Whilst Red and Blue feel similar, the Black is played across contrasting ground to the other two courses. Played across expansive sandy wasteland with big links style greens, this is a course that took every inch of Gil Hanse’s imagination to create. I have to admit that before coming to Streamsong I was concerned that the Black course would struggle to live up to the standards set by the first two layouts. Coore & Crenshaw and Tom Doak had the option to route their designs over the vast acreage that Streamsong covers yet ended up sharing only a slither of the property since it was by far and above the finest part of the property upon which to build a course. So, what would Gil Hanse be left with to build a third course?
From a distance and when you approach the practice area, the land doesn’t look like much, but the beauty is all in the design. What does hit you immediately however is the vastness and the scale of the property. The fairways are huge and in many cases difficult to miss, but when you do, your long sand game best be up to scratch. In keeping with the Blue and Red, the ground is undulating although without the benefit of the dunes and lakes with which to frame the holes. Architectural features such as blind approaches, no more so than the trough-like gigantic punchbowl green on the 9th, split fairways (long par five 4th), pot hole bunkers (the infamous Devil’s asshole bunker from Pine Valley makes an appearance on the 6th) and more than one green site option on the 13th are all experiences you’ll find at Streamsong Black.
Much is made of the greens at the Black and I was afraid that I’d find them gimmicky. To the contrary, I found them to perhaps be the best greens I’ve ever putted on. They come inspired from a UK links. I can think of two courses in South East England that have a similar set of greens so if you’ve played links golf, then they won’t phase you. There are multi tiers and borrows and swales of every imaginable combination with the challenge for the amateur golfer being to find the right shelf of the green. Be sure to have a caddy help you with distance to the pin or carry a range finder, or you will be facing three and four putts. But if you find some accuracy with your iron play, you’ll find the greens wholly enjoyable. The greens also stimp one or two slower than the other two courses which I’m told is to allow the grass to grow in, but they’re at a speed that make them playable and enjoyable so I hope the Course Superintendent doesn’t decide to quicken them up when the turf is fully established.
I would also say that there’s more consistency to the layout than the Red and Blue, each of the holes offer challenge and require a high degree of shot making and whilst the only hole that I found to be a let-down was the 17th (wonderful backdrop though), this is more than made up for by the 18th which snakes around a lake and could well be considered to be the finest hole on the whole property.
With the Black course arriving recently also come some other new additions to Streamsong. A quick mention to the hotel accommodation as whilst it’s wonderful luxury inside and has a fantastic array of restaurants, represents a blight on the landscape with architecture straight out of 1980s office design. On the flipside, the 18 hole “Gauntlet” putting green takes its template from St Andrews’ Himalayas green and is a wonderful addition to any of those visitors wanting to settle a post-round bet.
Whilst the Black is the newest and less heralded than the other two layouts, miss playing it at your peril as it offers a wonderful contrast to the Red and Blue. I personally loved it and I would expect it to become higher ranked as people make return visits and understand its nuances in more detail.
If you make the trip to Streamsong, it’s not going to be a short journey so do yourself the favour of visiting all three courses. Individually, they’re all excellent in their own right, but it’s when you view them as a collective when you realise that Streamsong has something special on their hands.
Date: March 05, 2018