World Woods Golf Club Rolling Oaks Course in Brooksville, FL
Tee Time: April 19, 2014, 9:39, 69F, scattered showers
Designer: Tom Fazio (1993)
Playing Partners: Craig and John
Tees: Black, Par 72 (72.3 rating/129 slope/6,873 yards)
Course Handicap: 10 (8.5 index)
Stats: 81 (39-42); 34 putts; 8/14 fairways; 9/18 greens; 0 penalty strokes
My weeklong Florida journey ended with a third round of golf. (Don’t worry, I did put in a full work week, for those who would be interested). This time I drove north from St. Petersburg and my hotel right next to the Tampa Bay Rays baseball warehouse known as the Tropicana Dome. I continued to drive north, and then north a little more. Google has it as a 74-mile drive, but I swear it never ended. I got close to the panhandle I’m pretty sure. And then I took an exit off the toll road in the middle of nowhere. I thought the Garmin was taking me to a rest stop. I finally saw a sign poking out of the grass and made my way to World Woods Golf Club in Brooksville. I’m glad I found it, because the Rolling Oaks course here is actually my favorite of the trio of courses I visited while in the Sunshine State.
What makes this golf course so special is that it’s all about the golf. Being out in the sticks probably doesn’t make it too much of a tourist attraction compared to other sites, but the true golfers will sniff it out. And they won’t be disappointed. There are two 18-hole layouts to choose from. The Rolling Oaks, which I played, and Pine Barrens, which I would’ve played if I had a few extra hours before my flight. Maybe it’s also because after spending half the week in all the bright primary art deco colors of Miami, it was nice to be back in an atmosphere that’s a little easier on the senses, watching hockey and baseball with some passionate Lightning and Rays fans and then golfing with some hardcore players like John and Craig. Even the weather this lazy Saturday morning was more in line with my idea of Florida. Warm, tropical sunshine for ten minutes and then, like clockwork, ten minutes of steady sheets of rain. It literally did this the entire round, so that just about every hole was in one or the other.
The Rolling Oaks course opens with a straight par 4 of 419 yards. There is sand on the right, but even from there the green is not tough to reach. The 2nd is a longer, slightly uphill 193-yard par 3. The huge green slopes left to right towards a waiting sand trap. Speaking of sand, that may be all you can see from the tee of the 553-yard 3rd. The dogleg-right has a large landing area off the tee safe of the sand and a big approach shot can run up to the green unimpeded if you keep it left. A simple par-4 rolls left around the oaks. There is a nasty fairway bunker at the corner which leaves an awkward shot of less than 100 yards to a small green if you’re careless. The par-5 5th is 50 yards shorter than the 3rd, but much less likely to reached in two. Without a really long tee shot down the left side, there’s no angle around the large oak tree that waits to goaltend any attempts from beyond the arc. You can’t go under either because of the sand trap in front of a tricky green.
The 6th is the first hole with any real elevation change (well, relative elevation change; this isn’t exactly the Rocky Mountains). An uphill par 4 with an approach that gets through a narrow opening of two large trees to a green with a steep false front. Then there is even more uphill to be traversed at the 436-yard 7th, which not only plays 70 yards longer than #6, it also has a wide sand trap placed in front of the green that you’re likely to end up in. The short, downhill 8th is a scenic par 3 over a pond and the stream that feeds it from the top-left of the hole. Just make sure you carry all that drink, I didn’t ask if there are any gators in Brooksville. The 9th is a great par 4, also the longest of its kind on the golf course. The big pond just past the tee box isn’t in play to 90% of golfers and the fairway is wide, meaning subconciously you’ll be all geared to rip it like you’re gunning for the long drive marker. From wherever your best drive of the day ends up, it’s still close to 200 yards into a green that is a tricky read.
I shot 39 on the front, which I felt was a good comeback after the brutal scorecard at Bay Hill. Then two black crows watched me crank out a tee shot on the 569-yard 10th. I made two double-bogeys on the back nine to just miss breaking 80. I blame them. Anyways, back to the golf. The par-5 10th is a very fun hole. It bends to the right and is so wide open that it begs you to take two good rips driver-3 wood and come up well short, but at least you’ll be safe. The par-4 12th is a short one that goes up then down. There’s bunkers and a water hazard to the right, so I’d stay away from that. The 210-yard 13th is a par 3, but it sure looks like a small par 4 from the tee. The 14th is a sharp dogleg-left uphill par 4 of 411 yards but from the fairway is not too hard at all. And then the 15th is even sharper dogleg-left par 4 of 436 yards. So if you eff’d the first one up, I hope you learned your lesson. The final par 3 is 209 yards downhill to a massive green. Seriously, if you’re on the other side of the flag, you might face a 100-foot putt and even a possible double-bogey even after a successful GIR. A nasty little bunker guards an equally little green at the par-4 17th. The closing par-5 18th looks long as it bends to the right and uphill. With a good tee shot and greater confidence, the 490 yards could be covered in two but there’s a massive tree that towers amid the line from fairway to green. Not to mention a quartet of bunkers all with uphill shots to the green, but taking the traditional approach is no picnic either, with a narrowing fairway and few clean looks at the green.
By my count, I’ve now played about 40 different golf courses over 18 states as part of my goal to play in every state. There are times now where certain holes and even courses feel very similar to others, especially with every new desert course I end up at. Which only adds to my excitement when I can go a whole round and everything feels new. The Rolling Oaks course at World Woods Golf Club is just that. With the way it rolls through its surroundings, the holes feel like they’ve always been there, placed by Mother Nature herself. I never got the impression that I was playing a golf course that is designed to have quirks or memorable holes, just a great layout that will make you immediately want to go back out for seconds on. Though everyone there said the Pine Barrens course is even better, so maybe check that out first. It was also a a lot of fun joining up with Craig and John, and even more fun listening to a pair of 50-something buddies who’ve played millions of rounds still trash talk the entire round. Craig inexplicably decided to move from Colorado to Florida. Who would ever leave the Rocky Mountains?
#11, Par 4, 411 yards, 5-handicap, My Score: 4
Layout: B; a fun layout, also the first course I played designed by Tom Fazio, which I was shocked to discover I hadn’t done so yet.
Amenities: C; the essentials are there, but this course is all about the golf experience. The restaurant didn’t even have a working grill that day.
Staff: B; friendly and the starter was very thorough on getting me excited to play here.
Difficulty: C+; some big greens but nothing too crazy and with as much trouble as you can see on the course, it’s tough to find still.
Scenery: C; the mature trees lining the course are beautiful, but surrounding the grounds there isn’t much.
Value: A; a high-season weekend round is $78, which is a steal for a course like this during the peak time of year. I got a Golfnow rate for $58.50, which is good because you’ll spend the savings on the gas to get out here.
Overall GPA: 2.71 (B-); in the expanded Tampa/Orlando region there are many great options, and I’m glad I decided to make the drive to the area’s outer limits to get one round here. If I were you I would plan on two