The hottest story in the golf nerdosphere for the last 12 months has been Streamsong Resort in Polk County, Florida. For those who may not have heard about it – have you been living under a rock??? – I’ll give a brief background on the project. Streamsong Resort is a development venture with the goal of repurposing a phosphate mining site that has been owned and operated by The Mosaic Company for over 50 years. Apparently The Mosaic Company, or someone in their organization, thought the terrain created by their mining operation was ideal for golf and would make excellent use for the site once the mining was complete. I’m no golf course developer, but it sure seems logical to me that already owning great land is a big part of the golf course riddle . . . and one that makes things significantly less expensive.
When the time came to start the project The Mosaic Company hired two of today’s hottest names in golf course design to lay out 36 holes on the site. Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design created what would become the Blue Course and Coore & Crenshaw handled the design on what would be named the Red Course. As an interesting side note, I was told that the courses were named based on the color of pens that the architects used during the routing process. Both teams worked on the site simultaneously, so it would be interesting to know how much, if any, collaboration there was on the courses. It would seem that having two of the best architects in the business working on the same site should yield some fantastic ideas.
One thing is for sure . . . Having two of the best architects in the business on the same site yielded a ton of hype and a lot of anticipation among the golf media. Just about every media outlet that covers golf in even the smallest way has done a story on the resort in the last 12 months. To say that the golf media and golfing public was excited about Streamsong Resort would be a gross understatement.
Finally, after months of anticipation the resort did a soft opening in late 2012 with their official grand opening scheduled for early 2013. The 250 room hotel is not slated to open until late 2013 so for the first few months of operations the only accommodations available on site will be the rooms above the clubhouse which are able to sleep 16. Luckily we were able to secure some of these rooms when we booked our January 2013 trip back in June of 2012.
So, we had a group of 11 going on the trip and I was going to be one of the first arrivals. Hans, my friend from Boston, and I both flew into Orlando and made the 90 minute drive to the resort. If you haven’t heard of Polk County, don’t feel bad. It is literally in the middle of NOWHERE. The closest town is Lakeland which is about 20 minutes away. The resort itself is situated in the middle of a 16,000 acre property owned by The Mosaic Company and during the final part of the drive I can almost guarantee you will be asking yourself “Am I really going the right way??” It’s pretty remote out there.
Hans and I arrived around 3PM and quickly dropped our bags with the valet so we could go directly to the course and try to get in as many holes as possible before dark. We would be playing the course the next day also so it was nice to get an early preview before everyone else in our group. Since we were moving quickly for our late afternoon round the photos below were actually taken during my round the following day. We played from the 6,584 yard black tees both rounds so that’s the yardages that are listed below.
Hole 1 – 464 Yards – Par 4
The Red Course starts out with a beast of a par 4 that plays 464 yards. Below is a photo taken from the 1st tee. Don’t be intimidated by the water as its really only about a 100 yard carry. It really shouldn’t cause any trouble. The bunker on the right is in play and can be carried. Tee balls that go too far to the right will find a lake that is hiding on the edge of the fairway behind that bunker. The bunker on the left would take a pretty long drive to come into play but with wind, anything is possible. There is water on the far left side too which I didn’t see anyone hit into but suspect its possible if you go really wide left.
The approach shot into the green is probably going to be a really long one. Below is a view of the green from about 70 yards out.
Here is a look back down the fairway from behind the green. Note the water mentioned above on both sides of the fairway.
Hole 2 – 508 Yards – Par 5
At the 2nd tee we get a nice risk/reward opportunity. The tee shot on this par 5 can be played ultra safe by hitting towards the left side of the fairway or it can be played aggressively by aiming further right. I aimed over the left-most side of the bridge and was able to make the carry without much trouble.
Below is a look at the approach into the green. The center bunker needs to be avoided on the layup shot.
And here is a little closer look at the green. Note the undulations which were not uncommon on this course.
Hole 3 – 391 Yards – Par 4
From the elevated tee box the green and flag are not visible. The hole doglegs to the right and players who can hit their tee shots closer to the right side of the fairway will have a shorter approach and better view of the green.
Below is a view of the green. Note the way the ground moves from the left to the right here. Approach shots down the left side will have a chance of getting a good bounce onto the green.
Hole 4 – 312 Yards – Par 4
The 4th hole brings us our first short par 4. I really liked this hole because of what I thought was a really well placed fairway bunker. Depending on what side of the green the flag is on will determine the best side of the fairway to drive the ball. Tee shots hit to the opposite side of the fairway from the pin will have to carry the bunker in the front of the green.
Here is a look at the 4th green. Note that the green wraps all the way behind the bunker which also happens to be shaped very similar to a principals nose bunker. It’s also worth mentioning here that the long native grass that grows on the perimeter of many holes is very penal. Balls that are it into this have very little chance, if any, of being found. Fortunately the fairways are very generous and the native grass doesn’t come into play all that much.
Hole 5 – 344 Yards – Par 4
Here we have another par 4 that is not overly long. Players who choose to challenge the water and take an aggressive line will be rewarded with a shorter approach shot into the green. A 200-220 yard tee ball over the short side of the water is the safe play and still leaves a mid to short iron into the green.
Below is a look at the 5th green with some large bunkers waiting for approach shots that go long.
Hole 6 – 143 Yards – Par 3
Our first one shot hole is a dramatic one. The green is absolutely HUGE. Hitting the middle of the green here does not guarantee a two putt . . . or even a three putt.
Below is a look at the green from the left side.
Hole 7 – 521 Yards – Par 5
After holing out on the 6th hole we climbed up a steep hill to the top of a dune to hit our next tee shot. This par 5 again allows for players to decide how aggressive they would like to be. With a good wind and an aggressive line even players who are not that long may have a chance to hit the green in two.
Below is a look at the second shot on this hole. The flag is just barely poking up above the dune in the middle of the fairway.
Yes, I did say dune in the middle of the fairway. I don’t know exactly what you call this thing, but I called it a reverse bunker. I hit my ball onto it and had to play a shot that was exactly like what I would have played from a regular bunker. It was weird to be up on top of it instead of down in it.
Hole 8 – 119 Yards – Par 3
Typically I’m a huge fan of the Coore & Crenshaw short par 3s and this one was no exception. A wedge or short iron is all that is needed here, but the bunkers are pretty penal and the green is huge so hitting it close to the flag is a good idea.
Here is a closer look at the green. I love the way it wraps around the bunker. Very cool. With a front hole location that bunker is going to get a lot of action.
Hole 9 – 271 Yards – Par 4
The last hole on the front side is the shortest par 4 on the course. A very driveable hole . . . especially if the wind is helping. Take dead aim at the left side of the green and let it rip.
Below is a closer look at the green.
Hole 10 – 431 Yards – Par 4
From a short par 4 we go directly to a fairly long par 4. The waste area is only about a 150 yard carry, but it is a little intimidating from the tee. Driving the ball up the right side of the fairway is probably the best advice here.
Here is a look a the 10th green. The terrain around the green moves right to left and approach shots that come in on the right side will have a chance to bounce onto the green.
Hole 11 – 408 Yards – Par 4
This hole is a healthy uphiller that plays longer than it looks. The bunker in the middle of the fairway is in play off the tee and must be avoided at all costs.
Below is a view of the uphill approach into the green.
Hole 12 – 472 Yards – Par 4
Here we have an absolute beast of a par 4. At 472 yards this hole is no joke. The hole bends to the left and a tee ball that is down the middle will provide the best look into the green. The bunker on the left side is reachable if there is a helping wind.
Below is a look at the VERY long approach shot into the green. I have to say that I liked this hole. Sometimes its fun to hit a 3 wood into a par 4. While its pretty gratifying to pull off a shot like that, I wouldn’t want to have to do it more than once in a round.
Hole 13 – 508 Yards – Par 5
Here we have a nice uphill par 5. The bunker in the center of the fairway is in play so players must decide if they are going to aim to the right or left.
The green here is tucked behind a good sized dune so players who are going for this green in two will need to make an aggressive shot over the dune. Players who are laying up can knock a shot to the right side of the dune and be left with a short pitch to the green.
Here is a look at the green.
Hole 14 – 166 Yards – Par 3
This mid length one shot hole is fairly straight forward. The best strategy is to knock it on the green and avoid the bunkers.
Hole 15 – 453 Yards – Par 4
Here we have another long par 4 and this one plays uphill. The bunker on the left side can be carried and the bunkers on the right side are in play so its important to choose a good line off the tee here. The bunker on the left is not anywhere that you want to visit so players who are aggressive need to make sure they pull off their shot.
Below is a look at the approach into the green.
Hole 16 – 184 Yards – Par 3
Here we come to a fantastic par 3. This played into the wind both rounds and I hit a 200 yard shot both times. I hit the green once and missed the other. The green is a wild one so hitting the putting surface with your tee shot is not an automatic par.
Here is a look at the green from the side view. I’m not sure if it officially qualifies as a biarritz, but it sure does in my book.
And here is a view from the back of the green looking towards the tee box. Thats a pretty long green.
Hole 17 – 384 Yards – Par 4
Coming to a close of our round we hit the final par 4. The bunker in the distance is in play for longer hitters. Shorter hitters can aim out to the left and end up behind the bunker and longer players can aim towards the right-most edge of the bunker and end up in the middle of the fairway. Both options don’t leave a terribly long approach shot.
Below is a look at the green site. The bunker on the left is going to catch approach shots that go left when trying to reach a back pin. Even ones that go left above the bunker will likely end up in the bunker because of the lack of rough. When the hole is up front this bunker is not in play near as much.
Below is a look at the green.
Hole 18 – 505 Yards – Par 5
We close out the Red course with a nice par 5. The hole bends a little bit to the left so hitting a drive up the middle or right side is going to give the best angle for the second shot.
Below is a view of my 3rd shot into the green after a not so great lay up shot. Not the mounding on the right side of the green. Balls that get too far to the right have a high likelihood of rolling right off the green.
Here is a little closer view of the mounding.
Despite the fact that we were racing daylight Hans and I managed to finish the full 18 hole round on Thursday afternoon. We really sped around so it wasn’t quite the leisurely game that we had the next day, but a course like this is a treat to play even in a speed round. The course is very playable for all handicaps with its wide fairways and large greens, but there are a couple of blind shots and forced carries can make the course a little intimidating for the high handicapper. Fortunately, Coore & Crenshaw gave plenty of options in these situations so there are a number of ways for players to work their way around the course. One of the things I really liked was the mixture of long and short par 4s. As I mentioned above, its fun to hit a 3 wood into a par 4 every now and then and who doesn’t love the opportunity to rip a driver and have a chance at an eagle putt on a par 4?? On top of the course’s playability and pure fun factor it’s hard not to enjoy golf that is set on such a beautiful site. Many of the holes are aesthetically dramatic which always adds to the pleasure of a round.
One other note I’ll mention is the accommodations above the clubhouse. Not only are the rooms incredibly nice but there is a game room upstairs with a pool table, big screen TV, card table and hang out area. This makes for a perfect setup for a large group of guys on a golf trip. I’m sure the hotel will be great when it is built but the clubhouse rooms seem to be the perfect setup for a pure golf trip with the guys. Overall the facility is absolutely fantastic with some world class golf. Streamsong Resort is a perfect escape for those of us who live in parts of the country where golf weather is at a minimum during the winter months. Don’t miss out on this one! A profile of the Blue Course coming next.