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SouthWood is a Capital Idea - Southern Style

By: Steve Habel


Word of mouth is a powerful thing - once people start talking about something they like, others often clamor to see if they can chime in on the same experience. But sometimes even expectations are surpassed, and such is the case with a golfing (and especially a stay-and-play) excursion to SouthWood, located just an hour's flight south from Atlanta in Tallahassee, capital of the Sunshine State.

If you have never tried Tallahassee as a destination for golf, you're missing out. Thanks to SouthWood Golf Club, a thrilling and varied course designed by PGA Tour veteran Fred Couples and his partner Gene Bates as the centerpiece of a 3,300-acre master-planned community, this area has become known for more than politics and college football.

"The land at SouthWood is one of the most ideal settings Gene and I have ever had the opportunity to work with," Couples said. "We had the perfect palette from which to sculpt the course, a combination of rolling hills and wide-open pasture lands defined by stands of awesome moss-draped live oaks."

Those in the know sure seem to like the things Couples and Bates did here in Leon County as SouthWood Golf Club has garnered numerous honors since opening in November 2002. The course was named among the Top-10 layouts of the new millennium by Travel + Leisure Golf, and SouthWood also garnered mention on Golf Digest's list of "America's Best New Courses." The track earned kudos from Golf Magazine as one of the top 35 public courses - out of 325 nationwide - that opened in 2002 and was named the city's best golf course by Tallahassee Magazine in both 2006 and 2007. Most recently, SouthWood was ranked one of America's "Top 50 Courses for Women" by Golf for Women magazine.

SouthWood Golf Club, which offers memberships and operates as a semiprivate facility, is the home of the Florida State University men's and women's golf teams, so the course is designed for professional tournament play. But the track and its facilities were also designed to work as a teaching course and SouthWood is extremely comfortable for families. Each hole features six sets of tees, so you can bite off all you think you can chew - from the 7,172-yard "Boom Boom" tees (a Couples signature) to the "Wee" blocks set for children and beginners at 2,696 yards. In addition, the forward tees present a unique opportunity for a par-3 format on 17 of the 18 holes, giving all golfers a chance to focus on their ever-important short game.

Bring your A Game

One of the best things about playing golf at SouthWood is that you will need to employ every club in your bag and use your thinking cap on holes that may appear easier than they are at first glance. There are holes on wetlands, along meadows of the former plantation that once defined the property, and through majestic trees - all a treat to the eye and your game.

Couples and Bates used oak trees to not only define the holes' boundaries but also as aiming points, making the ancient landmarks an integral part of a round. At hole Nos. 14 and 15, back-to-back par-4s that bend right and up a hill, oaks guarding the middle of the fairway make you go think twice on the tee.

SouthWood's best holes on the front nine are: the opener, a 547-yard right-to-left par-5 that bends uphill then down around heavy rough and over a series of bunkers to a pitched green; the 227-yard, par-3 third, which requires a long carry over water to attack the flag; the 628-yard, par-5 fourth - a true three-shotter with nothing but trouble down the right; the testing, uphill 427-yard, par-4 eighth and the 459-yard, par-4 ninth - which is defined by five oaks on both sides.

The back nine starts off with an uphill 562-yard par-5 that could be your best chance for birdie on this side. The green is wide open on the front with a pair of bunkers left, so take your best shot while you can. The 12th is lined with trees and its fairway is cut in two by three bunkers that must be driven over to have a chance at par - at 455-yards and sporting a large, two-tiered green, it is a true test. If you can stay clear of the pines on the right and left, the real beauty of this hole is the lake to the right back-side of the green. Yes, you're still in Florida, but you just won't believe it.

SouthWood's 16th hole is a 541-yard par-5 offering that can be reached in two only by the most daring. Its narrow putting surface is protected by a pond and surrounded by three deep and foreboding bunkers, making a layup to the right landing area on your second shot a prudent play. The home hole stretches 427 yards and is entirely downhill, with a tee shot to the left side the optimum position. A huge oak guards the left side of the green with a series of bunkers on the right, which sits in the shadow of the clubhouse.

Stay & Play

If you are traveling to Tallahassee playing (and staying) at SouthWood can provide an unforgettable experience - as well as strong word-of-mouth recommendations for your friends. Right down the road from the club's expansive and low country-style clubhouse are the charming SouthWood Cottages, a quintet of small, quaint bungalows that sport living rooms with gas fireplaces, efficiency kitchens, full baths, cozy bedrooms with cable television and traditional Southern front porches with rocking chairs. Three cottages feature single king-size beds, while two have a pair of queen-size beds for double occupancy.

Clustered amid centuries-old, Spanish moss-draped live oaks, the cottages open onto an expansive grass lawn that is connected to the community's famed SouthWood House (a place for gatherings of any size) via a network of brick sidewalks. The cottages are ideal for a couples' getaway or a small golf group of up to eight players and help provide a true sense of home for SouthWood's guests.

Model Community

SouthWood is a place where residents can live, learn, work and play. The community has more than 1,000 acres of community-wide interconnected green space, including numerous lakes, parks and wetlands, and a 123-acre Central Park and lake. Residential opportunities include apartments, town homes and single-family houses. Miles of walking and biking trails wind throughout the community. In addition to the golf course, SouthWood features a community center with pools, an education village providing lifelong learning opportunities and a town center.

SouthWood was developed by the St. Joe Company, with seven of the company's 10 Florida communities in the Panhandle. The communities offer beaches, bays and rivers, rolling hills and quiet woodlands - and present dozens of authentic, imaginative and inspiring places for visitors (many of whom become eventual residents) to discover.

SouthWood was developed by the St. Joe Company, with seven of the company's 10 Florida communities in the Panhandle. The communities offer beaches, bays and rivers, rolling hills and quiet woodlands - and present dozens of authentic, imaginative and inspiring places for visitors (many of whom become eventual residents) to discover.

For additional information or a tee time, call 850/942-4653 or visit Southwood Golf Club