BROOKSVILLE, Fla. - As darkness fell upon Cabot Citrus Farms, so did our final putts.
Playing nearly 40 holes in one day might sound exhausting, but at Cabot Citrus Farms, it's actually an incredibly fun challenge virtually any golfer can complete, thanks to the diversity of holes and course experiences. We finished up our golf marathon with a match-play showdown on The Wedge, a cool 11-hole par-3 course lit for evening play.
It was the grand finale of our PGA Show Week sneak-peek at the first three of what will eventually be four golf courses at Cabot Citrus Farms, a 1,200-acre property that used to be the home of World Woods Golf Club an hour north of Tampa. Judging from the response to our social media posts, Cabot Citrus Farms will debut Jan. 27 as America's hottest new golf destination. It is the first U.S. property in the "Cabot" brand that started with Canada's No. 1 golf resort in Nova Scotia and has since expanded to Cabot St. Lucia, Cabot Highlands in Scotland and the emerging Cabot Revelstoke in British Columbia. It's cool to be playing a Cabot course right now.
At Cabot Citrus Farms, it's all about the terrain and maximizing what might be the best piece of natural, rolling land that the entire state of Florida has to offer. Future 19th hole debates are sure to be argued over an endless loop: Which course is your favorite: Karoo, The Roost, The Wedge or The Squeeze? What's the best hole? You get to decide.
"We would really like to have (four) different golf courses where people argue on The Porch afterward like, 'Which golf holes did you like the most?' said Mike Nuzzo, who designed the 20 holes of The Wedge (11 holes) and The Squeeze (nine holes). "And some people will have their favorite hole from The Squeeze because there are some holes on The Squeeze that I love more than holes over here (on Karoo) or over there (on The Wedge). There was no limitations on what we could or wanted or should do with this acreage."
Here are our initial thoughts on this exciting new golf resort property:
Cabot Citrus Farms: Karoo
We are firmly ensconced in a new era of big, bold golf course development. Because the pace of new-build golf has yet to (and probably never will) catch up to its pre-Recession fever, every current project is a precious opportunity for developers, architects and shapers to leave a lasting impression not just on golfers, but on each other and potential future clients. It is an understandable impulse that has led to something of a kitchen-sink approach to design at times that elides subtlety in favor of flair and panache. Karoo, the total reinvention of World Woods' former Pine Barrens course by architect Kyle Franz, is the latest course of this kind.
The 7,562-yard Karoo is bold, in-your-face golf, with intensely intricate sandscapes at every turn, as well as some of the most ornate macro- and micro-contour mounding in fairways and on greens that most golfers are likely to have seen in America. At times, it echoes the choppiest dune-traversing fairways of Scotland and Ireland. This swirl of features plays out among huge corridors, thanks to the removal of hundreds of trees over the course of the 18-month project, with fairways that surge more than 75 yards wide in places, and greens that regularly top 10,000 square feet. Franz vested Karoo with more split-fairways (8) than just about any golf course ever created. A longtime admirer of Golden Age architect George Thomas and his "course within a course" concept, Franz constantly offers golfers alternative routes that often depend on wind direction, hole location or a particular golfer's comfort with certain aesthetics off a given tee box. All that adds up to a highly intense golf experience that can punish unfocused golfers who will find themselves at the mercy of gnarly lies in bunkers, swaths of bahia grass and wispy native plantings. While it is possible to run up a crooked score on most holes, it is also very difficult to lose a golf ball at Karoo, or indeed any of the courses at Cabot Citrus Farms. -- Tim Gavrich
CABOT CITRUS FARMS (KAROO)— Tim Gavrich (@TimGavrich) January 22, 2024
Kyle Franz, 2024
Tons of cheeky contouring on and around huge greens, some of the most extensive bunkering you’ll ever see, split fairways galore and newly-open vistas make for an intense but rewarding trip. pic.twitter.com/m8vI6pQQU9
Cabot Citrus Farms: The Squeeze
The name of this nine-hole loop that arcs clockwise around the perimeter of the driving range and The Wedge might make golfers feel as though it's a place to dial things back off the tee and focus on keeping the ball in play. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Squeeze (which plays less than 3,000 yards) is Nuzzo's ode to half-par holes, particularly the kind of naughty short par 4s that cajole free swingers into having a go at a not-so-faraway green from the tee box. It's a concept album in golf course form; for golfers who want it, there are no fewer than six legitimate chances to have a putt for an eagle, including on the bunkerless par-5 4th hole, whose tilted fairway ripples like sheets on an unmade bed. Originally, The Squeeze was meant to be a 10-hole routing, but the 115-yard seventh hole we played is transitioning into hole 6a, a bonus par 3. The Squeeze may be novel, but it's no novelty - it's just 90 minutes of thoughtfully crafted, totally fun golf. -- T.G.
Cabot Citrus Farms: The Wedge
Between The Wedge and the monstrous night-lit putting green, golfers will be playing long after dark at Cabot Citrus Farms, if they wish. The Wedge joins the growing list of modern resort courses that are being built with lights and speakers for music. With 11 holes ranging from 70 yards to 115 yards, all adding up to exactly 1,000 yards, golfers theoretically only need to walk carrying one wedge and a putter. I actually brought two, a 55-degree sand wedge for soft shots over treacherous bunkers on a few holes and a 45-degree pitching wedge for the longest hole, the uphill 115-yard ninth. Golfers tee off on mats, the best solution for keeping the course playable year-round. The routing starts and ends at The Porch, an open event lawn where an Airstream serves food and drinks. It's the ideal gathering spot for those debates to commence. -- Jason Scott Deegan
Coming soon to Cabot Citrus Farms...
Karoo, The Squeeze and the Wedge will keep plenty of early adopters busy and happy for the first few months of 2024. In the meantime, work continues on The Roost, which will be Cabot Citrus Farms' second big course, an 18-hole collaborative effort between Franz and Nuzzo, with some input from GOLF Magazine architecture editor Ran Morrissett as well. Laid out over the former footprint of World Woods' Rolling Oaks course, The Roost will be far less sand-forward than Karoo, instead drawing inspiration from the work of Alister MacKenzie, particularly at Augusta National. Centuries-old live oaks interspersed throughout the routing should give The Roost a more genteel feel than its older, wilder sibling. The signature moment will be several holes on the back nine that interact with a 40-foot-deep sink hole.
And while the golf component finishes up, work continues to build the three dozen two- and four-bedroom cottages in a village that will serve as the main resort accommodations. A clubhouse perched at the top of the property behind Karoo's first tee is slated for completion in 2025, with further on-site real estate development and amenities like multiple restaurant/dining options, swimming, tennis and pickleball also in the plans. A "grand opening" is planned for the fall, and we look forward to giving a full report on Cabot Citrus Farms as a new Florida golf resort at that time.