Most top-notch courses in the USA are set aside for the exclusive use of club members and their guests but we take our hat off to Yukihisa Inoue, the president of World Woods. His philosophy, and hence the name behind his corporation, is the provision of world-class golf for all to play. The 1993 Tom Fazio designed Pine Barrens course at the World Woods Resort is therefore a triumph for the people, along with its sophisticated next door neighbour, Rolling Oaks.
Joe Black, past President of the PGA of America said, "This is like having Pine Valley and Augusta, plus the best practice facility in the world - in the same location." We think Black got slightly carried away but World Woods is genuinely a high-class golf resort which will put a huge tick in the box of every avid golfer.
The World Woods' mission statement is “to provide the greatest experience that our guests have ever encountered at a golf facility in regard to golf course conditioning, service, professionalism and overall staff knowledge and to thereby become the #1 golf facility in Florida.” Recently, the mission statement has been revised from "Florida" to the "USA". It’s an admirable target but a huge ask.
Pine Barrens is a course that is at once attractive but also frightening and we can see what Joe Black meant when he mentioned the similarity to Pine Valley. The fairways at Pine Barrens are naturally pine-lined with huge expanses of sand, almost waste-like bunkering. Carved through a pine forest this is not a course for the wayward driver, keep the ball in play and you might card a decent score.
In Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play book by Brian McCallen, the author thinks the course “looks far more intimidating from the tees than it actually plays. There’s room galore to drive the ball, but approach shots must be pinpointed to well-protected greens laced with bold, provocative contours, greens that are slick (especially from above the hole) but not terrifying in their speediness.
“The first hole, a straightaway par four, signals the layout’s intentions. From an elevated tee, a player’s attention is drawn to a large sand pit on the left side and a long sandy trench up the right side. The small, crowned green slopes away on all sides. As opening holes go, it is as pure and fair as they come.
“The back nine at Pine Barrens builds in drama and interest. The long par four 12th, rated the toughest hole on the course, has a pair of alternative and quite different greens to play to, but it’s the short par four 15th that stick in the memory of most pilgrims. Under 300 yards from the middle tees, this exquisite gem offers a safe route to the left, or, to the right, a risky carry over a water-filled ravine fringed by sand and long grass.”
The two courses at World Woods (not to mention the par-3 course, and 3-hole warm-up course) are a must play when you are in the Tampa area. Pine Barrens is the higher rated course, a great design, and a challenge to play. The word is that the design is comparable to Pine Valley -- always the #1 or #2 rated course in the world.
When you travel here, schedule 3-4 days...play golf, practice at their world-class practice facility, and enjoy your visit. There is not much in the way of hotels or restaurants in the immediate area but the seclusion lends itself to a focused golf trip with your group.
When we stayed at Inverness, Florida, this was my favourite golf destination. I loved the fact that both courses are just lay-out in the hilly and wooded terrain with no resort or houses disturbing the beautiful scenery. Friendly people in the clubhouse & pro-shop and a huge practise area to practice or warm up.
Although it is located in the middle of nowhere and more or less misses out on a real clubhouse, it does not miss out on charms, character or quality. Both courses are very well designed, throwing multiple golf challenges at you during the round from start to finish. Maintenance was always in pretty good condition when we played. I preferred Pine Barrens slightly over Rolling Oaks, because of the variety of the holes design and the quality of the green complexes. Being able to play both courses alternating makes this place so special and worth a detour or multiple visits.
Can definitely recommend to play both courses, and it will not disappoint.
After playing at World Woods, we normally went to Homosassa to enjoy fresh seafood at The Freezer, enjoy!
Pine Barrens is an interesting golf course. Along with its sister course, Rolling Oaks, the course is set in some interesting rolling land. This allowed designer Tom Fazio to construct a very "Un-Florida" like course in a rather obscure location about an hour north of Tampa. Water only really comes into play on two holes,the par 3 third hole and the par 4 fourth, and the rest of the course is defined by the fairway bunkering and large imposing waste areas. In general, the course is very strategic and the fairways are reasonably wide. However, Fazio always seems to drop in an angled or oblique fairway bunker to challenge the golfer, especially off the tee. There are many good holes and several great ones. the Par 5 fourth is visually striking both off the tee and on the approach to a slightly elevated green guarded by a huge steep waste area to the right. The par 4 twelfth, when played to the right green complex of the two available, presents a similar challenge to an elevated green that is narrow from front to back. My favorite hole was the short par 4 fifteenth, where the player can choose between taking on the water hazard to the right but gain the shorter more direct access to the green, or the safer play to the left fairway leaving a more difficult approach.
I enjoyed this course and I was torn between a 4 1/2 and 5 rating, but ultimately I took the 4 1/2. I think the green complexes lack the excitement and variety that this course deserves and keep it from the top rank. Very challenging yet fun course to play that I think most golfers would enjoy.
How can water come into play on only two holes yet feature in a third as a strategic choice? :)
That was a mistake. Water does not come into play on the fourth, only the third and fifteenth. Sorry for the confusion.
"The course to play if you're going to play one." As noted in my Rolling Oaks review, I am unapologetically in the "Rolling Oaks is the better course at World Woods" camp.
That being said, if you only have time for one - play Pine Barrens.
Why? Pine Barrens at World Woods features the stronger moments. The course features all of the "best in class" individual holes on the facility, however you wish to identify that. However, it simply falls short in the total being greater than the sum of the parts which makes repeat plays a bit of a chore. I only get the itch to play Pine Barrens once every three or four rounds on Rolling Oaks after visiting World Woods with regularity for over 10 years.
Highlights of the round include the all-world 4th hole, whose strategy is a bit overstated since the best plays are, still, 270 yards down the middle off the tee and a high approach to the center of the green to reach the green in two. What 4 lacks in strategy it makes up in heroic qualities but the high-marker is only going to beat the scratch if the scratch can't execute. There is no strategic advantage to be had by finding an "angle" or "underpowering the hole for position." The 8th is probably the best two-shot hole on the entire property and each of the one-shotters are distinctive with the 10th being the most substantive without the sexy window dressing of the other three.
Pine Barrens fails, and miserably at that, at the "walk in the park" test. The routing seeks to emphasize as much of the quarry in a E-W sort of orientation at the expense of the rest of the golf course. You walk through the same null space between 1st/2nd, 6th/7th, 11th/12th, and finally 17th/18th but only in the first instance does the null space pay off with a hole that is superior to the previous one. I am sure there are some that feel this area is worth the interruption in the routing, but for me I tend to lose the rhythm of the round by the third pass through.
The climax of the round (14-15) comes a hole or two too early and 17 and 18 are almost incidental to the fact that the 16th green is the farthest from the property and the corridor through which they play was the only remaining space available. This probably isn't a noticeable to the cart-user but as an almost militant walker I found the lack of an intuitive routing to feel cumbersome.
I would be curious to know if my perception of the routing changes, especially in the quarry, if some of the obvious overgrowth is managed/removed. In the past few years, some thoughtful pruning has made holes like the 9th and 17th more fun. I long for a time when the vista from the 14th green is restored and abandoned tees like those on the 13th and 15th are returned to play.
In the end, however, World Woods is in a good position because the only "wrong" choice to make in terms of golf is to not play one of the courses at the expense of the other. This includes both the short course and the practice holes, which I believe are now integrated under one fee. They serve, for me, as a better warmup to the round than the overrated driving range.
When the Pine Barrens opened, I would go south with my son and play it and the Rolling Oaks. I played here for many years in a row. I have been back a few times. The course has had its ups and downs as it just never took off like it was thought it would. It is a special course. It has much character, some great holes and good conditioning. It starts with a great par 4 and just goes along with good hole after good hole. The risk reward 15th is one of my all time favorite holes. The 5 hole finish is just special. At #11 in Florida which has 100's of exclusive private clubs....Why is this out of the way public course #11.......It actually is that good.
One of the first "modern" courses to go back to the large sandy waste areas now commonplace. A great layout to start the day. Finish with the other course on site for a great 36 hole day, and very affordable!
This is a must play if you find yourself near Tampa, FL. Both Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks have always been in fantastic condition every time I've played. The layout of Pine Barrens is fantastic. Neither course has a house in sight which gives you a secluded feeling that can't be beat.
I think this is supposed to be similar to Pine Valley which has an argument to be the best course in the USA I guess. But I will never get to play Pine Valley. (C'est Dommage) Much like French I will never really know what I am missing. I hit it good here, it is nice because the course allows you to take Driver out of the bag more than most courses which I enjoyed. The entire facility is worth a trip, also play Rolling Hills and the short course if you get a chance. I have played all the courses and agreed this is the best of the three.
The Rodney Dangerfield of Florida golf, this is a course that doesn’t get enough respect because it is public and a bit off the beaten path. Designed by Tom Fazio, the course really does remind you of playing Pine Valley due to the wide fairways and sandy terrain. Avoiding the large sandy waste areas is the key to scoring well (difficult to do, as there are many of them). The fourth is a very good long par four and the short par four 15th was one of my favorites, a sub 350-yard hole that offers the golfer a choice of two fairways off the tee with a classic reward for taking on the more demanding fairway. The greens were in great shape when I played and the price (less than $100) relative to the quality of the golf you get is one of the best in the U.S. When in Florida I would rather play the World Woods Pine Barrens course than I would the made-for-TV-too-difficult TPC Sawgrass.
I was very pleasently surprised by my recent trip here. I visited on a trip with some friends from the UK and found the course to be unlike anything I'd played back home (maybe a hint of the Surrey sand belt but on a grander scale and much more sand) and definitely different to the majority of courses found in Florida. The stand out feature is the vast sandy waste areas (no bunkers) that have to be carefully plotted around. Sone standout holes:
1- a nice opener to ease you in, a tough green to hold, sloping away from all sides.
4-the first taste of the vast waste areas, a 250 carry from the back tees is required to the right hand section of fairway, but this significantly shortens the par 5 for the second, making the green reachable in 2
7- a tough mid/long par 3 with a green the slopes way and to the right with carry over a waste area required.
12- a long par 4 with two separate greens. We played to the right green which required a long iron over a waste area to a very severe green, wish we had of played it while the greens were running at tournament speeds.
14- a par 5 with a waste area bisecting it, the second shot will generally be blind to a severe green, or a layup to the right of the hazard around 70 yards out leaves an awkward approach to another severe green.
15- a short par 4 with two play options. Playing left leaves no more than 100 yards and is a safe play, but the green runs away from you. Playing right and choosing to fly the waste area leaves a short pitch but some pin positions, especially front can be awkward to play to.
All in all we loved our round here and hope to cone back to play rolling oaks some day. Having only seen pictures of Pine Valley I can confirm that this does very much look like I would expect a "poor man's pine valley" to be, but don't be deterred by that moniker, Pine Barrens is more than worth a visit if you are ever in the Tampa/Orlando region.