Category Archives: Florida

Bay Point Resort Meadows Golf Course Review

Bay Point Resort – Meadows Golf Course Review

This past fall I made my first visit to Panama City for a family member’s wedding. I had only heard about the town in the context of wild spring break stories and I really knew nothing about it. I knew it was in Florida and I knew it was on the Gulf of Mexico so I figured the golf would be plentiful and the views would be stunning. I was not disappointed.

As often occurs on wedding days in the U.S., all the golfers in attendance headed for the links the morning and the others…well, they were probably stuck cleaning up from the night before. Another reason to play golf! The course that was chosen in advance was the Meadows Course at the Bay Point Resort. The Resort actually features two courses, the Meadows and Nicklaus. When I first heard we were playing the Meadows, I was a little disappointed. I figured the Nicklaus would be the more challenging of the two and likely in better condition. I wasn’t too disappointed, though, I was just happy to be playing golf with family with whom I rarely get to tee it up.

 

Bay Point Meadows Golf Course
Just enough sand and water to make most of the holes interesting at Meadows

So how was the course? Was the golf good enough to overwhelm my hangover from the night before? Read on to find out.

Practice Facilities – B+

Bay Point Meadows Golf Course
There is no shortage of lumber at Bay Point.

Our day at Bay Point started on the well-stocked practice facility. Everything was in nice shape, complete with target greens and yardages provided. Everything about the warm-up area was quite nice and the only thing that was missing was a pitching green, but that’s just a minor issue for most.

Course Conditions – A-

Bay Point Meadows Golf Course
Somewhere in the bottom of this lake lies my cousin’s 8-iron clubhead.

Much like the practice facilities, the overall conditions at Bay Point were quite good. The greens rolled consistently well and the fairways were manicured nicely. Particularly challenging, although it was well-maintained, was the bermuda rough. I’m not sure if those from the south get used to it, or if they spend their golfing careers cursing the stuff, but for those of us from up north, bermuda rough is a challenge. It doesn’t feel that thick, but it just has a way of grabbing one’s clubhead. Thankfully I was hitting it fairly well that day and I didn’t need to play from it very often.

Layout – A-

As I mentioned earlier, I was slightly disappointed to be playing Meadows and not Nicklaus when I heard the plans initially. What I failed to take into account, however, was that Jack’s courses are often simply brutal. While quite challenging and attractive to the eye, they can make for a long day on the links. Old Corkscrew, another Florida Nicklaus course which I reviewed in the past, fits this description.

I’m happy to report that Meadows was the precise opposite of this. I would describe it as an old-school Florida, country club layout. Most of the holes were just narrow enough to make it interesting and were well-bunkered. It was not the kind of course that beats one up all morning, it just had enough strategically-placed trees, bunkers, and water to make it interesting. I wouldn’t call it easy, just a fun round of golf.

The most shocking part of my experience that Saturday morning? Outside of the driving range we did not see another golfer during our entire round. It could not have been a more pleasant morning. Bay Point Meadows Golf Course

Value – B+

We played the course in the middle of October, definitely out of season in the Florida Panhandle, yet the weather could not have been more perfect. It was a beautiful 75 degrees and hardly a cloud in the sky. For this, I paid about $50, not a bad deal for Florida golf on a weekend. I can’t speak to the availability of other “deals” as we were pretty locked into our tee time, but the rack rate was pretty good for what we received. Bay Point Meadows Golf Course

19th Hole and Clubhouse – B

I’ll admit I didn’t spend much time in the clubhouse but what I saw was simple, yet nice enough. There was a small locker room and well-stocked pro shop. The employees were all extremely friendly and helpful. While it’s nothing terribly fancy, it has everything one needs for before and after a round of golf.

Bay Point Meadows Golf Course
The 18th hole at Clubhouse at Bay Point Meadows Course

Overall – B+

As should be clear by now, I was quite impressed by everything at Bay Point Meadows. While nothing was extremely fancy or over the top difficult on the golf course, it was everything you want in a leisurely round of golf. I’ll play it if I’m ever back in the area and that should be high praise enough.

Birdies

  • Nice practice area to warm up before the round
  • Beautiful, uncrowded course conditions

Bogeys

  • Not the course for you if you’re looking for a 7200 yard, 150 slope beast.
  • Some might think the course misses a distinct signature hole.

 

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Naples Grande Golf Club Review – Naples, Florida

Naples Grande is what I’d call a semi-private club in Naples, Florida. I say “semi-private” because there are ways of playing it outside of becoming a member. They are as follows:

  1. Stay at the Waldorf Astoria in Naples. All guests of the property have access to the golf club.
  2. Pick up a South Florida PGA Pass.
  3. Buy a Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout Pass.

For what it’s worth, I’ve tried calling and getting on out of season several times in the past. The response has always been “Sorry but if you’re not staying at the Waldorf we can’t accommodate you.” Finally in 2014 I decided to pick up a PGA pass and I was in like in like Flynn at Naples Grande. I paid my $45 greens fees and I was off to the lap of luxury.

In prior reviews I’ve described other courses as “no frills.” Naples Grande, I’m happy to report, is chock full of frills. The carts are equipped with wet towels. The practice area comes complete with tees, ball markers, divot repair tools, etc. Before you tee off you pass by a comfort station with water, ice, and straws.

A green at Naples Grande Golf Club

Two things stood out to me about the golf course:

  1. It is incredibly well-maintained. I played in the middle of June, not exactly the in-season in South Florida, and everything was pristine. I can only imagine how perfect this place is in February.
  2. The greens are lightning fast. The only ones I’ve putted that are comparable in the area were the greens at Bonita Bay, another private gem in the area.

A view from behind the par 5 16th hole at Naples Grande

If you’ve read this far you are probably wondering if the course is worth playing or if it’s “boring inland Florida golf.” I came away from my round pleasantly surprised at the layout. It’s subtly a very difficult track. While many of the holes are straightforward and seemingly easy from the view off the tee, the reality is that the speed of the greens and hazard placement make it quite difficult. I’ve heard St. Andrews described as the kind of course that there are places in the fairway that make for a nearly unplayable second shot. Naples Grande, while a world away from St. Andrews, plays quite similarly. During my round I had multiple occasions where I had what I thought were good approach shots that turned out to be terrible because I was above the hole. There are spots around the greens where you absolutely can’t miss to and hope to get it up and down. I’m not sure that this would make for a very fun round for the average 20 handicapper that comes over from the Waldorf, but for a golf nerd like me I loved it.

The par 3 17th at Naples Grande Golf Club

Besides the perfect practice area, lush fairways, and great service, Naples Grande is also nice in that there is no housing around the course. There are a couple of spots where you hear a little road noise from the Golden Gate Parkway but otherwise it’s incredibly beautiful everywhere you look.

So if you happen to find yourself in Florida in the off-season (or are staying at the Waldorf in-season), by all means check this track out. Not only will you feel like you’ve won the lottery for a day, you’ll enjoy putting the greens that could double as pool tables.

The finishing hole at Naples Grande

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World Woods Golf Club (Pine Barrens) Review – Brooksville, Florida

Down the Rabbit Hole of Golf Course Rankings

Even though I’m often skeptical of them, I am a complete sucker for golf course rankings. If I find one in a magazine or website I will no doubt spend at least 20 minutes reading it, determining which courses I’ve played, and then figuring out which courses I can fit into my next vacation. If I had the connections (and the wallet) I would no doubt embark on a top 100 course quest. But as it stands I do my best to find courses that fit into my schedule and budget.

The 17th Hole at the Pine Barrens Course at World Woods

My main reason for the skepticism of many of these lists is it seems that in some cases, courses make the list because they know how to market better than other courses in the area. It doesn’t mean they’re bad courses, it just means you go pay the (often exorbitant) greens fees and then wonder what all the fuss is about. In spite of my aforementioned skepticism, I had been dying to play World Woods (specifically the Pine Barrens course) for some time. Not only is it relatively inexpensive, the comparisons to Pine Valley piqued my interest even further. When I played the course it cost me a whopping $20 because it had been aerated in the past week. The normal cost for a summer round there would have been only $35. By the time I played the greens were near perfect. The only evidence that anything had been done recently were small punch marks in the fairway which didn’t affect playability.

The “Amenities” at World World Woods

Before discussing the course itself, most golfers like to know a little about the facilities they’ll enjoy before and after the round. As others have stated, the clubhouse at World Woods is spartan at best. There’s a small pro shop, grill area, and not much more. It’s perfectly adequate, it’s just very basic. There is nothing resort-like about the clubhouse. It feels like your basic, daily fee muni course. Not that this creates an issue, one would just be disappointed if they were expecting Tiburon. Most of the employees are also not what you’d call “bubbly”. I’d heard others describe them as rude but I’d not sure I’d go that far.

The Holy Grail of Practice Areas

In contrast with the clubhouse, the practice facility at World Woods might be the most impressive (at least in terms of size) that I’ve ever seen. Not only is the driving range massive (I counted at least two different teeing areas and I think there are more), there are three practice holes, a two-acre putting green, and a nine hole executive course. I read somewhere that it was originally built with the intention of creating a golf school that never came to fruition. Here’s a better description from the course’s website:

The World Woods range, built in 1993 along with its two courses, Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks, was innovative among Sunshine State facilities for its configuration. The immense circular range covers a full 23 acres and is surrounded by tees playing in four different directions toward the center. As if this spacious complex weren’t enough, World Woods also provides a 9-hole Short Course featuring seven par 3’s and two par 4’s, a 3-hole Practice Course, a large chipping green with several bunkers, and a 36-hole Putting Course over two acres in size. Combine this with putting greens near the first tees of both courses and a wooded, secluded golf-only environment and World Woods must rank among the greatest practice outlets in the country.

If you appreciate a good practice facility like I do, you’ll be in absolute heaven at World Woods. It’s so good I’d be curious if any pros use World Woods as their home track. Even though it’s a public facility, there are enough remote corners of the practice area where they could avoid any human contact.

36 Holes of Great Golf

World Woods actually features two different 18 hole layouts, Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks. Pine Barrens, the track I played, is ranked slightly higher but both are supposed to be excellent. Before I go into any kind of detail, let me just say that Pine Barrens is worth all the hype and lofty rankings. It is by far the best $20 round of golf I’ve ever played.

World Woods Golf Club - Pine Barrens Course

The Layout and Hole Descriptions

Replaying the course multiple times in my head I’ve tried to come up with a description of what makes the course so great. First of all it’s visually one of the most fascinating courses I’ve ever seen. I found myself multiple times standing on the tee saying “wow”. The use of sand and waste areas not only make the course attractive and unique for Florida, they provide the golfer with a bit of direction on how to play the hole. Some courses the trouble is subtle and not visible from the tee or approach shot. At Pine Barrens, while there are some blind shots, for the most part the golfer has a very clear picture on how best to score well.

Pine Barrens at World Woods Golf Club

Another thing that makes World Woods great is that it presents the golfer with options on many of its holes. Most par 5’s you make the decision to go for the green based on your success (or lack thereof) on the tee shot. This is not always the case at the Pine Barrens course. Hole #4 is a relatively short par 5 that off the tee you are forced to make the call; take the conservative play down the left side where there is no forced carry, or take on the 200+ yard carry to the peninsula fairway and go for it in two. Not only is it a fun hole to play, the view from the tee is superb.

The 4th Hole at World Woods Golf Club - Pine Barrens

The 15th hole is also a split-fairway, but this one is a short par four. The left side is wide-open where an iron or hybrid off the tee will leave you a downhill wedge to a firm green. It may seem like the easy route but the downhill approach ends up being partially blind and the green is narrow enough it can be challenging to hold. The right fairway offers a straightaway shot to this drivable par four but requires a 225+ carry to make the fairway. What also makes this hole great (aside from its design) is the fact that it’s slightly downhill. If it were level or uphill you’d stand on the tee and basically guess at what you had to do; not so on this one. For the record, I went for it on #4 and played it safe on #15.

The 15th hole at Pine Barrens at World Woods Golf Club

Final Thoughts

Even though Brooksville seems to be in the middle of nowhere in central Florida, it has an absolute gem of a track in World Woods/Pine Barrens. Even if it cost 2 or 3 times what it does now, it’s worth the trek in my humble opinion. It’s not so often you finish up a round and think “Wow, I have never played a course like that and I’m not sure I ever will again.”. If you have any opportunity to, by all means make time to check it out yourself.

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