Most top golf courses in the USA are for the exclusive use of club members and their guests but World Woods is a triumph for the people. Yukihisa Inoue, the president of World Woods, had a desire to provide world-class golf for all to play. With two top drawer 1993 Tom Fazio-designed courses (Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks) and a cracking little short course that few people know about, not to mention amazing practice facilities, Yukihisa Inoue’s World Woods is an absolute must-visit pay-and-play destination.
Located approximately 40 miles to the north of Tampa and 50 miles or so to the west of Orlando, World Woods is well off the beaten tourist track, but we thoroughly recommend the trip. Pine Barrens is the course that receives most of the accolades but do not overlook Rolling Oaks. Both courses are from Fazio’s top drawer but they both came from very different cabinets.
“Where the Pine Barrens course is aggressive,” wrote Rob Armstrong in Golfing Florida’s Best, “Rolling Oaks is laid back; where Pine Barrens is a type-A personality, Rolling Oaks is a type-B; where Pine Barrens is rugged and raw, Rolling Oaks is urbane and sophisticated. The Pine Barrens course feels like it belongs in the hills of Virginia or West Virginia, maybe at the Homestead or Greenbrier; the Rolling Oaks course feels as if it could be in New York’s Westchester County, maybe next door to Winged Foot.”
Tom Fazio is in full agreement with Rob Armstrong: “The contrasting styles of the two golf courses at World Woods in Florida contribute to the concept of a world-class golf destination. The Pine Barrens course is set in open pasture where sprawling, sandy wastes were created to provide the rugged natural look of a pine barrens. The par five 3rd hole is typical of the style on the Rolling Oaks course where bunkers are used to create a more formal, finished look.”
There’s only one thing for it, you must play both courses, but you’ll be faced with a dilemma… which World Woods golf course do you tackle in the morning?
As the companion course to the more highly rated Pine Barrens Rolling Oaks will certainly always face comparison to its neighbor. The terrain is actually quite good, especially on the back nine where there are several nice rolling fairways with excellent movement. I thought the first holes were somewhat bland and overall the course lacked the strategic challenge that Pine Barrens offered. In addition, for a course that seeks to emulate Augusta, the greens were remarkably flat and lacked many features of interest. Although the round was enjoyable there were few memorable holes.
This course reminds me to be a rather typical Fazio course which is enjoyable to play but nothing too extraordinary.
It's interesting to speculate why World Woods has failed as a golf destination while Streamsong, in a similarly obscure location South of Tampa, has seemed to thrive and succeed. I believe it's a simple matter of the quality of the courses. Streamsong sought out to design world-class golf courses that people would be willing to travel to, but World Woods went the safe route and built courses that would appeal to the masses but lack the interest to drive golfers to travel and play. I think that green renovations at both courses and some revision of the bunkering at Rolling Oaks would give World Woods a chance to compete with Streamsong, but World Woods will probably be content to be an upper-level daily fee course catering to locals and people willing to travel short distances. It is a really unique piece of land and I wish more could have been done.
Can't agree with the relative strategic merits of PB v. RO. The arch-typical "strategic" hole at PB (#4) yields best to long and down the middle. Nothing really strategic about it and the green complexes at PB are so divorced from the tee-to-green questions it begs whether not any real strategy can exist. Compare to the 4th at RO where you absolutely must be outside the dog-leg and trade distance for angle. That's strategy. As a routing, RO just flows much better and lays on the land that is both superior to PB in application and design. Long and down the middle on several holes at RO will not give you the best shot into the green. Furthermore, while you're correct that RO greens cannot compare to Augusta's the routing on PB can not compare to Pine Valley's. So using the market gimmick against RO while ignoring the same for PB is just disingenuous.
PB strikes as a golf course where routing compromises where made to create a few striking moments within the quarry holes. There is one great golf course where you are asked to walk an extended distance from the 15th green to the 16th tee as you are at Pine Barrens. That golf course is Cypress Point and the diversion involves the Pacific Ocean and two of the greatest Par-3s ever built. At Pine Barrens, it's because Fazio ran out of room and then built three mediocre finishers.
Comparing Streamsong and World Woods is a bit off, too, because they are both peak products of their respective golf architecture eras. World Woods does the mid-century thing exceptionally well and is always worth a look.
I have played the World Woods courses about 10 times each. I have made the trek to experience these courses many times through the years. Rolling Oaks was billed as the Augusta replica while Pine Barrens was Pine Valley. Well, neither is close but each on it's own is a stellar lay out. The conditions are typically very good. The green complexes are relatively flat but fit with the contours of the landscape. Would I make the journey to World Woods just to play Rolling Oaks.....probably not. In conjunction with Pine Barrens this is maybe the best bang for your buck in all of the South East. Just get there and enjoy it.
It is hard to say that it is the best course in the region when the better course is right beside this excellent course. That aside it is an excellent course with holes that have risk / reward and some harsh rough when not down the middle. I thought the greens were tricky but several pin placements seemed to be on the side of a hill. Ide put a high premium of keeping my ball below the hole when i play it again. I just hope I remember my own review. This really is an excellent course at a decent price .No really cool statues though - I like statues.
I am firmly in the Rolling Oaks camp for World Woods and make no qualms about it. Yes, Pine Barrens is the course to play if you only have time for one but Rolling Oaks is the course I play 3-4 times before taking another crack at Pine Barrens.
Yes, Pine Barrens probably has the best individual "type" of hole on the property (however you wish to classify them: Par, reachable long holes, compelling driveable holes, etc. ) but Rolling Oaks demolishes Pine Barrens on being greater than the sum of their parts.
As a militant walker, I find the routing at Rolling Oaks to be one of the finest anywhere and it passes the "walk in the park" test with flying colors. The same cannot be said with Pine Barrens where the same negative space is crossed multiple times in the round, strictly for the purpose of utilizing the sand quarry with parallel holes that one has to struggle to remember their place in the round. Where Pine Barrens places the golfer, Rolling Oaks traverses and the brief interruptions, such as the segue from the 10th green to the 11th tee, serve to move the golfer into a different region to explore, not simply place them at the next dramatic tee shot.
The opening stretch is perhaps a bit "stock Fazio" for most, with the long third the highlight of the openers (and best chance to get a shot back from the course) the golfer is presented with compelling tee and approach shots on the 4th, 5th, 6th (!), 9th, 11th, 12th (!), 14th, 15th, 17th (!), and 18th(!?) in the sense that you constantly feel you should probably be on a line 5 yards left or right where you ended up. Much has been made about the somewhat dreary nature of the greens at Rolling Oaks, but I frankly don't see it. They meld well with the questions being asked from the tee and much more so than than on the companion course.
For me, the stretches of golf from the 4th to the 6th and then again from the 11th to the 17th, exemplify the "walk in the park" feeling. Each shot demands a level of concentration not easily defined by any feature but instead invite differing modes of play based on your skillset and feelings for that day. The fact that I do not know what or how I'll play the 6th hole on my next visit, for example, is what keeps me coming back.
A great course on its own, perfect sister course for a 36 hole day! World Woods is well worth the drive.
In of itself Rolling Oaks is a fine golf course. Being right next to Pine barrens may cause a complex, but it is the age old question, which ice cream do you like better? Chocolate or Vanilla? Mary Ann or Ginger?
One element of Rolling Oaks that did surprise m was the lack of undulation in the green complexes. For the most part, putts were straighter than you tricked yourself into thinking they were.
I would not categorize the first hole as inviting, at well over 400 yards. I am not a fan of early par 3s and the second is a long one. You finally get some breathing room with a long par 5 on the 4th. Course is relatively flat until the 7th, which is a long uphill par 4 with a greenside bunker protecting the front. The 8th is a really cute downhill par 3 with a creek in front. Play one less club. The front ends with a bang, A long par 4 slight dogleg left uphill carry over water. I loved it (birdie!!)
The back opens with a long par 5 paralleling 9, this water hazard is really the only one of any magnitude on the entire course. The par 4 downhill 12th is one of the shorter par 4s. It can be devilish. Aim left of the tee. The fairway bunker looks a lot closer than it is. You don't want to be in it and if you fly it you will probably end up in the ravine, Long hitters may want to leave the driver in the bag. The 13th is a long par 3 with interesting random rock outcroppings in the wast area short of the green. The number one handicapped hole 15 is demanding but fair. Slight dogleg left, off the tee stay right to avoid the bunker on the inside elbow. The green is elevated and protected by two bunkers on the left side. Avoid these at all costs. Hit an extra club on your approach. The 18th is a short par 5 and a super finishing hole. If you are down you can make your move here. Take dead aim down the middle. Too far right and you will have some tree challenges and too far left you will need to draw your ball into the green. It is reachable but the uphill sandtrap protected redan green may make you think twice.
I enjoyed playing Rolling Oaks. I think it is over rated and thus i am glad that i opted to play at a twilight time where the greens fee dropped by more than half.
Good not great
Front is much flatter than the back lots of trees, bunker in the sky
The first hole starts out with a nice 424 yard par 4 that a drive down the right side gives a better angle to the green. The second hole is a 207 yard par 3 that is protected on the right by a large bunker. The third is a 574 yard par 5 with the left side better on the drive as bunkers protect the right side. Bunkers are on both sides of the lay up and the green is protected on the right by a large bunker and a large oak protects the left side of the green. The fourth is one of the shorter par 4s on the course at 395 yards and a drive down the right side makes this a good birdie opportunity. The fifth is a 551 yard par 5 that doglegs slightly to the right with a drive down the left side the better angle but the large bunker on the left must be avoided. The green is protected on the front right by a large bunker. The sixth is the shortest par 4 at 341 yards that doglegs slightly to the left. A drive down the right side gives a better angle and is another good birdie opportunity. The seventh is a long 472 yard par 4 with a drive down the left side the better angle as the right side is protected by a large bunker. The green is protected on the left and short by another large bunker. The eighth hole is a downhill 173 yard par 3 that is the most scenic on the course and is protected short and left by a large pond. The wind seemed to be swirling more on this elevated tee and made club selection more difficult. The ninth is another long 460 yard par 4 with the drive favoring the left side the better play. The green is protected on the right by a bunker and another on the left about 50 yards short of the green. This green has 2 tiers and it is essential to get the ball on the correct tier as I thought this green was one of the more difficult ones to putt.
The tenth is a long 606 yard par 5 with bunkers protecting both sides of the fairway and on the 2nd shot. The green is elevated and is protected on the right and left by large bunkers. The eleventh is a 440 yard par 4 that plays shorter than that distance as the drive is downhill and the left side is the better angle to the green. The second shot is uphill and the green is protected on the left and right by large bunkers. The twelfth is a relatively short 372 yard dogleg right par 4 that a drive down the left side is the preferred angle to the green on the second shot. The downhill 238 yard par 3 thirteenth is protected on the right by 2 large bunkers. The fourteenth and fifteenth are two strong par fours that measure 447 and 480 yards and both dogleg to the left. The fifteenth is the number 1 handicap hole on the course and the green is protected by 2 large bunkers short of the green. The sixteenth is a downhill 233 yard par 3 that is protected on the left by another large bunker. The 17th is a dogleg left par 4 that measures 400 yards with bunkers protecting both sides of the fairway. The green is protected on 3 sides by bunkers. The round finishes with a 505 yard par 5 that doglegs slightly to the right and the better angle is to the left on the drive. The green is protected by 7 bunkers and I thought it was better to lay up to the right on the second shot as it was a better angle to the green and a good birdie opportunity.
Overall a great golfing experience that would recommend to anyone visiting the Tampa, Orlando area. It was also an excellent warm-up round to playing Pine Barrens the next couple of days. Click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk3kp11npNY to see a You Tube slide show of some pictures taken during my visit. Jim Brady