Great Golf Holes: Streamsong, Red Course #18 (FL)

Streamsong’s Red course, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, was named by Golf Digest as the number one new course in the country in 2013, and Streamsong’s resort has thrived over the past two years to become the country’s hottest golf destination.

The Red course ends in fantastic fashion, with a sensational par three sixteenth over water to a 100-yard long biarritz green, a strong par four seventeenth and then one of the best finishing holes found anywhere: The par five eighteenth.

The 18th on the Red course at Streamsong from the tee

The 18th on the Red course at Streamsong from the tee

The eighteenth is framed beautifully by the sand dunes that tower above the right-hand side of the playing surface, and lead to a magnificently contoured green complex.

The hole is not overly long, especially for a modern day par five tipping out at 540 yards, but there are quite a few nuances to it that defend the eighteenth from being an easy birdie hole.

StreamsongRed18

Photo courtesy of Kris Halsrud / Kristazio on Golf (link: http://kristaziogolf.blogspot.com/2015/03/streamsong-red-hole-18.html)

First are the sand traps in and around the fairways. The sandy wasteland fronting the tees should not come in to play for most players who can carry the ball 75-150 yards, depending on tee selection, but the deep trap that runs the left side of the fairway certainly can. The sand dunes right of the fairway can also come in to play with sliced shots.

My drive on the eighteenth found the deep trap on the left side, for example, leaving this bunker shot out:

Strategy is key to scoring on the eighteenth, as the contours of the green complex make accuracy on the approach pivotal. Going at this green from the left side means having to carry sand, and approaching it from the middle to right side of the fairway means a more direct shot with a wider green, but also having to carry a major false front.

At a recent media trip to the site of Coore/Crenshaw’s current project at Sand Valley in central Wisconsin, I asked Bill Coore about this hole, and specifically about its green complex: “How do you know when a green is right? Take, for example, the 18th on the Red course at Streamsong?”

The dramatic 18th hole green complex at Streamsong's Red course in Streamsong, FL (Coore/Crenshaw)

The dramatic 18th hole green complex at Streamsong’s Red course in Streamsong, FL (Coore/Crenshaw)

Coore’s answer: “When it feels right. The difference between a great green and a terrible green is very narrow. We (Coore and Ben Crenshaw) encourage our staff to be creative and ‘go with it.’ The result is a combination of artistry, strategy and of course drainage.” Mr. Coore asked [Streamsong Superintendent Rusty Mercer], “Can you and your team mow this?” “We can mow this,” he told Bill. If he had responded any other way, the green would have been altered and this great complex would not stand as it does today, and probably yield a lot lower scoring average.

At 540 yards from the tips, or 505 from the first tees in, this is a reachable par five in two shots. The second shot would surely be a long approach, though, and would have to carry the traps front-left of the green in order to have any chance at holding it.

Anything hit near the middle to right side of the green would hit its tremendous false front in that direction, and undoubtedly roll in to the collection area that requires skillful uphill wedge play from tight lies.

Coore and Crenshaw are masters of providing golfers with shot options, and the finishing hole on Streamsong’s beautiful Red course is a terrific example of that.

Hole Wrap-Up:
Course: Streamsong, Red course
Designer: Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw (2012)
Location: Streamsong, FL
Yardages: 540/505/443/406
Par: 5
Handicap: 17

WiscoGolfAddict course review for Streamsong, Red course

WiscoGolfAddict destination overview for Streamsong Resort

Streamsong Resort, Red Course Website

Golf Course Review: Streamsong, Blue Course (FL)

Streamsong, Blue Course Rankings:

Golf Digest: #24 US public, #6 Florida
GolfWeek: #43 US modern, #3 Florida public, #14 US resort
Golf.com: #62 US top 100, #16 US public, #3 Florida public

Designer: Tom Doak (2012)

The Blue course at Streamsong, designed by Tom Doak and opened for public play in 2013, is the nation’s 24th best public course according to Golf Digest, and the 30th best modern course according to GolfWeek.

While the Red course tends to rank slightly higher in the state and national rankings (in this rare air of course rankings, there is not much room to move!), the Blue course is a wonderful complement, and the two play off of one another well while providing different playing experiences. The key differences between the Blue and Red courses, to me, are:

  • The Blue course is much easier off the tee
  • The Blue course is more challenging on the greens
  • The Blue course is softer – Doak has a way of creating angles that are less harsh but that need to be paid attention to
  • Overall, the Blue course is slightly less rugged than the Red course

The wide target areas off the tees on the Blue course are great for a guy like me, who can hit the ball a ton but tends to spray drives.

The unbelievably challenging greens of the Blue course, on the other hand, can be tough for a guy like me who usually takes a handful of holes to acquire a feel for new, and especially lightning fast, greens.

While I opened things up with a one-putt birdie on the first hole (yes, I did take a breakfast ball), it took longer than usual to get the pace of these perfectly rolling putting surfaces. Watching everything glide by and not stop for 20 more feet was starting to get a little old!

It is not so much that the greens are fast (although they are!), but that they have an incredible amount of slope. Like playing at a great country club, anything putted downhill needs to be stroked with incredible care or else lost to the fringe. It is not all on back-to-front putts at Streamsong, though, as the swells in the greens are substantial and can take away all of a ball’s momentum or speed it up indefinitely.

When visiting Streamsong, make sure to play both the Blue and Red courses, and make sure to stay on site, especially to take advantage of their fantastic stay-and-play packages! While the courses provide world-class golf, the resort provides an unparalleled lodging and culinary experience. For my full review of the Streamsong Resort, including additional information on their stay-and-play packages, please visit the following link:

WiscoGolfAddict article on the Streamsong Resort experience

WiscoGolfAddict review of the Red course at Streamsong Resort

Streamsong boasts one of the best caddie rosters in the entire country. If an extra $80-100 per round is affordable, these guys can really help reduce strokes and add to the overall golfing experience.

My caddie for the Blue course, Noah Zelnik, is a bit of a legend around Florida golf. Having also played on the PGA Tour, Noah has caddied for two Tour wins (with Michael Bradley) and is currently on the bag for Arjun Atwal. “Big Z” knows golf and, like all caddies at Streamsong, knows the courses here like the back of his hand.

Caddies-IMG_4573

The courses at Streamsong were designed with walkability in mind. The toughest trek at the entire property comes early, though: A 75-foot climb up to the first hole tee box. The rest of the terrain is much more easily trespassed, catering to the older, more affluent customer base that frequents this walking-preferred resort. If the 75-foot walk on one is a challenge, staff is more than happy to provide cart rides to the tee.

Streamsong Blue: A 75-foot uphill walk to the first hole tee boxes

Streamsong Blue: A 75-foot uphill walk to the first hole tee boxes

Overlooking the course in front, the beautiful, modern clubhouse and its neighboring pond and wildlife behind, and the Blue and Red courses’ signature holes to the right, this is one of the most dramatic first hole tee boxes I have ever seen.

The fairway on one is plenty wide, although for Blue course standards there is a bit of danger that can come in to play by way of the sand traps found both left and right. For longer hitters, these are too close to the tee box to worry about.

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Streamsong Blue Hole 1: Par 4 (338/330/330/289)

The view back over the bye hole and toward the clubhouse from the first hole tee boxes:

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Streamsong Blue: Hole 1 view to the clubhouse from elevated tee boxes

The view from the first hole tee boxes toward both courses’ signature par three holes – seven on the Blue course, and sixteen on the Red course:

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Streamsong Blue: Hole 1 view to the signature par threes from elevated tee boxes

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Golf Destination: Streamsong Resort (FL)

Last week, my girlfriend Kelly and I had the opportunity to check out the hottest new golf destination in the world: Streamsong Resort near Bowling Green, Florida.

In their third year of operation, Streamsong became eligible this year for the semi-annual “Best-of” lists for both Golf Digest and GolfWeek. Their rankings in both, as well as in all other major golf publications, are where you would expect them – near the top!

  • Golf Digest 100 Greatest Public: Red Course #18 (link to list)
  • Golf Digest 100 Greatest Public: Blue Course #24 (link to list)
  • Golf Digest Best in State (FL): Red Course #4 (link to list)
  • Golf Digest Best in State (FL): Blue Course #6 (link to list)
  • Golf Digest Best Public in State (FL): Red Course #1 (link to list)
  • Golf Digest Best Public in State (FL): Blue Course #3 (link to list)
  • Golf Digest Top 100 Overall: Red Course #100 (link to list)
  • GolfWeek Top 100 Modern: Red Course #30 (link to list)
  • GolfWeek Top 100 Modern: Blue Course #43 (link to list)
  • GolfWeek Best in State (FL): Red Course #2 (link to list)
  • GolfWeek Best in State (FL): Blue Course #3 (link to list)
  • GolfWeek Best Resort Golf Course: Red Course #12 (link to list)
  • GolfWeek Best Resort Golf Course: Blue Course #14 (link to list)
  • 2014 Golf.com Top 100 You Can Play: Red Course #12 (link to list)
  • 2014 Golf.com Top 100 You Can Play: Blue Course #16 (link to list)
  • 2015 USA Today Best Top-Notch Warm Weather Golf Destination #1 (link to list)

Some of the best golf in the country tends to mean high prices, but Streamsong has created great promotions that make stay-and-play an easier decision for buddies’ golf trips. In fact, between May 26 and September 9, golf enthusiasts can walk 18 and stay the night at this instant classic golf resort for just $139 apiece per night (based on double occupancy).

Walk-and-stay rates at Streamsong, based on season:

  • April 16 – May 26: $269 per person
  • May 26 – September 9: $139 per person (make it happen!)
  • > September 10 (Winter rates): $349 per person

The golf courses at Streamsong are so good they should be on every enthusiast’s must-play list for 2015. On the same note, the lodging is so amazing that it would be silly to pay the $115-plus for golf and not take advantage of the stay-and-play packages to enjoy one of the most beautiful and luxurious resorts in the entire nation!

Min. golf rates at Streamsong, based on season:

  • April 16 – may 26: $165 (walking)
  • May 26 – September 9: $115 (walking)
  • > September 10 (Winter rates): $225 (walking)

While golf is well over $100 per round on its own, average room rates during the warm Florida summer are $149/night, and go up to $349/night during the spring when the central Florida weather is perfect for Midwesterners like me during our hard winters.

Average room rates at Streamsong Resort, based on season:

  • April 16 – May 26: $249-279/night
  • May 26 – September 9: $149/night
  • > September 10 (Winter rates): $349/night

To say that $139/person between May 26 and September 9 for both golf and lodging is an INCREDIBLE deal for both golf and lodging is an understatement! The other walk-and-stay rates they have are steals, too, when compared to the rates for lodging and/or golf, alone.

Bottom line: Do not fly to Tampa or Orlando and stay at some random hotel, then drive to the middle of nowhere to Streamsong for a round of golf and take off. The courses and resort at Streamsong go hand in hand, and neither should be experienced without the other. With as high-end as the golf courses are, the lodging one-ups them, if that is possible.

The resort offers free transfers between the lodge and the pro shop/courses, and Streamsong is best experienced on foot. While the courses are anything but flat, both Tom Doak and Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw designed them to be incredibly walker-friendly to best cater to high-end golfers who tend to be older in age.

Kelly and I were not the youngest people at Streamsong while we were there, but we were close. Kyle, who I golfed with on my second day on the Red course, and his wife were there from the Virginia area after he’d seen the resort in Golf Digest. His wife and Kelly both enjoyed the pool and all the amenities at the resort, and in fact I have been hearing from Kelly about how much she loved Streamsong since then.

The topography of the land is very un-Florida-like, but the tees are set in a way that the only major uphill climb is to the tee box of the first hole on the Blue course. The rest of the courses are quite walk-able, and carts would be very unnecessary and I personally believe would detract from the overall golfing experience.

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The uphill climb to the 1st tee box on the Blue course at Streamsong Resort – the only major uphill climb on otherwise very walker-friendly courses

Originally opened to the public in 2012, Streamsong is without a question the hottest golf resort in America. Its lodging, food and amenities are fantastic, but what brings droves of sportsmen and travelers to its remote piece of land in central Florida is the golf. The Red course, designed by one of the world’s hottest golf course architecture teams of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and the Blue course, designed by the world’s other hottest golf course architect Tom Doak, bill the destination as an instant classic, and neither disappoints.

Gil Hanse and his team are currently working on a third course on the property, the Black course, which is slated to open to the public in September, 2017. Hanse may not be as much of a household name as Coore/Crenshaw and Doak, but is a rising star in the golf course design industry and has recently been in the news for his work on the Rio De Janeiro Olympic course, as well as for his redesign work on Trump National Doral in Miami.

Controlled fire on the future site of Gil Hanse's Black course at Streamsong Resort

Controlled fire on the future site of Gil Hanse’s Black course at Streamsong Resort

The same general area hosts both the Red and Blue course’s signature par three holes, and I was fortunate to have my caddies film both of my shots on them and actually hit the green both times:

Streamsong, Blue Course #7 (3-putt bogey):

Streamsong, Red Course #16 (1-putt birdie):

Located an hour and 10 minutes from Tampa International Airport, and an hour and a half from the Orlando International Airport, the first thing visitors to Streamsong Resort will notice is that it is literally in the middle of nowhere. The drive from Tampa was easy, though, and brought us along numerous back roads in to an area of Florida that looks nothing like “Florida.”

I once read a golf blog by a guy from Florida, which I will share here:

Epic Golf’s Florida Golf Blog, 2012

The author, David, started out with great intentions, before coming to the conclusion that Florida golf is all the same – there are four different hole layouts and only a couple of courses in the state that differ. Writing his last post in 2012, he did not stick it out to review Streamsong, which breaks all of the rules of Florida golf!

There are no homes on the courses at Streamsong. In fact, I don’t think we saw a home within 5-10 miles of the resort. For 30-45 minutes leading up to the driveway, there are signs that tell drivers where to turn to get to Streamsong, but if this course was built pre-GPS then golfers would have almost no chance of finding it.

As it turned out, this is a big part of what makes the resort at Streamsong so amazing – the remoteness of the facilities and the feeling of being in a previously untouched area that has done an unbelievable job of leaving the area natural and remote, and providing a world-class golf destination that leaves the land entirely unspoiled and allows visitors to enjoy an area that can provide as much relaxation as desired. For this and so much more, Streamsong is quite possibly Heaven on Earth.

When turning left off the two-lane road that takes you to the resort, lower the car windows and enjoy the five-minute drive through the wilderness. The sounds of nature abound everywhere as the driveway meanders through swamps and forests on either side of the road.

Similar to the entrances at Erin Hills, Dismal River, etc., the entrance to the driveway at Streamsong is a simple unassuming thing of beauty

Similar to the entrances at Erin Hills, Dismal River, Whistling Straits, etc., the entrance to the driveway at Streamsong is a simple unassuming thing of beauty

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Golf Course Review: TPC Tampa Bay (FL)

* Initial general disclaimer: The bulk of this article was written in March, and finished in May, 2014*

Here in Wisconsin, this has been the winter that never seems like it will end. Six to eight feet of frost is said to be in the ground, and we’ve had temperatures below 20 degrees almost exclusively since November – three or four spans of days that didn’t get above freezing, including one stretch of the “Polar vortex” that literally had us continually around 15 to 20 degrees below zero with wind chills worse than 55 degrees below.

With no golf to look forward to for the foreseeable future, I finally broke down and booked tickets to Florida for this past weekend. My friends Stacy and Eric, and my cousin Kari and her boyfriend, Dan, live in the Tampa area, so I had golf partners and a hope for sun and warm weather.
I was originally hoping to play Streamsong, a new and world-renowned resort with two courses that debuted in the top 50 of the best courses in the country in 2013, but was not able to score tee times given the time of year, demand and fairly short notice. I am still hoping to make that happen in 2014.
Eric’s home course in the area is TPC Tampa Bay, which is located in Lutz, just 15-20 minutes outside of Tampa on a plush piece of land that is exactly what you would expect from a TPC course: Beautiful and challenging.
The first thing I will say about TPC Tampa Bay is that the greens are tremendously difficult. They are fast and unblemished, rolling around an 11 on the stimp meter. Even in the early morning, with dew yet on the ground, they were speedy and seemed nearly impossible.
Four foot putts were rolling eight feet by, and anything I was trying to firm in would round out over the edges of the cups. It took the entire front nine to start making any putts, but by the back nine we all seemed to get things down much better.
Eric and I were paired up with Ryan and Tim for our first round at World Woods on Saturday morning, and we all got along well so played together again on Monday at TPC Tampa Bay. Ryan and Tim are in their mid-twenties from Connecticut, and Tim especially has a good and consistent golf game. They were playing 36 holes a day, and like me had the need to travel south to feed their golf addictions.
Regular season rates at TPC Tampa Bay are pricy at $160 per round, including cart and range, so this is a tough course to play frequently, but for a visitor hoping to play the best tracks in the Tampa area, it should be considered a must-play.
The course starts out with a fairly straight forward par four with little trouble off the tee. At 372 yards from the blue tees, the first is a short dogleg right with trees and traps lining the right side of the fairway.
Hole 1: Par 4 (395/372/372/347/309)
The second hole is a mid-range par three at 179 yards from the blues. Playing closer to 190 for our round, I played a nice, drawn four-iron to about eight feet above and left of the pin, on the back upper tier. My putt slid by the hole by five feet and led to my first of many three-putts on the front nine. Yikes.
Hole 2: Par 3 (191/179/179/161/124)
With water left, the right side of the fairway should be cheated on the par four third hole. TPC Tampa Bay has some of the most beautiful sand traps I have seen on a golf course: White sand that plays very nicely.
Hole 3: Par 4 (425/404/404/351/310)
Hole 3: Par 4 (425/404/404/351/310)
Crossing the road through a nice subdivision, the fourth is a long par four of 408 yards with water everywhere. Anything down the right side off the tee will flirt with disaster, while the left side is bordered by more on the approach.
Hole 4: Par 4 (427/408/373/373/304)
The fifth is the shortest par four on the course, at just 322 yards from the blue tees. Less than driver is certainly recommended off the tee, as anything nearing 200 yards will leave a short iron in to the green. The other option is to fly the spattering of trees on the left side, which Eric did and left himself about a 30-yard approach. Do not fly the green on this hole, as the contours of the rough make for some devilish leaves, especially when short-sided.
Hole 5: Par 4 (332/322/322/293/236)
 
Hole 5: Par 4 (332/322/322/293/236)
The second, and shortest, par three at TPC Tampa Bay, the sixth is best guarded by the large trap front and left.
Hole 6: Par 3 (144/133/133/116/94)
The drive on seven is quite intimidating. The first par five on the card (one of three on-site), water lines the left side of the driving area and majority of the fairway. The most important shot, provided the ball is safe off the tee, is the second. Hidden behind a deep treeline, the green is virtually unhittable from the right side of the fairway, and is quite possibly impossible to hit from anywhere in two.
Hole 7: Par 5 (541/533/533/505/422)
Hole 7: Par 5 (541/533/533/505/422)
Water lines the entire left side of the hole on eight, with the fairway edging left farther from the tee boxes. The large central fairway trap is a good aiming point – as long as you avoid it.
Hole 8: Par 4 (414/391/363/363/316)
Hole 8: Par 4 (414/391/363/363/316)
With the same body of water continuing down the left side, the ninth is the number one handicapped hole at TPC Tampa Bay, and for good reason. The fairway is tight and meanders toward the left with a treeline on the right side making an accurate tee shot a must.
Hole 9: Par 4 (472/435/406/406/349)
Finally, we were done with the front! I lost so many balls in the water, and putted so poorly, that I was almost happy to have the first nine over with. I obviously still enjoyed it thoroughly, but the opportunity to reset my game and score was welcomed.
Starting on ten, I had a whole new, improved game. My tee shot wasn’t awesome, but it managed to stay out of the water to the right. A four-iron, the new favorite club in my bag, got me to the fringe, and I managed to two-putt for five.
Hole 10: Par 4 (395/382/344/344/295)

Eleven is the first par three on the back nine, and looks pretty straight-forward from the tee, but has a tough green and is well surrounded by traps.

Hole 11: Par 3 (179/166/166/136/98)

The twelfth was my best hole of the day. After a short drive that landed in the mud left of the fairway, I hit a massive three-wood from 240 out to about 20 feet past the pin. I had my first eagle putt of the 2014 season, and left it short – still, though, I was happy to post my first birdie of the year.

Hole 12: Par 5 (495/487/487/473/404)

Thirteen is an interesting hole with a tough green. Water on the left side is easily avoided with a reasonably long drive, and the green is highly elevated above the playing surface, making for an uphill approach that needs to stick.

Hole 13: Par 4 (345/333/333/309/255)
Hole 13: Par 4 (345/333/333/309/255)

The fourteenth is the longest hole at TPC Tampa Bay, and to me one of the toughest tee shots. Water runs down the left side of the fairway, and trees line the right. All target areas for the second shot are relatively narrow, making this a very challenging par five.

Hole 14: Par 5 (588/574/574/528/455)

At 438 yards from the blue tees, and 452 from the tips, the fifteenth is a long par four! With water lining the entire left side, and massive white bunkers found on each side of the fairway, a par on fifteen is a great score.

Hole 15: Par 4 (452/438/366/366/286)

The first thing you’ll notice on the sixteenth tee is a spattering of sand traps on the left side of the fairway. The right side is relatively open, but does not allow for as long of a tee shot.

Hole 16: Par 4 (430/413/413/373/332)

My favorite hole at TPC Tampa Bay, the seventeenth is a wonderful par three. With water encompassing the middle and right side of the hole, the rule of thumb is to club up to avoid the pond.

Hole 17: Par 3 (217/197/160/160/101)

One of the most challenging finishing holes you’ll find anywhere, the eighteenth at TPC Tampa Bay is an excellent par four. A huge pond makes up the majority of the tee shot’s line of sight, and means either a tremendously long drive or phenomenal accuracy is absolutely essential off the tee. Following a clean drive, the approach will likely be 200 yards or more, with water right and a small false front on a sharply sloped green.

Hole 18: Par 4 (456/443/404/404/300)

TPC Tampa Bay is a wonderful golf course and prototypical TPC track: An excellent layout that features tons of water, perfectly manicured sand traps, and fast, challenging greens. While the $160 rack rate is pricey, I certainly recommend checking it out for a fantastic Tour-like golf experience.

Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Lutz, FL
Yardage: TPC-6,898, Blue-6,610, Green-6,332, White-6,008, Red-4,990
Slope/Rating: TPC-140/74.2, Blue-136/72.1, Green-131/70.4, White-126/69.0, Red-117/69.2
Par: 71
Weekend Rates: $160

Golf Course Review: World Woods, Pine Barrens (FL)

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.

Hole 1: Par 4 (427/401/371/352/327)
Hole 1: Par 4 (427/401/371/352/327)

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.

Hole 2: Par 4 (483/453/397/364/307)
Hole 2: Par 4 (483/453/397/364/307)

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.

Hole 3: Par 3 (174/157/136/111/88)
 
The fourth is a very memorable golf hole. A demanding par five, the tee shot must stay left of or clear the massive sand wasteland that devours the right side of the driving area. Make sure you can clear the trap if you’re going straight at this hole, as anything just short is liable to bury in the steep slope that leads back up toward the fairway.
The entire right side of the playing surface is littered with sand, leading all the way up to the green. A high fade would work best on the approach here, as anything short will fall well short of the green in sand and leave a nearly impossible approach to a highly elevated green.
 
Hole 4: Par 5 (526/502/467/432/407)
Hole 4: Par 5 (526/502/467/432/407)
 
A short hole for the Pine Barrens, the par four fifth has a long, narrow green that has to be played short of the pin. Anything above will leave a ticklish putt down this steeply falling green.
 
Hole 5: Par 4 (382/382/361/324/282)
Hole 5: Par 4 (382/382/361/324/282)

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.

Championship tees on Hole 6: Par 5 (543/523/508/479/438)
Hole 6: Par 5 (543/523/508/479/438)
Hole 6: Par 5 (543/523/508/479/438)

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.

Hole 7: Par 3 (207/207/176/156/141)

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.

Hole 8: Par 4 (434/394/361/352/296)
 
Hole 8: Par 4 (434/394/361/352/296)

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.

Hole 9: Par 4 (419/419/407/394/321)
Hole 9: Par 4 (419/419/407/394/321)

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.

Hole 10: Par 3 (228/183/159/151/124)

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.

Hole 11: Par 4 (434/394/386/378/320)
The twelfth on the Pine Barrens actually has two greens, although one of my playing partners told me that in the many years he has been playing World Woods he has never seen the one on the left used. This is a great thing for tourists like myself, as the finish of this hole is nothing short of spectacular.
Perched above the right side of the fairway, completely fronted by sand traps, the green is probably twenty or thirty feet above the playing surface. Choose enough club and do not worry too much about flying this green, as the upward slope will act as a back-stop for well-struck approaches.
Hole 12: Par 4 (491/456/432/403/297)
Hole 12: Par 4 (491/456/432/403/297)
Hole 12: Par 4 (491/456/432/403/297)

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.

Hole 13: Par 4 (465/429/395/365/315)
Hole 13: Par 4 (465/429/395/365/315)

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.

Hole 14: Par 5 (587/553/518/494/388)
Hole 14: Par 5 (587/553/518/494/388)
Hole 14: Par 5 (587/553/518/494/388)

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.

Hole 15: Par 4 (339/339/322/302/266)
Hole 15: Par 4 (339/339/322/302/266)
Hole 15: Par 4 (339/339/322/302/266)
A beautiful par three, the key to sixteen is remembering that the left side is safe – well, as safe as a near-green shot on the Pine Barrens can get! The hillside in the fly zone shrouds the left side run-off area, showing only a depressed right side covered with sand. The putting surface falls sharply from the back to the front, leaving anything from the side or above the pin a challenge to stop.
Hole 16: Par 3 (227/198/164/141/89)
Hole 16: Par 3 (227/198/164/141/89)

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.

Hole 17: Par 4 (398/398/370/344/301)

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.

Hole 18: Par 4 (473/429/386/349/276)
Hole 18: Par 4 (473/429/386/349/276)
The squirrels at World Woods look almost like small monkeys

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.

Course Wrap-Up:
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
Par: 71
Weekend Rates: $119, including cart