Naturally, you must play golf on Florida's Nature Coast

By Travel ArticlesNovember 21, 2012, 4:09 pm

Do you want to incorporate some hiking, boating, fishing and wildlife viewing in your next Florida golf experience?

Head to the Nature Coast, the aptly named, less-traveled region on the upper western coast of the state brimming with almost 400 freshwater springs, dense hardwood forests, marshlands, rolling hills and pristine Gulf of Mexico waters.

For golfers, the menu includes layouts designed by architects like Tom Fazio, John Sanford and Mark Mahannah in a variety of resort, daily-fee and residential community settings.

Excellent recreation options off the course are available on the Nature Coast, which is approximately a 90-minute drive north of Tampa and is often called the Big Bend.

The area's main attractions include Crystal River (home to the greatest concentration of manatees in Florida), Homosassa Springs (where you can see live mermaid shows), Dunnellon (with its 100-year-old historic homes) and Cedar Key (a quaint, historic fishing village on the Gulf of Mexico).

Golf in Brooksville

Let's face it, this laid-back little town doesn't immediately spring to mind when the conversation is great Florida golf courses.

That said, you'd be amazed at the award-winning golf possibilities in Brooksville.

Just about every major golf publication and Web site rates World Woods Golf Club as one of Florida's top 10 golf courses, and it also appears on many top 100 course lists in the U.S.

You have your choice of two Fazio designs at World Woods, which debuted in 1993: Pine Barrens, a visually stunning layout sculpted through an expansive pine forest with dramatic changes in elevation and creative waste bunkering, evokes a Pine Valley in New Jersey feel. World Woods' Rolling Oaks Course has a distinctly different ambiance with giant oak trees draped with Spanish moss and bleached white-sand bunkers.

The practice facilities at World Woods are equally impressive with a sprawling, circular, 20-acre driving range with grass teeing stations on four sides and three practice holes.

If you like Rolling Oaks, you'll also enjoy Hernando Oaks Golf & Country Club, a Brooksville daily-fee layout designed by Scott Pate (the brother of U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate), where picturesque giant oak trees draped with Spanish moss and native grass areas offer challenge and beauty on every hole.

Brooksville Country Club touts itself as 'a little hard to find but impossible to forget.' This 18-hole layout has a traditional tree-lined front nine followed by a Bobby Weed-designed back nine that has several holes framed by the sheer rock walls of an abandoned limestone mine.

If you want more play amid deep rock quarries, try the newly renovated Quarry Golf Course, a scenic nine-hole executive layout with seven par-3 holes and two par 4s. It's inexpensive and there's also a driving range and batting cage.

Golf in Crystal River

The venerable Plantation Inn & Golf Resort, with its white columned inn set on 232 acres of lush preserve land, conjures up images of southern hospitality and friendliness, and that's just what you get along with some excellent golf and superb diving and fishing opportunities.

A host for several North Florida PGA events over the years, the Mahannah-designed Championship Course at Plantation Inn weaves around dozens of natural lakes and loblolly pines. There's also a short Lagoons nine-hole course that is ideal for juniors and novices, as well as low-handicappers who want to sharpen their iron games.

A longtime favorite in Crystal River is Seven Rivers Golf & Country Club, a William Amick design that opened in 1968.

For those with member connections, the celebrated private Black Diamond Ranch in nearby Lecanto is home to 45 holes of Fazio-designed golf fashioned around abandoned limestone quarries and hilly terrain.

Golf in Dunnellon

Fifteen miles northeast of Crystal River is the town of Dunnellon, where the Rainbow River merges with the Withlacoochee River. Golf is an important component in recreation offerings here, which include snorkeling, canoeing and hiking at Rainbow Springs State Park.

Jupiter, Fla.-based course architect Sanford is the designer of Juliette Falls, a classic parkland layout dotted with large, mature oak trees and high-profile features such as four waterfalls and waste bunkers with crushed white coquina shells peppered with wire grasses and shrubbery. Accented with some significant elevation changes, Juliette Falls is an excellent inland Florida golf experience.

Remindful of tree-laden North Carolina layouts, Citrus Springs Golf & Country Club has rolling terrain, oak tree-lined fairways and several elevated tees.

If you're tired of hitting shots in the wet stuff, play Rainbow Springs Golf & Country Club, a Joe Lee design with lots of mature trees, well-placed bunkers and no water hazards.

Golf in Inverness

Forget the flat Florida golf course stereotype with the Inverness Golf & Country Club, which has naturally hilly terrain, mature tree growth and attractive landscaping with shrubs and colorful flowers.

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Snedeker joins 59 club at Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:19 pm

Brandt Snedeker opened the Wyndham Championship with an 11-under 59, becoming just the ninth player in PGA Tour history to card a sub-60 score in a tournament round.

Snedeker offered an excited fist pump after rolling in a 20-footer for birdie on the ninth hole at Sedgefield Country Club, his 18th hole of the day. It was Snedeker's 10th birdie on the round to go along with a hole-out eagle from 176 yards on No. 6 and gave him the first 59 on Tour since Adam Hadwin at last year's CareerBuilder Challenge.

Snedeker's round eclipsed the tournament and course record of 60 at Sedgefield, most recently shot by Si Woo Kim en route to victory two years ago. Amazingly, the round could have been even better: he opened with a bogey on No. 10 and missed a 6-footer for birdie on his 17th hole of the day.

Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Snedeker was still 1 over on the round before reeling off four straight birdies on Nos. 13-16, but he truly caught fire on the front nine where he shot an 8-under 27 that included five birdie putts from inside 6 feet.

Jim Furyk, who also shot 59, holds the 18-hole scoring record on Tour with a 58 in the final round of the 2016 Travelers Championship.

Snedeker told reporters this week that he was suffering from "kind of paralysis by analysis" at last week's PGA Championship, but he began to simplify things over the weekend when he shot 69-69 at Bellerive to tie for 42nd. Those changes paid off even moreso Thursday in Greensboro, where Snedeker earned his first career Tour win back in 2007 at nearby Forest Oaks.

"Felt like I kind of found something there for a few days and was able to put the ball where I wanted to and make some putts," Snedeker said. "And all of a sudden everything starts feeling a little bit better. So excited about that this week because the greens are so good."

Snedeker was hampered by injury at the end of 2017 and got off to a slow start this season. But his form has started to pick up over the summer, as he has recorded three top-10 finishes over his last seven starts highlighted by a T-3 finish last month at The Greenbrier. He entered the week 80th in the season-long points race and is in search of his first win since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.

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Woods' caddie paid heckler $25 to go away

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:05 pm

Tiger Woods is known for his ability to tune out hecklers while in the midst of a competitive round, but every now and then a fan is able to get under his skin - or, at least, his caddie's.

Joe LaCava has been on the bag for Woods since 2011, and on a recent appearance on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" he shared a story of personally dispatching of an especially persistent heckler after dipping into his wallet earlier this month at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

According to LaCava, the fan was vocal throughout Woods' final round at Firestone Country Club, where he eventually tied for 31st. On the 14th hole, LaCava asked him to go watch another group, and the man agreed - under the condition that LaCava pony up with some cash.

"So he calls me a couple of names, and I go back and forth with the guy. And I said, 'Why don't you just leave?'" LaCava said. "And he goes, 'Well, if you give me $25 for the ticket that I bought today, I'll leave.' And I said, 'Here you go, here's $25.'"

But the apparent resolution was brief, as the heckler pocketed the cash but remained near the rope line. At that point, the exchange between LaCava and the fan became a bit more heated.

"I said, 'Look, pal, $25 is $25. You've got to head the other way,'" LaCava said. "So he starts to head the other way, goes 20 yards down the line, and he calls me a certain other swear word. So I run 20 yards back the other way. We’re going face-to-face with this guy and all of a sudden Tiger is looking for a yardage and I’m in it with this guy 20 yards down the line.”

Eventually an on-course police officer intervened, and the cash-grabbing fan was ultimately ejected. According to LaCava, Woods remained unaffected by the situation that played out a few yards away from him.

"He didn't have a problem," LaCava said. "And actually, I got a standing ovation for kicking the guy out of there."

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Highlights: Snedeker's closing blitz to 59

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

Brandt Snedeker's first round at the Wyndham Championship began with a bogey and ended with a birdie for an 11-under 59.

Snedeker made four consecutive birdies on his opening nine holes and then raced home in 27 strokes to become the ninth different player in PGA Tour history to break the 60 barrier.

A very good round turned historic beginning when he holed a 7-iron from 176 yards, on the fly, for an eagle-2 at the par-4 sixth. Playing his 15th hole of the day, Snedeker vaulted to 9 under par for the tournament.

With Sedgefield being a par 70, Snedeker needed two birdies over his final three holes to shoot 59 and he got one of them at the par-3 seventh, where he hit his tee shot on the 224-yard hole to 2 feet.

Snedeker actually had 58 in his crosshairs, but missed an 6-foot slider for birdie at the par-4 eighth.

Still, 59 was on the table and he needed this 20-foot putt to shoot it.

At 11 under par, Snedeker led the tournament by five strokes.

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Rosaforte Report: A tale of two comebacks

By Tim RosaforteAugust 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Comeback (noun): A return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they have formerly been successful.

Even by definition, the word comeback is subjective.

There is no question that Brooks Koepka has completed his comeback. With two major championship victories that encompassed wins over Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, Player of the Year honors have all but been locked up for the 2017-18 season.

But knowing Koepka, he wants more. A No. 1 ranking, topping his boy D.J., is a possibility and a goal. A Ryder Cup is awaiting. By all rights, Koepka could be Comeback Player of the Year and Player of the Year all in one, except the PGA Tour discontinued its Comeback honor in 2012. Even without an official award, the conversation comes down to the two athletes that hugged it out after finishing 1-2 at Bellerive.

What Woods has recovered from is remarkable, but not complete. He hasn’t won yet. With triumphs in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Koepka has completed his comeback from a pair of wrist injuries that could have been equally as career-ending as the physical issues that Woods had to overcome just to contend in the last two majors.

“There was a question on whether or not I’d ever be the same,” Koepka said Sunday night in the media center at Bellerive, following his third major championship victory in six tries. “Whether I could do it pain-free, we had no idea.”

The wrist traumas occured five months apart, with the initial issue, which occured at the Hero World Challenge in December (in which he finished last in the limited field), putting him in a soft cast with a partially torn tendon. That cost the reigning U.S. Open champion 15 weeks on the shelf (and couch), including a start in the Masters.

His treatment included injecting bone marrow and platelet-rich plasma. When he returned at the Zurich Classic in April, Koepka revealed the ligaments that hold the tendon in place were gone – thus a dislocation – and that every time he went to his doctor, “it seemed like it got worse and worse.”

Koepka’s second wrist injury of the season occurred on the practice grounds at The Players, when a cart pulled in front of Koepka just as he was accelerating into the ball with his 120-plus mph club-head speed. Abruptly stopping his swing, Koepka’s left wrist popped out. His physio, Marc Wahl, relayed a story to PGA Tour radio in which he advised Koepka before he reset the wrist: “Sit on your hand and bite this towel, otherwise you’re going to punch me.”

Koepka admitted that he never dreamed such a scenario would threaten his career. He called it, “probably the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through, setting that bone back.” But, testament to Koepka's fortitude, four days later he made an albatross and tied a TPC Sawgrass course record, shooting 63.

Woods’ physical – and mental – recovery from back surgery and prescription drug abuse was painful and career threatening in its own way. As he said in his return to Augusta, “Those are some really, really dark times. I’m a walking miracle.”

As miraculous as it has been, Woods, by definition, still hasn’t fully completed his comeback. While he’s threatened four times in 2018, he hasn’t won a tournament.

Yes, it’s a miracle that he’s gotten this far, swinging the club that fast, without any relapse in his back. As electric and high-energy as his second-place finish to Koepka was at the PGA, Woods has made this winning moment something to anticipate. As story lines go, it may be better this way.

Coming off a flat weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone, Woods was starting to sound like an old 42-year-old. But instead of ice baths and recovery time, the conversation was charged by what he did on Saturday and Sunday in the 100th PGA.

A day later, there was more good news. With Woods committing to three straight weeks of FedExCup Playoff golf, potentially followed by a week off and then the Tour Championship, that moment of victory may not be far away.

Scheduling – and certainly anticipating – four tournaments in five weeks, potentially followed by a playing role at the Ryder Cup, would indicate that Woods has returned to the activity in which he was formally successful.

There were times post-scandal and post-back issues, that Woods stuck by the lines made famous by LL Cool J:

Don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years
I’m rocking my peers

Not this time. As he said Sunday before his walk-off 64 in St, Louis, “Oh, God. I didn’t even know if I was going to play again.”