The 21: Cabot hits jackpot in Florida

  • 21 Cabot
    Cabot Citrus Farms/Andrew Harvie

    Looking back on the third and second holes on The Ten at Cabot Citrus Farms, designed by Mike Nuzzo

  • 21 Cabot
    Cabot Citrus Farms/Andrew Harvie

    A large waste area will lie between tees and green on the fifth hole of par-three course The Ace

  • 21 Cabot
    Mike Nuzzo

    The 21 at Cabot Citrus Farms comprises a driving range and short game area, an 11-hole par-three course and a 10-hole course of 3,000 yards but with no designated pars

  • 21 Cabot
    Mike Nuzzo

    The second, third and sixth greens on The Ten all surround a hill at the southern end of the site

  • 21 Cabot
    Mike Nuzzo

    The 11-hole Ace layout is routed near the ninth and ten holes on The Ten course

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

The former World Woods Golf Club in Brooksville, Florida, is now in the midst of transformation following its acquisition by developer Cabot in January 2022.

Mike Nuzzo and Kyle Franz are redesigning Rolling Oaks (which will become Cabot Oaks) with Ran Morrissett as an advisor; and Franz is redesigning Pine Barrens (which will become Cabot Barrens). Meanwhile, Nuzzo is well under way with The 21, 105 acres that will be home to a 10-hole course of almost 3,000 yards and an 11-hole par-three layout.

There is about 50 feet of elevation change across The 21’s sandy site – almost 10 feet deep in places. “The site had two prominent hilltop features,” says Nuzzo. “The second, third and sixth greens on ‘The Ten’ all surround the southern hill. The tenth hole and the par-three course, ‘The Ace’, use the hill closest to the clubhouse. That hilltop was previously used as a starting point for both the old practice holes and executive course – it was mostly a giant tee complex. We use it now more as a crescendo for both courses.

“The site was small and squarish, which isn’t traditionally best for routing traditional length holes, but because we had no constraints, we were able to use the shorter perimeter dimensions by fitting more ‘half-par’ holes on The Ten. It will be an ideal walking golf course for those that normally play about 3,000 yards. It gives them a chance to walk the entire course and not have to walk past tees several times per round. There are five holes that would be considered par 3.5. Two short one-shot holes and a long three-shot hole.”

Nuzzo’s design aims to isolate the golf from the surroundings to make the courses feel like an escape or retreat. A large berm system shields the town of Ponce de Leon from the course and the site’s infrastructure. It was created with material excavated for large waste areas, dramatic features for both courses.

Both courses were originally planned as nine holes. “The preliminary plan had a little bit of a walk to and from the last one-shot hole,” says Nuzzo, of The Ten. Cabot’s Ben Cowan-Dewar asked if there was enough room for another hole. “At the time I was considering a tenth hole on the par-three course, so it struck a great balance for Cabot to have ten plus ten,” says Nuzzo. As it happens, another par three was added to The Ace, which Nuzzo says: “allowed for the routing to tack the property and add more dramatic features.”

While The Ace is a par-three course, Cabot’s scorecard for The Ten does not list pars.

“Once the best use of the land was determined to be more ‘half-par holes’, or holes of less traditional lengths, the goal was to add as much interest to each hole and emulate some of the great short holes in the world,” says Nuzzo. “We took some ingredients from my favourites and also concocted some original ideas.

“One of the challenges was working with the old four-sided range. By eliminating the east and west tee pods it allowed The Ten to route around the new range. The first hole aided the transition, it is somewhat wide and uses the old terrain to have a super-rumpled and interesting approach and green complex.

“The second green rewards the safe play to the left side. The player who challenges the green will have to avoid the trouble to the right before arriving at a green that will slightly curve the ball left. The third has a waste bunker the size of a Publix! The hole has a slender green that slopes away from the tee with a very steep left side. It is highly dramatic, and the first thing visitors will see upon entering the site.

“The fourth hole is 560 yards and feels like it was born in Ireland. The pronounced dunes running the entire left side of the hole create a fairway strongly canted left to right. Strategically, the green rewards players when playing from the left side.”

Nuzzo expects the fifth to become a favourite. “The fairway is quite wide with a portion in the middle that is obscured by views of bunkers that create an old-fashioned MacKenzie illusion,” he says. “The green is the largest on the course and has a giant ‘flea’ buried in the middle, exaggerating the reward for playing to the proper sides of the fairway.”

The green on the sixth boomerangs around a hilltop. “The fairway severely pinches down in the driver landing area,” says Nuzzo. “On most holes the fairways will help the shorter hitter or force the longer hitter to be very accurate. There are large waste areas on either side of the fairway neck and the green has a significantly lower portion back right that many will need to study to get their putts near the hole.”

A “devilish” 115-yarder seventh is followed by the more traditional 185-yard eighth that the architect describes as “Winged Footian”. The ninth fairway is the lowest spot on the property, requiring significant work to facilitate drainage. “The green is a stunner,” says Nuzzo. “The tenth looked like a short uphill hole once the old par-three practice tee was removed. Not exactly an ode to Pine Valley’s second, but it does have a very dramatic fairway and elevated green.

“There are lots of angles to play to all different hole locations, and, in general, the longer the tee shot, the more restricting the angles become, and the fairways often narrow dramatically the further one carries.”

Nuzzo has designed the par-three The Ace course with excitement in mind, with large features such as the quarry on the fifth, which the architect says is the size of a battleship. “There are ridges in front of greens, narrow greens, deep bunkers hard on the edge, greens that run away, greens that run sideways, one inspired by the eighteenth on the Old course at St Andrews, and the craziest waterfall green to finish the round,” he says. “This green has a hidden back portion after carrying the hilltop ridge. It even transitions into the 60,000-square-foot putting green that is significantly undulated across the base of the hilltop.”

This article first appeared in the July 2023 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page