Since the golf courses at Streamsong opened in December of 2012, I’ve heard several thoughts and opinions about it. Many revolved around the ultimate failure of the resort: “it’s in the middle of nowhere”, ‘it’s too far from any major airport’ and “all there is to do is golf ” seemed to be among the most popular. Another popular theory was that the entire Streamsong project was just a tax write-off for Mosaic, the parent company; somewhat of a make-good with the Environmental Protection Agency for all those years of phosphate mining and the impact it had on the natural habitat of the area.
It’s been almost two years now and Streamsong is going stronger than ever. When it opened, Streamsong’s offerings we limited: 36 holes of golf (some might say the finest golf in the state), a steakhouse and 12 guestrooms – located on the second floor of the clubhouse. It remained that way until the fall of 2013 when the 216 room lodge officially opened. Each guest room has been custom-built and offers spectacular views of the surrounding lakes and wildlife habitat.
Streamsong is officially located in Bowling Green, FL and is about 60 miles from Tampa and 80 miles from Orlando. Both course has receive all kinds of accolades: both have been recognized by GOLF Magazine in the publication’s “Best New Courses 2012” list. Streamsong Red, designed by Coore & Crenshaw, was named the “Best New U.S. Course You Can Play” while Streamsong Blue, designed by Renaissance Golf Design (with Tom Doak at the helm), received honorable mention in the same category.
Kemper Sports manage the golf operations at the resort, while Interstate Hotels & Resorts has overall management responsibility for the resort.
Originally, Streamsong offered 12 guest rooms which were – and still are – located on the second level in the clubhouse. Nowadays, these rooms share a common area which, by today’s standards, would be considered a “mancave” on steroids. The rooms are spacious, inviting and well-equipped. They are strategically located, allowing guests to spend extra time at the bar the night before or just head downstairs for some putting practice.
Today, there is a 216-room lodge on property, which by and of itself is a masterpiece. It’s made from stone and wood and glass, each with its own story on how it ended up as a part of this structure. Our room was considered a standard guest room; I considered it fantastic. The first thing you see when you walk through the door is the large sectional couch with a chaise on one end. To the right is the extra-large king size bed complete with high quality linens. Separating the two rooms is a large island with not one but two large flat screen televisions – one facing each way. All of the furnishings have a modern look – luxury and comfort are the fares of the day. What really caught my eye were the window treatments – large, thick pieces of lumber linked together beautifully and elegantly and creating total darkness at night.
With a total of only 228 rooms, you would think that four restaurants might be overkill but I was surprised at how busy they were; especially that ‘the season” wasn’t quite upon us. The restaurant is named Fifty-Nine, which to golfers symbols the ultimate achievement in the game – a score attained by only a handful of PGA Tour players. No-one at Streamsong has put up a 59 yet, to the best of my knowledge.
Although it’s billed as a high-tier steakhouse,, Fifty-Nine is open for breakfast and lunch too. During our stay, I ate all three meals there at one time or another and was impressed by each one. The breakfast menu is limited – after all, there is only so much you can do with eggs, bacon and home fries – but each dish was individually prepared. The Eggs Benedict Fifty-Nine was incredible. The burgers and sandwiches served at lunch (or dinner) were fresh and fried foods were crisp and tasty. Although steak is what this venue is best known for – and believe me, they live up to their billing – our visit will best be remembered for the caramel bacon sundae. You read right – bacon. And not just bacon – candied bacon; atop toffee crunch ice cream in a cup lined with caramel! It sounds like an odd combination but trust me, it’s delicious!
Streamsong’s other restaurants include P205, which is located on the ground floor of the hotel and serves all three meals of which breakfast is a mainstay (and well done to boot) and Sotto Terra Ristorante, an upscale jacket-required establishment that offers hearty portions of basic Italian fare as well as a variety of fresh seafood.
Just in case you get bored (or beat up) by golf, there other activities at the resort to take part in. Try your hand at a guided bass fishing tour on one of the many lakes on property or take a shot at sporting clays. All firearms and ammo are supplied at the resort. A uniquely designed grotto-style full-service spa featuring eight treatment rooms, a heated pool with a vanishing edge, and a hair and nail salon round out the amenities at this fine luxury resort.
OK, so let’s talk about golf. These two courses are truly amazing and with the look and feel of the land, you would never know you’re in Florida – other than the fact it’s December, 75 degrees out and you’re wearing shorts! As you’ve probably heard, the courses are built on what used to be old phosphate mines which explains why the land is like it is. With all of the digging that goes on with mining operations, huge mounds –some over 75 feet tall – have been created, making for uphill and downhill lies and shots in the state of Florida. This is unheard of!
Interestingly enough, he two courses were named based on the ink color used on the blueprint routing. The architects would refer to their respective design routing by the color, and so it was simply: The Red and the Blue. Streamsong Resort is the first venue in the world where both architectural firms have collaborated to design 36 holes. In fact, a few of the holes originally designed for Doak’s Blue Course were used on the Coore/Crenshaw course, and vice-versa. Man of the workers at both companies know each other and there is a lot mutual respect among them. It made for a healthy competition.
The biggest differences between the two courses are the greens and the bunkers. The Blue’s greens can be much steeped with a lot more undulation while the Red’s greens tend to be longer and gentler. The Blue Course also has bigger and deeper bunkers.
The majority of golfers walk the course with a caddie; should you opt to ride, each group is required to use a forecaddie. Other than making the decision to play the course , this will be the best money you spend all day; especially for a caddie who knows the green intimately.
A good example of the elevations at Streamsong can be seen on the first tee of the Blue Course. The tee boxes sit high above the fairway on a short par 4. I think Mr. Doak made the first hole short and somewhat easy is to lull you into a false sense of security of what is to come. Another hole with noticeable elevation is the par 3, 7th which plays over a deep manmade lake. Once again, Tom Doak has lived up to his reputation of using the natural topography of the land to create another golfing masterpiece. From the Silver tees, Streamsong Blue plays 6,285 yards with a course rating of 69.7 and a slope rating of 123. Par is 72.
The course is extremely playable, with extra-wide fairways that offer more forgiveness off the tee than the Red course. In true links golf fashion, the ninth hole does not come back to the clubhouse, which gave Doak more free reign when creating this course. There are no overly-long carries off the tee – providing you are playing the tees best suited to your game. The views from the 1st, 7th and back tees on 15 are incredible and allow you to see most of both courses.
You’ll find the bunkers on the Blue Course a little bit larger and deeper and the greens a little smaller but with more undulation – a Doak specialty. I’ve heard that on some courses he has been known to bury elephants under the green – or so it seems (just kidding PETA), and Streamsong Blue is no exception.
Memorable Holes – All Yardage is From the Silver Tees
Number 6: Par 4, 295 yards. Nothing boosts the ego quite like driving the green on a par four; especially at a place like Streamsong. Drive the ball over the crest of the hill and you stand a good chance of doing just that as there are no bunkers in front of the green. The green has a lot of undulation and a couple of large mounds in it, making a three-putt highly possible. Good thing you drove the green – nice par!
Number 7: Par 3, 176 Yards. Number 7 is Streamsong Blue’s signature hole and may just be the most prettiest hole on the property. The elevated tee box is perched on a sand dune and the hole plays over deep water to a green that sits down in a valley of sand dunes. The only safe miss is to the right of the green as bunkers lie in wait on the front left and stretch around to the back right of the green. If you have a camera, take a picture of the bridge that spans the water; it will certainly bring back memories in years to come.
Number 17: Par 5, 525 yards. Another generous fairway off the tee. Your big decision will be on your second shot: do you try and carry the large bunkers that span the width of the fairway or do you lay up? The bunkers are set at an angle and the further right you go, the closer they are to the green. There is also a bunker on the left side of the green. This is one of the flattest greens on the course, but it still has some very subtle undulation. Par is a good score here.
Number 18: Par 4. At 439 yards, Number 18 is the number 3 handicap hole although for my money, it played the hardest. Playing your tee shot down the left side will take the fairway bunkers on the right out of play and leave a good angle into the green. Those that play this hole as a three-shot hole need to be wary of the fairway bunkers between your ball and the green; they are deep and nasty.
Streamsong Red was designed by the team of Coore and Crenshaw, the same group that did the redesign of Pinehurst #2 for the 2014 US Open. The course plays 6,584 yards from the Black tees, however the Silver tees at a mere 6,094 yards will give the average golfer all he or she can handle. With the greens on these two courses, it’s not unusual for 60 – 70% of your strokes to come from in and around the greens. From the Silver tees, the course rating is 69.4 and the slope rating is 119. Par is 72.
Streamsong Red offers quite a few bump and run opportunities. There isn’t much water on either course so the number of carries over water has been limited primarily to the par 3’s. There aren’t many large trees out here so the wind comes into play often making the bump and run shot a necessity. No two holes on the Red Course come close to looking or playing the same.
Memorable Holes – All Yardage is From the Silver Tees (6,094 yards)
Number 2: Par 5, 461 yards. The first of several Coore and Crenshaw risk/reward scenarios. You’ll need to carry some water off the tee on this dogleg right par 5. Be careful with your layup shot as a nasty pot bunker lies waiting in the fairway about 50 yards short of the green and an evil grass-covered sand dune on the right. Playing up the left side of the fairway is the safe play on this hole and three good shots into the green can still leave a good birdie opportunity.
Number 8: Par 3, 111 yards. Pin position is everything on this short par 3 hole. When you look at an aerial view, the green takes on the shape of a lightning bolt, Miss the green off the tee and the bunkers surrounding it will make you pay. Being on the green in regulation is no sure par on this hole either; the green is massive. Two separate tee boxes create very different and distinct angles on this hole. Although this hole is short, any par at Streamsong is welcome.
Number 12: Par 4, 450 yards. At 450 yards, this is one of the longest par 4s I have ever played. in fact, I know I have played shorter par 5s! Fortunately, the landing area is on a down-slope, so if you hit your drive long enough, you just might be able to leave yourself with a second shot that requires less prayer. Bunkers sit to the right of the green with water even further right. The hole bends slightly to the left and a tee ball down the middle leaves a great look into the green.
Number 18: Par 5, 443 yards. Number 18 is another one of Red’s most aesthetically pleasing holes, with tall, white sand dunes and scrub brush going down much of the right side of the hole. The green is framed in the back by more tall dunes. Be sure to avoid the bunker on the left off the tee; try to play alongside it instead. Also. beware of the massive false front on the right side of this green; anything that doesn’t make it to the upper level ends up in the collection area right of the hole. The bunker behind the green will collect balls that go long and comes into play on certain pin positions.
Last Word: If you live in Florida and you play golf, you owe it to yourself to play both courses at Streamsong at least once. Chances are that if you do, you’ll be back.
These golf courses are nothing short of amazing; at times you’ll find yourself wondering if you are really in Florida. During my rounds, I don’t remember seeing even one palm tree; unfortunately I did find a lot of palmetto bushes. Something else absent at Streamsong is water; not only in the form of hazards but irrigation as well. It only comes into play on a few holes on each course; most memorably number 7 on the Blue.
The latest trend in eco-friendly golf course maintenance leans towards water conservation and better use of existing resources. This was evident at the 2015 US Open at Pinehurst #2 where the only green grass visible on TV screens was on the tees, landing areas and around the greens. Everything else was brown – hard and fast. The sand dunes and fairways also give this course a lot of character but what I will remember it for the most is its greens.
Both designers have done an incredible job in creating greens that are not only fun, yet but fair. One of the pin placements on the Red course the day I played was in the middle of a slope which made it particularly dicey. At the time I mentioned that the only thing missing was the clown’s mouth and a windmill. It’s the type of course that you need to get to know over time; playing it repeatedly will go a long way in knowing where you need to hit your approach to get it close on a particular pin placement. A good caddy can be very helpful with this too.
I took my uncle to play Streamsong Red who, at the age of 74, can still hit the ball. He plays his home course at a little under 5700 yards, the perfect length for him. Here there is nothing close to that, his choices on the Red Course were roughly 5,200 or 6,100 yards. Of course, he chose 5,200, drove 3 of the par 4 greens and took my money. My only regret is that the forward tees are referred to as the Gold tees, not the reds, so I can’t make any wearing a skirt references to him (no offense ladies). A combination of Gold and Silver tees with a yardage of around 5,700 or 5,800 would fill the void and it might just be as simple as redoing the scorecard and combining the two yardages. I just wonder if this would bring any extra play.
If you’re a serious golfer looking for a golf vacation this spring/summer, Streamsong is worthy of consideration. For the not-so-serious player, it can be frightening and downright intimidating and to say the least, a little pricey. Myself, I can’t wait to go back again – apparently I didn’t learn my lesson the first time.
For more information on Streamsong Resort, give them a call at (863) 428-1000 or visit their website at www.streamsongresort.com.