When I looked at Florida while originally planning my journey, I remember thinking... don't get sucked into Florida too deep, you could die out there. However, I would get sucked in deep, the good news is that I would not die.
I started off the state with a visit to Capital City Country Club and a round with Golf Scribe, Jay Revell. The first thing that I recognized about the course are the impressive live oaks dripping with Spanish Moss. They are beautiful and it is awfully hard to capture their full essence with a camera. I also recognized Jay's short game as particularly precise.
As I headed down the gulf coast of Florida, I ran into a couple other mighty fine places to golf my ball. I am talking about World Woods. Bad name, bad logo, great courses. They have two courses out there to enjoy, Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks. Pine Barrens is the more noteworthy of the two, but both courses are worth playing. We would avoid the rain and get in 36. Just about every day during the Florida leg, rain would threaten but never actually come.
The inspirational story of the month comes from RGV Tour player Mark Thomas who was battling a bad back but made it out to the course anyways. Mark was not to be denied his RGV Tour card and played his heart out over all 36 holes. It's players like Mark, who make the RGV Tour special.
As you pull into Black Diamond Ranch, you get a quick glimpse of the famous 5 quarry holes that make the place so special. The bad news is that you have to wait until the back nine to play them. That stretch of holes comes on 13-17 of the aptly named Quarry course. There is also a Ranch course and a 9 hole Highlands course. That's 45 holes of Tom Fazio golf!
Every year, the Copperhead course at Innisbrook hosts the Valspar Championship. It's a pretty decent tour stop and in 2018, Tiger Woods joined the field. With Tiger's appearance, the size and revenue of the tournament effectively doubled. Tiger would contend and narrowly missed out on a playoff as he made it through the Snake Pit. The Snake Pit consists of holes 16-18 and they are notoriously difficult.
After being joined by a couple of the local pros on the front nine, I played the back nine by myself. As I made my way into the Snake Pit, I gave myself a challenge... even par "wins the Valspar." The story played out in dramatic fashion on my Instagram Story. After making bogey on 16 and par on 17, I needed a birdie 3 on 18. With the "invisible crowd" sensing a big moment, I delivered an 8 iron that nestled in tight setting up a 9 foot putt for birdie and the win. Moments later, the crowd would storm the green as I canned the winning putt.
I probably have too much fun with these made up scenarios, but it keeps things fresh when you are golfing every day and sometimes by yourself. I am certainly not Tiger Woods, but it is fun to feel like him.
With a day up in the air, I decided to fill the missing link in my Streamsong portfolio... Gil Hanse's Black Course. It was as hot as Hades, but I was glad I made the walk. The pictures below should give you an indication of how big and bold the design is. Plenty of sand and plenty of strategic golf holes. My favorite being the 9th, which is a blind approach to a punch bowl green. The excitement of walking over those hills on an "Alps" hole after you hit one right at it, is pure golf bliss. The anticipation and excitement of learning your fate is fantastic. Even if it's over the green, you still have that hope. Fortunately, mine was in there tight.
By this point, I am way too deep into Florida, but I keep going deeper. I am talking about Naples and Calusa Pines... and it was worth the travel deep into the state. We managed to play 18 and then headed around again after a rainstorm left the course wide open for us. We even managed to do a little par 3 RGV rooftop range practice after the round. What a day out at Calusa!
Now that I had made it down to Naples, the trick was to extract myself quickly, and I looked to my friend Arnold Palmer for inspiration. Having watched his tournament every year on tv, it was finally time to play. The course is not especially unique but the finish is quite strong and the Arnie vibes are magnificent.
I managed to get out of Florida with only playing a couple of more rounds at Reunion Resort and Amelia Island Plantation. First up was Reunion Resort. With 3 courses designed by Nicklaus, Player, and Watson, the resort is the only one it's kind in the world. The short par 4 7th shown below is my personal favorite.
The round at Amelia Island Plantation would be my farewell to the state of Florida and a good precursor of the swamps to come in South Carolina.