Cabot Citrus Farms, by contrast, doesn’t have the cliffs or the trade winds or the Caribbean accents. What the Karoo does have is sand, and for golf architects and developers, that’s like sticking a shovel into the ground and striking gold.
A sandy base provides ideal drainage, allowing for firm and bouncy playing surfaces across which a ball can roll great distances. Sand is at the heart of all true links courses in Great Britain and Ireland, and it was sand that Keiser sought when he was introduced to the coastal site that became Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, which served as inspiration to Cowan-Dewar.
Perched on a landform known as the Brooksville Ridge that is blessed with ancient sand dunes, Cabot Citrus Farms sits atop the former World Woods Golf Club, which was home to two courses designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 1991. Those courses ranked highly, playing through oaks and pines with occasional exposed sand, traversing gently rolling hills that equate almost to mountains in typically flat Florida. But the club was never a financial success under previous ownership, and playing conditions often suffered.
Enter Cowan-Dewar, who bought World Woods in January of 2022 and kicked into frenetic pace a top-to-bottom plan to reinvigorate the property in the wake of a golf boom that started during COVID-19.
“We had thought, this might be the time to buy a couple of assets,” Cowan-Dewar said. “To see the progress and how we were able to get that turned and to market is pretty extraordinary.”
Cowan-Dewar said that from the start, Citrus Farms was a simpler project than Point Hardy, the site of which he first visited eight years ago. Planning permissions were easier to obtain for a site that already held golf courses, and its U.S. location also helped put Citrus Farms on the fast track, with Franz designing the Karoo in the footprint of World Woods’ former Pine Barrens course.
Franz cut his teeth as an associate for other designers two decades ago, including interning for Tom Doak at the exquisite Pacific Dunes layout that opened in 2001 at Bandon Dunes. Franz has gone on to several solo original projects but might be best known for his historic restorations to Mid Pines, Pine Needles and Southern Pines, each a Donald Ross design near Pinehurst, North Carolina.
In those well-received…