As the Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green, FL, approaches its 10th anniversary later this year it’s clear that the resort has created a paradigm shift in golf resorts that still resonates throughout Florida and the Southeast. Carved out of Central Florida’s ancient phosphate pits between Tampa and Orlando, Streamsong boasts golf courses designed by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (Red), Tom Doak (Blue) and Gil Hanse (Black).
Next year another paradigm shift will occur when World Woods Golf Club in Brooksville, FL, becomes Cabot Citrus Farms. As Streamsong has been to the Florida and the Southeastern U.S. golf resort scene for nearly 10 years, Cabot Citrus Farms promises to be that—and maybe more—over the next decade and beyond.
Ben Cowan-Dewar—a Canadian businessman and partner with Dream Golf (Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley) impresario Michael Keiser—this past January acquired World Woods Golf Club with a goal of creating Florida’s next great golf destination. Located on land almost unparalleled in Florida, World Woods features a pair of Tom Fazio-designed courses (Pine Barrens and Rolling Hills) amidst 1,200 acres of Central West Florida sandy soil, rolling hills, towering sand pines, palmetto trees and centuries-old moss-covered oaks.
Golf course architect Kyle Franz will revamp Pine Barrens, while Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns will manage the re-creation of Rolling Oaks. The job of infusing new life and purpose into the practice area, including building two new nine-hole courses, goes to designer Mike Nuzzo.
“I’ve been closely following World Woods since it first opened in 1993,” Cowan-Dewar said. “In many ways it was ahead of its time with two fantastic courses, a par-three course, a two-acre putting green, and extensive practice facilities.
“The topography and vegetation are beautiful and rare for Florida. The Brooksville Ridge runs through this special part of Florida and creates the 80-foot elevation changes we see on property, which is part of what makes it so interesting and lends itself to great golf.
“From a business perspective, there is also a great opportunity to add on-site accommodations, among other amenities.”
Cabot Citrus Farms—which will continue to be known as World Woods at least for the next several months—is less than 50 minutes from Tampa and 80 minutes from Orlando. It was founded by Yukihisa Inoue and quickly garnered acclaim for its two golf courses and practice facilities.
Largely because of its lack of accommodations, World Woods never fully caught on as a major golf destination. Cowan-Dewar plans to change that concept in a way that could alter the Florida golf resort landscape for years to come.
“We don’t plan on building a traditional hotel,” he said. “Rather, we will use a similar model to our villas at Cabot Cape Breton—stand-alone (two- and four- bedroom) cottages that provide guests with an exceptional experience while on-site. We anticipate opening with an initial phase of 30 to 40 cottages in 2023.”
Golf villas, townhomes and family homes, Cowan-Dewar said, will be added over time.
“Our goal is to create an intimate village feel—walking distance from the vibrant village center to the golf courses to our nature trails—without negatively impacting the golf in any way.”
Cowan-Dewar said he expects Cabot Citrus Farms to employ more than 200 people at opening in 2023, and more than 800 people once the destination is fully-developed.
“We will also create hundreds of construction jobs over the lifetime of the development. In Nova Scotia, we have seen the success of Cabot Cape Breton impact the community in many ways, including hundreds of jobs created, increases in tourism and revenue to local businesses, and a sense of pride in our neighbors. We are excited about the potential to positively impact Hernando and Citrus Counties in a meaningful way,” he said.
As it relates to the golf courses, Fazio had created Pine Barrens in the image of legendary Pine Valley in New Jersey, which is generally regarded as one of the best golf course in America.
“Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks were meant to be different stylistically, in large part due to the varied topography and vegetation on-site,” Cowan-Dewar said. “The routing of each course is really strong, so we see an opportunity to work within existing tree corridors as we renovate the courses.
“We would like to make the courses more walkable by repositioning certain greens and tees in order to reduce the distance between holes. Tree clearing programs will be important to improve sunlight and air circulation, which will improve turf conditions, and give players more strategic options off the tee, as well as expose the breathtaking views across the property,” he concluded.