BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — Have you heard of Cabot Citrus Farms? If you have, you might know that it might be the hottest ticket in golf right now. There are literally no tee times available in the foreseeable future, although you can get on a waiting list for spots that open up. 

If you’re a golfer, though, you almost undoubtedly know about the original Cabot Cape Breton off the east coast of Canada in Nova Scotia. Well, the Cabot empire has been expanding lately with Cabot Saint Lucia, Cabot Revelstoke in British Columbia, Cabot Highlands in Scotland, and now Cabot Citrus Farms, the last of which is located a little less than an hour from Tampa, just a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico. 

Cabot Citrus Farms is where I found myself earlier this year for a preview round on the resort’s first 18-hole layout, Karoo, as this incredible development builds out. And incredible is not overstating it.

While all this is brand new, I’ve actually played golf there before, years ago, and several times, in fact. This was long before Cabot developer and owner Ben Cowan-Dewar bought this property in 2021 to create Citrus Farms, though it’s my understanding he had been eyeing this property for some time.

It was actually pretty special then when it was known as World Woods, which had two championship courses designed by Tom Fazio and maybe the world’s largest driving range and practice area. What was unique (and still is) is that the golf courses were basically built on a giant sand pit, created when this land used to be covered by the Gulf of Mexico just a few thousand years ago. 

This type of terrain is actually perfect for golf. It drains really well, and it’s easy to shape. It’s easy to get that windswept look, too, giving it sort of a links feel.

When it was World Woods, the Pine Barrens Course in particular resembled the look you see in the Sandhills of North Carolina.  Simply put, World Woods was fantastic, but in recent years, it deteriorated. While it’s a shame that it went under, so to speak, what replaced it is a big step up, though not nearly the bargain World Woods was. (Green fees were always very affordable at WW.) Rack rates for outsiders on the regulation courses when Cabot Citrus Farms is fully operational will exceed $300 during peak season. 

But local Fernando County residents will pay significantly reduced green fees, said David Bennett, general manager at Cabot Citrus Farms. “It’s really important for us to continue to support the local community,”

When it’s all said and done, Cabot Citrus Farms will include two championship courses, with the second 18-hole course called Roost, set for a soft opening this summer. Along with Karoo, a nine-hole course called The Wedge, an 11-hole par-3 course named the Wedge, and a massive putting course are also open now. The last two are lit for night play.

By the time the formal opening rolls around in the fall of 2024, this will already be one of the top golf resorts in North America. Add the fact that Streamsong Resort (sometimes known as the Bandon Dunes of the East) is just two hours south, and you could put together an unbelievable golf vacation. Of course, if you limit it to Cabot Citrus Farms, that would be plenty.

Let’s talk about the golf course I got to play, though. Karoo doesn’t look like World Woods. I couldn’t find any evidence of the old courses there, although having only played WW a few times, that’s not surprising.

But this is really different. Named for the sound that the indigenous cranes make, Karoo was designed and built by Kyle Franz. It’s his first solo project, but he has plenty of experience with high-profile courses, most notably shaping at Bandon Dunes in Oregon as well as renovation work at Mid Pines, Southern Pines and Pine Needles in the North Carolina Sandhills. 

Karoo has so many cool features, like a double green on the first hole shared with No. 6, split fairways on more than half the holes (including a triple fairway on 18), and huge bunkers and waste bunkers throughout the layout. Fairways are generally wide, so it’s not difficult off the tee, and the greens are fairly large, but there is lots of slope and undulations. There are also too many bunkers to count, and many of them are enormous and deep. According to an article in Golf Digest, Franz calls it “adventure golf,” which sums it up nicely.

I thoroughly enjoyed this golf course from start to finish. There were so many fun holes and super-interesting greens complexes on this par-72 layout that plays more than 7,500 yards from the tips.

Among my favorite holes was the long par-3 10th and its huge green with contours that can certainly funnel balls into aces depending on pin locations. The combination of the par-5 14th and short par 4 15th was very memorable. The 14th ends with a mammoth greens complex that probably rises up 20 feet or more on the left side with some huge bunkers embedded in it. And the 15th is drivable if you pick the right tees. There’s some risk involved with waste areas catching drives that aren’ hit well enough, but I thought it was a no-brainer to go for it. Despite being right off the green in one, I still only made par there.

Then there’s the 18th, a brutal par 5 that takes three really good shots for most golfers to get there. As mentioned earlier, it’s a triple fairway, so there’s lots of options as you navigate the hole. The approach, however, is into a massively sloping green that if you can play your angles right, can set you up for success. Par, nonetheless is a great score for most of us on this hole.

As for the rest of the courses, Roost is a collaborative design between Franz, and renowned architects Ran  Morrissette and Rod Whitman. The Squeeze and The Wedge were done by Mike Nuzzo, a Houston-based architect who is creating quite a reputation as a collaborator as well as a short-course expert. Nuzzo has been involved in all the golf development at Cabot Citrus Farms.

And finally, there’s also the real estate aspect. Two- to four-bedroom cabins were busy going up around the property in late January, and all were sold, ranging from $1.795 million to more than $3 million. Many will be put in a renters pool for guests. And fairway homes around the golf courses are also being built.

And there’s lots more as well. Eventually, On the horizon are shops, restaurants, health and fitness facilities, racquet sports like tennis, padel, and pickleball, and even a farmer’s market, since there’s also a farm. There will also be hiking and biking trails.

 “We will have way more than just golf,” Bennett said. “But obviously, for people who are here for a two-or three-day stay, there will be all the golf they can imagine.”