As he stood in the sand surrounded by the mossy oak trees and scrub bushes of North Central Florida, Ben Cowan-Dewar reflected on the first time he saw the former World Woods Golf Club he is developing into Cabot Citrus Farms.
“I first heard about (World Woods) in the ‘90s,’’ said Cowan-Dewar, who has become one of the world’s top golf destination developers, thanks to such properties as Cabot Cape Breton in Inverness, Nova Scotia, Cabot Highlands in Scotland and the under-construction Cabot St. Lucia in the Caribbean.
“I remember coming here in the late ‘90s and playing the courses. World Woods put a dent in the world of golf in 1993 because of the two courses and par-3 course. I kept coming back and loved it.’’
Understand that in the ‘90s, an out-of-the-way golf destination with two courses, a par-3 course, and a 360-degree practice range was an anomaly. It wasn’t until 1999, when Mike Keiser, Cowan-Dewar’s partner in Dream Golf, created Bandon Dunes along the Oregon coast, that such golf destinations were considered part of the high-end mainstream.
Truth be told, Keiser and Cowan-Dewar are redefining the definition of high-end “mainstream’’ resorts. The latest example is Cabot Citrus Farms, located in Brooksville, about 40 miles north of Tampa. Cowan-Dewar, who considered buying the property as early as 2008, officially acquired it in late 2020 from the original Japanese developer.
When it opens in December, Cabot Citrus Farms will have two newly-designed golf courses – Cabot Barrens (Kyle Franz) and Cabot Oaks (Franz and Mike Nuzzo), as well as a 10-hole course and an 11-hole par-3 course that, combined, are known as “The 21.’’ and practice area.’
Cabot Citrus Farms also will have a walking village, two- and four-bedroom cottages, and guest rooms above the clubhouse.
“That’s a hard (question) when you are the developer,’’ Cowan-Dewar said. “Certainly, what Mike did at Bandon was the original paradigm shift in golf resorts.
“I think we followed those footsteps at Cabot Cape Breton. We’ve seen that formula work really well.’’
That “formula’’ begins with a great piece of land, such as the vast sandy soil at Cabot Citrus Farms.
“The sand and depth of sand here literally makes this a perfect site to build golf on. The area is so physically beautiful,” Cowan-Dewar said. “Really great land equals great golf. If you start with that and add great accommodations and food, you can create a great experience. That’s what we’re setting out to do here.’’