Some golf courses are so good that playing them can feel like a religious experience. You will often hear tales of the St Andrews Old Course or Pebble Beach being lauded by critics and fans worldwide as the closest thing to golfing heaven that exists on earth.
Well, what if I told you that a new course is set to open this year just inland from Florida's west coast that is ready to compete as one of the most exciting and enjoyable golf resorts anywhere on God's green earth?
I am, of course, referring to Cabot Citrus Farms.
I had the pleasure of playing two of the new courses at a preview play this month, and I can confirm it has made me rethink everything I thought I could ever want from a golf destination.
Formerly known as World Woods, CCF, as I shall now refer to it, is tucked between state forests and nature reserves in the central-west region of Florida, aptly known as the Nature Coast, situated in Brooksville, Florida.
Credit: Jeff Marsh
Cabot's acquisition of the property is a long tale, with the former owner, Yukihisa Inoue, reluctant to sell until 2021, when Cabot co-founder and CEO Ben Cowan-Dewar finally managed to negotiate a deal.
Since then, the property has undergone significant renovation at the hands of Kyle Franz, well-known for his architectural work in North Carolina.
CCF has four courses varying in length and hole count; the two 18-hole tracks are known as the Karoo and the Roost, and they are accompanied by a nine-holer called the Squeeze and a short par-3 course appropriately named the Wedge.
During my time at CCF, I had the pleasure of sampling both the Karoo and the Squeeze.
Arriving at the property, the first thing that struck me, having little idea of what I was getting myself into, was the nature of the landscape. Having played a handful of Floridian golf courses in my time, I was expecting huge lakes with motorway-sized fairways and neatly manicured bunkers.
What I was greeted with was more reminiscent of the pine-lined fairways and vast exposed sand areas of North Carolina with hillocks and undulation reminiscent of the finest links course in Scotland and Ireland.
Stepping off the bus, we were met by an entourage of Cabot staff who ushered us to a nearby pro shop filled with a delightful selection of accessories and apparel.
Never one to shy away from a prop shop purchase, I selected a lovely cap as a keepsake and headed down to the driving range.
Credit: Jeff Marsh
A driving range can often set the tone for what the course will be like, and much like both courses I had the pleasure of playing, the facilities offered at CCF were first-class. The range features a selection of perfectly manicured greens at different yardages with a launch monitor screen in each bay, allowing you to really fine-tune your game before you tee off.
Lovely little seating areas are also scattered throughout the range, giving the whole experience a very laid-back feel.
We were fortunate enough to be joined by a fantastic forecaddie during our round called Mark, and he guided us to the fifth hole, which was where we began the day.
What followed was four hours of uninterrupted golfing heaven.
Credit: Jeff Marsh
Characterised by split fairways, large undulating greens, and an outstanding array of tactical holes, the Karoo is a spectacular design that is both playable and challenging in equal measure.
Each hole asks questions from both the tee and the fairway, and unlike many courses I have played, there isn't a single weak link in the routing.
Every hole presents a new and exciting challenge, be it the wild and wonderful 1st hole with its split fairway and shared green or the incredibly entertaining par-3 7th that features one of the widest greens I've ever seen on a golf course.
It's tricky to pick one standout hole on the Karoo because, in all honesty, they are all excellent, but if my hand were forced, I would probably have to choose the short par-4 15th.
Measuring just a touch over 200 yards from the tangerine tees, it's by no means an intimidating hole, but the character and charm it possesses made it incredibly fun to play.
Vast exposed sandy areas protect a small sloping green that runs back to front, presenting an excellent challenge with a long iron or hybrid.
When reminiscing about my favourite golf courses, one characteristic reigns supreme, and that is fun. Golf is a game to be enjoyed, and even when the chips are down and you're staring at a tricky six-footer for a triple bogey, the fun element should always be present.
It's that exact emotion that never left me when playing the Karoo. From my best shots to my worst, I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed every single second.
As we finished our round, I looked back over the vast property set across 1,200 acres of pristine natural beauty and couldn't help but long for a return.
The best golf courses always leave you wanting more, and CCF will forever be a destination I want to return to.
With time to spare before my coach journey back to Orlando, I was fortunate enough to also sample CCF's nine-hole course, the Squeeze.
Designed by Mike Nuzzo, the Squeeze offers an excellent array of holes ranging from short par 3s to a brute of a par 5 measuring 559 yards off the back tees.
Credit: Jeff Marsh
The course itself features more vegetation than the Karoo, but the large sandy areas and wild topography are still present throughout.
Such is the quality of the Squuze; you could pick any hole and slot it into the Karoo, and there would be no drop in quality.
Often, nine-hole courses can lack the attention to detail their 18-hole siblings are granted. However, that is certainly not the case with the Squeeze. Each hole is thoughtfully plotted with an excellent level of variety and challenge. Much like the Karoo, every minute spent at the Squeeze was a joy, and if I could bottle up my experience and sell it, I'm sure I would be a millionaire overnight.
If you've got this far, you've probably figured out by now that I'm very fond of Cabot Citrus Farms. From the courses to the hospitality, everything about the property was five-star.
With properties and restaurants arriving soon to round out the whole experience, CCF is set to be one of the finest golfing destinations in the world.
Requests for tee times are now available on the Karoo, Squeeze, and Wedge, so I would highly recommend getting in line so you can add CCF to your golfing agenda for 2024.
Pricing for each course is yet to be confirmed; however, as soon as it's available, we will be sure to update this article with all of the relevant info.