In Crystal River, there is a place where Southern hospitality and Old Florida charm are abundant. About an hour north of Tampa, the Plantation Golf Resort and Spa (formerly known as the Plantation Inn and commonly known as the Plantation on Crystal River) is a wonderful place to stay and play.
As I motored up the long driveway, I was reminded of the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina by the beautiful flowers and landscaping, and the white plantation-style main building with the rocking chairs on the porch. Nicely appointed rooms, good food and a helpful staff make this a pleasant place to settle in for a few days of vacation. Here you can swim in the pool or river, go boating, and of course play golf.
There are actually two courses. The Championship, which opened in 1957, is a full 18 of mature, tree-lined holes that you’ll find challenging yet still enjoyable to play. The Lagoons is a sporty par 31 executive style with five par 3s and four par 4s. You’ll have a great time playing these courses with their pure rolling greens.
Clear water bubbles up from the natural spring on the Championship course which measures 6,472 from the back tees with a rating/slope of 71.4/121. Move up to the silver tees and it’s 6,043 and 69.2/120 – still plenty of a challenge with all the old-growth trees, fresh water ponds and abundant wildlife.
About 20 minutes south of the Plantation Resort is World Woods Golf Club. World Woods does some joint packages with the Plantation Golf Resort, so if you are staying there you may want to take the short trip down to World Woods.
On this vast piece of Florida horse country, you’ll find one of the best golf destinations in Florida. PGA Tour players like to come here to practice due to the high quality challenge of these two courses. In 2002, Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf filmed a match here between Phil Mickelson and David Toms. Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara, Vijay Singh and many others have stopped in for tune-up rounds prior to major events.
When you arrive at World Woods, you can hit warm-up shots on the enormous practice area or, even better, for the price of a bucket of balls you can attack the three separate “warm up” holes – a par 4, par 5 and par 3. You can even play a quick nine on the “Short Course”, a par 29 track with seven par 3s and two par 4s.You’ll need a few warm-up holes before tackling the likes of these layouts.
World Woods offers two championship courses, both designed by Tom Fazio:
Pine Barrens course
The Pine Barrens has a Pine Valley type layout and measures 7,237 yards from the Elite tees with a rating of 75.3 and a slope of 133. Move up to the middle tees at 6,316 and a rating/slope of 70.2/125 to make your day a little easier.Rolling Oaks course
With its hilly terrain, Rolling Oaks (my favorite) is evocative of Augusta National. The course measures 7,333 from the tips with a rating/slope of 74.8/132. From the middle tees it is 6,438 with 70.3/121. Both tracks are plenty strong.
The Pine Barrens demands that you carry the many sand waste areas (see the photos of the duel fairway #15 – the ultimate risk/reward par 4). Rolling Oaks challenges you with the hills, undulating greens and the vast amount of oak trees protecting the fairways.
World Woods offers special packages to allow you to play both courses, so visit their website at www.worldwoods.com. If you are looking for a full day of nothing but great golf, look no further. It is truly worth the trip.