By: Pat Farnan
Amid the rolling hills south of Tallahassee is one of the finest golf courses in North Florida.
Southwood Golf Club, once voted by Golf Magazine as one of the 35 best new courses in country, is an 18-hole, par-72 layout featuring significant elevation changes, picturesque design and exceptional use of native elements.
The course was designed by Masters champion and popular PGA Tour player Fred Couples, along with well-known design partner Gene Bates. Virtually every hole is a distinctive and pleasurable trip through nature, with aging live oaks, slash pines and other native plants framing the layout.
The course is part of the Southwood community created by the St. Joe Company, a lovely and easy-going mix of contemporary homes, gently rolling hills, lakes, and pedestrian walkways that get plenty of use. It is a tidy and attractive community, as residents will attest.
The golf course is a special treat, and for many reasons.
Before you get to the first tee, the practice area is expansive and well- manicured. Besides a top rate driving range, the course offers two large practice greens and bunker facilities.
There’s even a small practice green next to the first tee. Once you’re on the course, the visual delights begin, and Southwood has many pretty vistas.
The second hole, for example, is a dogleg left from a slightly elevated tee. The tee shot must carry a swale to reach fairway, which is guarded by a phalanx of bunkers. The more you try to short-cut the dogleg, the more the bunkers come into play. It’s basically a short par 4 loaded with options and potential pitfalls.
The par 5 fourth can be stretched to 626 yards, and length is not the only challenge. The tee shot, coming out of a virtual chute of trees, must carry another swale and avoid thick trees on the right, which run all the way to green, which is also well-guarded by traps. Not an easy hole, of course, but fun to play.
The 14th hole is also a creative test. It’s plenty of par 4, stretching to 415 yards from the back tee. A dogleg-right, the tee shot must reach or pass a large oak tree just off the fairway. If short, the next shot will have to negotiate the tree to the right or left. The hole offers a shorter route well to the right of the tee, but the landing area requires the golfer to get lucky amid a series of bunkers and grassy knolls. Big numbers are possible there.
That’s but three examples, and there are plenty more. Southwood is a fun course to play, with five sets of tees to accommodate all golfers.
But this is a course that also can throw back its shoulders and present a stiff challenge to expert golfers.
The finishing holes on the front and back are both tall tests. And all of the par 3s, at whatever length you play them, are first-rate golf holes.
Any thorough assessment of Southwood requires some discussion of the greens. Most of the putting surfaces are extensive, with plenty of contour and subtlety, a game within the game. And approaching the greens is no easy chore. Some run-up shots are possible, but many of the greens are elevated, and most are well-trapped, requiring a variety of short-game creativity.
Southwood is well-bunkered, in the fairways and around the greens. And the fairway bunkers are not flat waste bunkers that are easier to play out of; they’re traditional bunkers, some of them deep, some with major lips, making recovery a more challenging proposition.
The course and practice facilities are also host to both the men’s and women’s golf teams at nearby Florida State University and the site of many local and regional competitions.
“I love this course,” said James Schaub, 50, of nearby Lake Jackson. “It is well-manicured and fun to play.”
Schaub is a member who plays Southwood frequently and considers the practice facilities first rate.
“I think this is one of the nicer courses I have ever played,’’ said David Chambers, 52, who moved to the Southwood community from Connecticut in 2015. “It’s somewhat open in spots but it’s very challenging. You can’t take any shot for granted.’’
Chambers if also a big fan of the Southwood community. "It’s a tight-knit community and a great atmosphere.”
The Southwood clubhouse is a 7,200-square-foot facility offering with a full-service bar and restaurant offering a range of dining options. The pro shop is well-stocked with every golfer’s needs and managed by a staff of PGA professionals.
If you go…
Southwood Golf Club
3750 Grove Park Dr., Tallahassee, Fla., 32311
For more information on other Florida golfing destinations, explore VISIT FLORIDA's official golfing guide.
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