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2 Play the Tips played World Woods (Pine Barrens) on Friday, November 11, 2011

World Woods Golf Club (Pine Barrens)

Not Quite a Lump of Coal, But Certainly Not What Santa Was Supposed to Bring

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The practice facilities at World Woods are pretty much second to none, here you see the gigantic putting course, but they also have a 360 degree range, and iron range, and a 3 hole practice course.
#1 - This approach is a mid to long iron to a small target that's guarded by a deep bunker on the right.
#2 - Hit a good tee shot here on this monster par 4.
#2 - The approach shot needs to be accurate as this green pitches hard from right to left.
#3 - This hole reminded us of 16 at Augusta... water left, green pitching from right to left. This is one of the best looking holes on the course.
#4 - Another scenic hole. Don't miss this drive to the right or you're in big trouble. A good drive here can give you a chance at getting home in two.
#5 - A good par 4 that requires some thought off the tee. A driver down the right hand side gives you the best angle into the green but the fairway gets much narrower in your landing zone.
#5 - This elevated green requires a well struck approach in order to get to pin high. the slightest miscalculation or mishit will leave you struggling to make par.
#7 - This is a good par 3 with a really tricky green.
#8 - Oneof the best holes on the course... hit a power fade off the tee and get ready to hit a great approach.
#8 - We loved how this green was surrounded by the waste area. This approach is visually interesting, intimidating, and fun. This is probably the best green site on the course.
#9 - If you hit this fairway, you've got a short iron in your hand but this green is no easy target to hit.
#10 - A long par three with a green that slants hard from back to front. This green is slanted like this so that it can slow the momentum of a ball struck by a hybrid or fairway wood.
#11 - A demanding par 4 four both the drive and the approach need to be near perfect to hit this green in regulation.
#11 - Hit a solid mid / long iron, 2 putt, and take your par every time here.
#12 - The tee shot to the most difficult, most unfair hole on the course. hit it straight and you still might not get home in two.
#12 - we each hit good drives and had about 240 left into the wind, up the hill, all carry over the bunker...
#12 - ... then navigate this wildly undulating green. 12 is just a bad hole.
#13 - This hole moves hard to the right at about 260 yards off the tee.
#14 - This turtle shell shaped green is one of the more difficult ones at World Woods.
#15 - We weren't a fan of the second shot on this par 5. There's basically no room to lay up so pull out your 3 wood and hit it over the waste bunker that divides the fairway.
#15 - You can really hit it close on this hole if you use the slope of the green to your advantage.
#16 - We weren't fans of the short par 4 either. if you laid up off the tee, this was the angle you had... no reward for hitting a smart shot.
#16 - Another long iron or hybrid length par 3. It's one of the better looking par threes on the course.
#17 - this medium length par 4 also has a green complex which also runs along the waste bunkers.
#18 - The tee shot on the last hole requires a hard draw. You've really got to hit this one or else you want make the corner of this dogleg left.
#18 - 18 offers a good approach shot but we didn't feel it was anything overly special.

He made his list, he checked it twice... He should have found out we weren't naughty, we were nice!

We did so many good things - we practiced, we played, we traveled. We started connecting with fans through our major championship twitter challenges.  We totally revamped the site to make it more user friendly.  We added some great course reviews to our ever growing list of places played. 

We were good this year.  We really were.  And with the holiday season upon us, we were certain we'd be rewarded when we unwrapped our gift - World Woods Golf Club's own, Pine Barrens. 

All the magazines had been raving about it.  We did all of our research and checked the consumer reviews before sending our requests to Santa.  Everything was positive across the board.  Come the big day, we were going to really enjoy unwrapping this one. 

A 7 AM arrival provided weather that more closely resembled a holiday setting in Chicago rather than sun soaked Florida.  If there were ever a chance of having a "White Christmas" experience in Brooksville, FL, this seemed like the morning to see a few snowflakes.  It turned out that the only thing that fell in the time it took us to drive from Palm Beach Gardens to Brooksville was the temperature.  We watched as the outside temperature slowly sank into the 30's by the time we reached the entrance at World Woods. 

The outside staff was really good for a public course.  They took our bags at the bag drop and had us set up on our cart after we finished a quick breakfast inside at the grill.  The facilities left much to be desired, though.  Walking through the clubhouse seemed more like a walk through the local park district house rather than one of the more respected public courses in the nation.

World Woods' lack of a decent locker room and other indoor facilities was more than made up for by what waited outside.  A 360 degree driving range is one hell of a stocking stuffer.  We hit balls just long enough to shake off the frost.  We also hit a few putts on the massive putting course before heading to the first tee of the Pine Barrens course.  The only portion of the practice facility that we didn't see was the three hole practice course, but I don't even think a few warm up holes would have helped us on this particular morning. 

We met up with the starter who earned major points with us. "You guys look like you know what you're doing, go ahead and play the back tees even if the markers aren't set up there."  Starters like this give you a feeling of belonging, unlike some that badger you with questions about your handicap and length the second you take one step in the direction of the back tee.

With four swings from the first tee, we were off on our sleigh.  Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer, and Vixen!  On Comet, on... oh you get the idea.  This was going to be our winter wonderland for the day.  Just substitute a golf cart for the sleigh - we'd rather not walk in it.

The course starts out tough with the fairly challenging Par 4 first, and then punches you in the mouth with the 480+ second.  It didn't help that we played the first two holes straight into the wind, either.  Pine Barrens falls into the category of courses that don't jump out at you as being particularly long on the scorecard, but while you're playing you realize that the long holes play really long – it’s almost as if everything plays uphill.

We have seen Pine Barrens mentioned as one of the most beautiful courses in the United States, and while there were definitely some pretty holes, it was by no means what it was hyped up to be. The same could be said for the layout - one which is mentioned in the same breath as Pine Valley (Fazio designed the course with its likeness in mind). We heard it was a great test that consisted of a variety of demanding holes and risk reward holes. The only problem was that some of the demanding holes made you feel like Santa had you on his naughty list from the start and never gave you a chance to make par.  As for the risk reward holes, they offered little reward for the risk, and little safety for the smart play.

Perfect examples of these two black marks at Pine Barrens include the Par 4, 12th and the Par 4, 16th.

Measuring 503 yards, the par 4 12th played uphill and into the wind, but even without the wind the hole leaves much to be desired from a design standpoint.  Good drives left us with 3 woods into a severely undulating green that is perched atop a hill.  The green is fronted with a cavernous waste bunker to boot.  The hole would make for a great short par 5, but, as it happens, is one of the worst par 4s either of us could remember playing.

The short par 4 16th is supposed to be a risk reward hole.  It’s more of a risk hole.  Regardless of your decision off the tee (either the “safe” left side or the dangerous right), there is no great reward. After looking at it from all angles, we just didn't see any obvious form of strategy.  Ultimately, we came away thinking that this was a nice, scenic mess of a hole.  That's the problem with Pine Barrens: everything is just nice enough to pose as a great place but nothing stands out as being really thought-provoking.

Even the range (The most interesting we had ever seen) fell short of what it could have been.  Perhaps it was due to the time of the year, but the facilities weren’t maintained all that well and lacked any attention to detail.  This lack of maintenance was glaringly obvious even for a public facility.  It was a shame that these factors took so much away from some of the best attributes World Woods had to offer.

We waited all night and drove all morning to tear the wrapping off of Pine Barrens.  Sure enough, we unwrapped it with every ounce of holiday passion that we could muster.  Like a kid who got the wrong gift, though, we were terribly disappointed.  Santa got it all wrong.  It wasn't quite a lump of coal, but it certainly wasn't the top ranked golf course we were expecting.

Not the type to bite the hand that feeds us, we would enjoy Santa’s gift as best we could.  After all, it wasn't awful. Some of the holes had nice movement.  The 8th green complex was carved into a waste area - this looked amazing and left us wanting more of the same.  At the end of the day, though, we would leave wondering what happened to the gift we thought we were getting. How could Santa have made such a mistake?

To the person that wound up getting our wonderfully gifted top notch golf course:

Let us know where it is.  We'll stop in and play it one day.

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