florida, I certainly recommend going out of your way to enjoy it. Plan to start early and spend the entire day, both on their two world-class golf courses and with enough time to sample everything their practice facility has to offer.
Location: Brooksville, FL
Yardage: Yellow-7,237, Black-6,817, Green-6,316, White-5,891, Orange-4,983
Slope/Rating: Yellow-133/75.3, Black-131/72.5, Green-125/70.2, White-118/68.5, Orange-114/68.4
Weekend Rates: $119, including cart