Although he won’t get into specifics, Cabot golf brand CEO and co-founder Ben Cowan-Dewar said he plans later this month to name the golf course architect (or architects) for Cabot Citrus Farms in Brooksville, FL.
“We’re so excited about the teams we are working with,’’ Cowan-Dewar told me.
Cowan-Dewar, a Canadian businessman and partner with Dream Golf (Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley) impressario Michael Keiser, this past January acquired World Woods Golf Club with a goal of creating Florida’s next great golf destination.
Among names in the mix, logically, would be the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the team currently designing Cowan-Dewar’s highly-anticipated course at Cabot Saint Lucia in the Caribbean and who created the stunning Cabot Cliffs at Cabot Cape Breton in Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Whoever the architect – or architects – will be, they certainly will have land that is almost unparalleled in Florida. World Woods features a pair of Tom Fazio-designed courses amidst 1,200 acres of Central West Florida sandy soil, rolling hills, towering sand pines, palmetto trees and century-old moss-covered oaks.
Cabot Citrus Farms is the most anticipated “new’’ golf resort in Florida since Streamsong Resort, in Bowling Green, opened in December of 2012. Ironically, Streamsong opened with two courses (it added a third in 2017), one of them being a Coore-Crenshaw design.
“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 in 1993 and quickly garnered acclaim for its two golf courses – Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks – and practice facilities. Fazio, then at the height of his design powers, created Pine Barrens in the image of legendary Pine Valley (N.J.).
“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.’’
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 – standalone (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.’’