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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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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