There is a parkland beauty called Southwood Golf Club in Tallahassee, Florida that is as magnificent a layout anywhere I have seen. Upon arrival it’s sense of old world charm is immediate and belies the fact the course is barely yet 15 years old. Having just come back from Jekyll Island, Georgia the white washed, plantation style clubhouse with it’s fan blades whirling above the outdoor patio reeked of the days of the roaring 20’s.
The feeling I got was at any moment Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagan were going to stroll out onto the veranda, pull up a wooden lounge chair and have a cool lemonade. The hundreds of enormous Live Oak’s with the Spanish Moss hanging down and swaying in the breeze conjured up a feel that was much older than this young masterpiece of a golf course is.
I introduced myself at the pro shop and was guided to the office of interim manager David Owen. I poked my head in and as I look to my right I expected to perhaps see someone at least in their middle-age running a facility of this pedigree. This very approachable and affable young man has many years to go to reach the middle-age designation. Originally from New York with a background in food and beverage and working at Oak Hills Golf Club he has been thrust into this role as the golf course ownership is in a transition period.
We were loaded up onto a cart with a very warm welcome and directed to the practice area which is adjacent to the sprawling, whitewashed clubhouse.
They have a very unique offer for people wanting to just practice, instead of buying a bucket of balls you pay eight dollars for one hour of unlimited usage of the range. As we were a bit tight for time and not wanting to hold up the first tee we just had a few practice putts and headed off to the first hole.
I can honestly say with all due respect I don’t think I’ve ever played a course which initially presented such a very simple and somewhat plain view from the tee on the first hole. My first impression standing on number one was that perhaps this was a great facility from the standpoint of the clubhouse and practice area but not much was to be made of the golf course itself.
I couldn’t have been more wrong as after hitting a decent drive to the top of the ridge on number one the rest of the golf course was remarkable in every facet you could imagine.Ladies and gentlemen “plain and simple” has left the building.
The view from 270 yards out on number one towards the green painted a completely different masterpiece and as we chipped on and looked at the putting surface, surrounding bunkers and the fairway contouring Myra did not need me to confirm that this was indeed a first class course.
As we stood on the second hole we observed five maintenance workers carefully edging a number of the fairway bunkers adorned with beautiful copper colored sand. The upkeep was evident and as I prepared to hit an approach shot over them with my eight iron, they did everything from hide behind a maintenance vehicle to pretending to have a baseball glove on and await my hit. It was a fun and relaxing moment.
David had asked that we overlook the fact that the retention ponds were quite low this time of year but it did not have any negative affect on our enjoyment of the course and the surrounding scenery.
We took into account that this time of year the golf courses aren’t as brilliant in color as normal nonetheless from that second shot on the first fairway onward to the final putt on 18, every hole between was a very well thought out creation. One particular feature was the introduction of contoured mounding off to the sides of the fairways allowing the player to use this feature to bring the ball back down into play.
The greens although not particularly fast could easily be cut down shorter to make them very slick. I have a feeling that after a busy weekend that they actually hadn’t been cut but we’re still of a pace that didn’t present less of a challenge gunning for a bird or par.
The bunker configuration and positioning on this course was as complete as I’ve seen anywhere. Now let’s talk about these trees, some of which I’ve never seen the likes of anywhere on the planet. The Live Oaks are simply as awesome as any species of tree I have ever seen and the long strands of Spanish Moss adorn them like garland on a Christmas tree.
Southwood from the back tees playing at 7162 yards would challenge the world’s best players in my mind and perhaps if they had more local amenities and parking could easily be a host site for any of the top PGA tours of the world.
With six sets of tees we opted to play at distances that enhanced our game not punished it and coming in with an 85 and 108 respectively was more than rewarding for Myra and I.
You may never put Tallahassee on your list of must play destinations but if your travels take you through here or you’re close enough to detour to the panhandle make Southwood Golf Club a must play priority.
Heading back into the clubhouse we wished to thank David Owen for one of the best golf days Myra and I have ever shared. He had left for the day but Chris Flaherty working in the pro shop was a very worthy representative in his absence.
In his senior year attending Florida State University Chris is well on his way to getting his degree in the professional golf management program. It is no wonder why he was chosen to have the opportunity to intern at the former Ryder Cup venue, The “K” Club outside of Dublin, Ireland this past summer.
It is wonderful to think that golfers can rely on the expertise, enthusiasm and professionalism of bright young men like Chris and David moving forward. The new owners of Southwood Golf Club, whoever they end up being would serve themselves very well in securing both these young man as long term employees.
I even think Gene and Walter would concur.