Review: World Woods Golf Club (Pine Barrens)

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The evolution of World Woods is quite a story. When it opened, World Woods was a marvel. Tom Fazio was the top of the mountain that was golf architecture, and a facility built after the elements that made Augusta National and Pine Valley special? Tantalizing.

Of course, 1993 is coming up on 30 years ago, and since then, the property has fallen to Father Time. This once-top 100 design stopped receiving the care it deserves, and as such, evolved into a bit of a “what if?” As such, the property evolved from a star to a “if you know, you know” hidden gem, which is what I’ve been lucky enough to play.

Not to say it’s not excellent. Naturally, all the elements of one of Fazio’s best remains. The acquisition of World Woods by Cabot is an exciting development in the property. But for now, we look at the Pine Barrens course at World Woods, pre-Cabot.

The golf course generously starts on a 427 yard par 4 ever-so-gently moving to the left. There are numerous cool features scattered throughout the routing, but the first is the bunker cut into the upslope of the landing area is the first.

I’d say the approach is a fairly standard one. For most, a middle to shorter iron will play gently up the hill.

The 2nd is a beast at 483 yards. With the green a little left of the target and a bunker directly in the line of sight, the hole bends around the big bunker on the inside corner.

The approach shot is really quite good, with a very cool green complex heavily sloping to the left. Before Fazio got crazy with his ridges and multiple tiers, I thought he really built smart green complexes, as evident here.

At 174 yards, the 3rd is our first par 3 and only one of two water hazards on the golf course. In all honesty, it might as well be the only actual hazard on the golf course. The one on the 16th does not come into play.

This par 3 has elements of a redan, with a green complex heavily sloped to the back left area, a hazard short, and a bunker right, but I’m not sure if I would call this a template with full confidence. Semantics aside, it is a charming little par 3, if a bit out of place given the theme.

You can see the aggressive slope of the green below:

No disrespect to the opening three holes, but the 4th is the real introduction to the golf course. A split fairway, 526 yard par 5 with a sandy waste area, this is the welcome to the golf course.

I will say that the strategy presented at the tee shot is a bit… odd. The golfer who hits it further has no real strategy, as the landing area runs out on the left and the hazard crossing the two fairways eventually opens up. With that being said, I doubt that was the case in the 90s, when the ball did not fly so far. Still, the angle is best from the left side, whereas the daring carry is from the right. Either way, this is a pretty flamboyant par 5 playing up to a perched green, seemingly fronted by a pit to the underworld.

For those who decide to be less aggressive and layup (completely valid giving the intimidation of the second shot over the hazard), the short iron or wedge up from the left changes the interaction with the big bunker.

If I was a betting man, I would put money on the 5th being lost in the collection of great golf holes here. A shame, really. At 382 yards, this is a splendid short par 4 with an inviting tee shot.

The wedge up has a pretty menacing bunker to the left, but the real beauty is the unpredictability of this green complex. The approach below:

The magnificent contours at the green complex, which I did my best to try and capture. As always, the camera flattens what we see!

And perhaps a better view. The green almost inverts and twists on itself like a DNA strand.

The 6th is a 543 yard par 5. If we’re being honest (I like to think this is a safe space), it is a bit of an underwhelming hole used to connect the property between the 4th/5th and 7th/8th.

The layup is a bit difficult to navigate, but I think that is the key feature of this golf hole. Visibility is not exact, and thus, the golfer is entrusted to pick his line and commit.

A fairly straightforward third shot.

On the surface, the 207 yard par 3, 7th is just atypical longer par 3. However, the green is bustling with subtleties. Players will be quick to notice it works its way to the back right and aggressively kicks balls towards that area.

The 8th is the first of what I consider the best holes at World Woods. 434 yards, the 8th gently rises over a ridge, obstructing the view from the tee.

What the player does not realize standing on the tee is the right is heavily preferred for the best look into the green. Is it paramount to hug the right? Likely not. On a blind tee shot, I would venture most are happy with a ball in the fairway, but upon multiple plays, the subtle features are revealed.

There are elements of Pinehurst No. 2 here, with the fairway playing on a different direction than the green adjacent. A truly brilliant hole.

The 9th is another very good golf hole, likely lost in the shuffle. A canted fairway kicks balls to the outside corner of this dogleg right. At 419 yards, it likely won’t overpower most who play.

The approach shot is sneaky difficult. The golfer will fight the slope that will pull shots to the left.

Remember commentary on the 7th, where it might just look like a standard par 3? Yeah, the 10th is that, tenfold. 228 yards, this is truly a beast. The green complex is truly amongst the short list of Fazio’s best, with a small indent/false front in the middle, really directing traffic.

The sun was getting low, so it is not exactly the best lighting to highlight what is happening short of the green, but this is a special long par 3.

The 11th is a middle length par 4 at 434 yards that is slightly overgrown. The hole doglegs to the right, though there is quite a bit of room once you get past the tree.

The approach shot is quite attractive to the eye with a stack of bunkers short left, and the green was enjoyable also. Overall, a solid hole.

The 12th is a bit odd. 491 yards and a meaty par 4, there are two green complexes. The lower left, and upper right, fronted by a massive bunker. I’ve only played twice, six years apart, but I have only played to the upper green. Even so, it is a bit odd to make a “Hail Mary” type approach shot from a downhill lie, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The ball goes far on this open tee shot. Swing away!

The lower green:

And the upper, which is likely a more interesting approach shot, criticisms aside.

A massive false front further complicates this incredibly difficult golf hole.

I have always had a soft spot for those subdued golf holes that pack a punch. I think the 465 yard 13th falls into that category. To start, the tee shot is rather tame, if a tad overgrown.

The approach gently falls down the hillside, but what I really like is the soft mounding or contours short of the green, which creates unpredictability. Granted, I had 9 iron in, but not everyone would, and if I had 100 rounds, I would likely miss this fairway enough to have to use the contours short in a pitch out or punch shot.

The 14th is what we came to see. This is the Leonardo DiCaprio on the poster of a Scorsese film. 587 yards, this is a truly head-spinning par 5 that some may argue has too much going on! A straightforward drive lays the groundwork for the hole.

As you can see, the fairway splits itself into two. The left runs out faster, while the right, over top of a massive bunker complex, connects the rest of the hole to the green complex. Visually, this is a difficult hole to figure out where to hit it.

The hazard is no good if you end up in there!

The green complex is a devilish little thing with a ton of slope in it. A massive fall off left continues to protect the hole against good scores, but the way the ground plays, one could likely get very close to the green in two if they were a long hitter regardless of the price tag.

Continuing the excellent stretch of golf, the 15th springboards off the momentum the 14th built with a 339 yard par 4. Yet another split fairway, although this time the left side is higher, and the green on the right is set below the level of the hole. As a result, the tee shot is slightly downhill.

This is a hole I would likely rarely lay up on, but that’s because the hole gives you a ton of space to play with. Around the green, it is no cakewalk. For those interested, here’s what an approach from the upper left might look like.

Back in the day, the 227 yard par 3, 16th was likely the signature hole. To some degree, it still is. In fact, this is where the golf course climaxes.

The 17th heads back towards the clubhouse with a 398 yard snooze comparatively.

The approach will likely negotiate with some trees, depending on which side of the fairway you play to (hint: the right is better).

Some have been quick to judge the 18th as just a cliché long par 4 finishing hole, but I think this 473 yard two-shot hole is more than that. The sharp dogleg around an inside corner bunker is packed full of decisions on how much you want to take on. The shorter hitters would be better suited to try to challenge the bunker to gain an angle, and those who struggle with driver will likely just take anything in the fairway. I see no issues.

The menacing bunker complex on the inside corner, and the beautiful western Florida sunset starting to move in.

From the middle of the fairway, the bunker short right is the centrepiece of the strategy to get home.

As some of the pictures show, this old layout is slightly tired, but the substance remains. Much of Fazio’s work stands tall in his catalog of the best holes he’s constructed. Cabot’s plans will likely be an aggressive renovation, losing many of the Fazio features. For those who are debating going, but haven’t yet: go. If you want to see creative golf on a rolling property in Florida, there might not be a better bang for your buck than World Woods Pine Barrens.


  • Andrew Harvie

    Based in Toronto, but having lived in Alberta, British Columbia, Montana, Arizona, and Texas, I have been lucky enough to see over 400 golf courses and counting!

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