In general, all Florida courses are the same — they’re flat, have mini lakes everywhere with cattails everywhere, and they have houses on all sides of every hole. World Woods is not like that.
The club is based an hour north of Tampa, meaning that the land is as hilly as a course in North Carolina. There are a few lakes, but definitely not a main part of the course. And luckily, you’re not able to see any houses to the side of any hole (incidentally, they do have stay and play villas, but they’re 6 miles from the courses). Oh, and Tom Fazio knows how to build unique and tournament-esque courses, both of which you’ll find at World Woods.
Despite the name of the club, I was a huge fan of playing out there. Being a single player, I got paired with a father and son in the first round who were really friendly. We were one of the first groups off in the day and we cruised around so quickly, never had to wait, and we never cause the group behind us to wait either. We got along so well that we even decided to flip tee times for the second round of the day so we could play together again. Unlike the first round however, the afternoon round was packed and slow. However, this was not a big deal because the weather was (somewhat) warm, and we were in carts which makes 36 holes super easy.
I’ll admit, I’d never heard of World Woods at all before I got a suggestion to play there from the guy I played with earlier in the week that Palm Beach par 3 course, the first full day in Florida. I hadn’t heard of the club before, and wasn’t exactly sure about the quality considering how unique, and frankly odd, the name of the club is. Which is funny because there’s another famous club in Florida with an odd name, but more on that in a later post.
Now, if you ever talk to someone who’s played the courses there, expect the following quote where the player tries to make it obvious that they’ve played there, and that they know what the designs of the courses are.
Oh yeah, World Woods, I’ve played there before. Really cool courses. One of them is designed like Augusta National, and the other like Pine Valley. I could totally tell that was the case on my own when I was playing the courses, because I know a lot about what those top courses are designed like. And I’m definitely not claiming that because I was told about the comparisons before I played. I figured that out on my own.
This quote is a lie. If anyone ever talks about playing World Woods, the first thing they’re going to say is that Rolling Oaks looks like Augusta National, and Pine Barrens is designed to look semi like Pine Valley. Which means that 1) they’re only saying it to try to seem smart, and 2) make you think that they know course designs better than you. Incidentally, this is also the first thing that I’m writing about the courses here, so I guess I fall into that bucket of “being smart about course design” as well. My bad.
Though these differences are actually the case, Rolling Oaks does look like Augusta National does on TV cause I haven’t actually played there unfortunately. They both have wide and beautiful sloping fairways, wavy greens the way that basically every MacKenzie course is designed like, and bunkers that have the same edges that you’ll see at the Masters. Pine Barrens on the other hand has slightly tighter fairways, surrounded by more pine trees along with smaller greens, and more wide and semi-waste area bunkers, which I assume Pine Valley is like because I’ve never played there either.
- Two courses
- both different enough to be distinct
- slightly far away from main areas in Florida
- cheap enough to be a great deal compared to other courses in Florida, ~$170 for playing 36 in one day
- and if you go, plan on playing 36 holes in one day. You get a cheaper replay rate and can bolt afterwards.
Considering I hadn’t heard of World Woods before, and also wasn’t exactly sure when I’d be close enough to that area, I just called them a few days before my round and was given a tee time on both courses within less than a minute of talking to a guy behind the desk. I rolled up early in the morning, went in and paid for the first round. Like I mentioned above, the courses themselves are really cool and in great condition, but damn did that clubhouse look like one at a not-too-expensive municipal course. Or maybe a clubhouse that courses build cheaply while constructing their fancy / giant clubhouse that most courses of this nature have. I’ll take great courses over a great clubhouse however, so I didn’t mind that at all.
I hit some balls, went over to Pine Barrens course before the starter realized they told me I was playing Rolling Oaks for the first round, so I drove over to Rolling Oaks…
… aka Augusta National. We started on the 10th hole and I instantly I agreed that the course very much has a look like Augusta. 10th hole is a long par 5 with giant fairway, which is good for an opening drive, that slopes down and to the right, all the way until you have a 100 yard uphill third shot to a green that has two bunkers on both sides of the front part of the green which make it look very much like the 2nd hole at Augusta National. Check out the green in this instagram post.
I also took a picture from the back of the 10th green that shows what the fairway was looking like from.
Not only did the first hole look like something that could be at Augusta, but pretty much every other hole did too. For example, here’s the 15th hole with another bunker and green combo that shouts “you’re not in Florida, you’re at Augusta”.
The signature hole of Rolling Oaks here is frankly a little odd in my opinion. It’s the 8th hole, our second to last of the morning, a downhill par 3 with a mini lake that looks added into the hole for funsies. The rest of the holes looked natural and similar, and this hole green was just thrown in there because why not.
Couple notes about the course. None of the bunkers have rakes surrounding them, instead you’ll have a mini rake in your cart that you’re supposed to bring to every bunker shot. Luckily, I only forgot to bring the rake back to my cart once.
The greens on the course are super smooth, look great, but are decently slow. Half of that is based on how slopey the greens are and greens that are too quick would make putting annoying, and I’ll assume the other half of that is Flo-rida based courses with tons of play and people walking all over. Here’s a tip though if you’re on the course: play more break on your putts. The final three feet of basically every putt we hit snapped at the end and we kept missing low. If you know this about the greens, and you make some more putts when you’re playing RO, hit us up on twitter and give us the assist.
Final notes on Rolling Oaks. Again, remember you’re actually in Florida, not Augusta. But the course is definitely unique enough that I wasn’t exactly reminded about all the different Tom Fazio courses I’ve luckily been able to play. Which is something impressive for designers.
After the round and paying for the 19th-36th holes of the day with a replay rate that’s super cheap and makes the combined price of the courses seem like the price of one at a high level course, I had about an hour of sitting in the cart I had and eating a lunch of granola bars that I brought along, which I decided to do instead of going inside the janky clubhouse and eating a sandwich there. After that, it was time for Pine Barrens.
Out of the two courses at World Woods, Pine Barrens is the better ranked course supposedly, #26 by Golf Week “Americas Best Modern Course”, which is listed on Pine Barrens’ page on World Woods’s website. Frankly, I do generally agree with PB being the better course.
Basically, courses I like are those that are super straight forward and require main and somewhat perfect shots. Tighter fairways which require a good shot, and small greens that also require perfect shots. I like being tested on courses, and shooting higher scores depending on how many bad shots you hit. RO has mostly giant fairways where if you hit a slice or hook, you’re still in play and don’t have too difficult a shot to giant greens. PB is the opposite. Anyway, back to PB and some pics from the course.
See those pics from RO above? Get ready for pics below that look like a completely different course. If I ever make a test where I post pictures and you have to guess which course it’s a picture of, you’d get 100%.
Like I mentioned above, PB greens are tinier and flatter, and instead of having just giant fairways like RO, PB’s fairways actually have rough that turned out to be slightly longer than public course normal rough edges of the fairways, and then have mini-forests for pine trees as well.
Here we got my ball in the rough, pine trees in the way, a small green slightly elevated with one side dropping down, and more fescue surrounded bunkers by the green. Boom, that’s PB for you.
I don’t think I played particularly well there, but the only thing I remember about that round was making 3 birdies in a row. One on the instagram post above when I drained a long putt, then the next two. Next was a really cool par 5 (14th hole) that I hit in two from 250 yards with a big draw around the trees which I shouldn’t have done because turns out the left side of that green is as big as the Grand Canyon. And I birdied the next hole, a drivable part 4, by knocking a driver onto the tinier green. Hitting the ball far really helps making courses easier, but being able to make putts helps even more.
Other notes about the course. There’s actually a hole out there that has multiple greens! One to the left, and one elevated to the right. At first I thought it was super interesting and one of the very few courses that have this feature, but actually played a course less than a week later, designed by Fazio as well, that also had a hole with multiple greens. So at this point I’ll just give credit to Fazio for that, and more on the course with that hole in another post. I’m sure some people think courses with multiple greens are too funky, or not based on older courses, but I’m the kind of guy who pretty much likes every golf course no matter how different it is. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of those greens for some dumb reason.
And one more pic for good measure. Here’s the 18th hole’s approach shot. Tee shot is a giant dogleg left where I snapped my drive into that bunker to the left, but knocked it on the green and two putted for par.
Besides what I wrote in the TL;DR above, I really was a fan of these courses. Despite the semi-cold Florida weather and super wind that we had that day, the courses really were in great shape, and distinct enough to look like a type of course I had never played before. Elevation on both courses in Florida was definitely a key in this uniqueness. Making holes look different than others on the course is very decisive in my opinion of good courses, and elevation makes that so much easier than a flat course.
The other thing that worked out great was being paired with two other friendly people. Playing as a single and being forced to play with others is somewhat a flip of the coin. There were a couple other groups that were before or after us that definitely seemed to have odd people. People that I don’t know how they would feel if they got stuck with a rando.
World Woods, you have an odd name, but big cong on having two courses that are definitely worth going and playing.