Streamsong has great hotel rooms, a lovely rooftop bar, the dining is good, a good fitness center and there is an excellent spa. The outdoor infinity pool is nice and there are good views across all of the golf courses.
The golf courses are links-like and qualify as close as possible to a links course for the USA with the exception of proximity to the sea; do man-made lakes disqualify a course? Yes, they do.
I have twice visited Streamsong. On my last visit a couple years back, I played the Black tees on all three courses, one up from the back (Green) tees. I can't play over 7000 yards. I played to my index on all courses but the last day during my second round on the Black course as the pace of play (near 5 hour round), the contours of several greens, and the often gusting wind got to me on the Black course with a result that I struggled to break 90.
In my first visit to the Black course I went in with high expectations as I liked every course that Gil Hanse had either designed himself or was asked to restore/redesign.
At a later date I played Inniscrone and French Creek near Philadelphia which are both not worth playing. I give Hanse a “pass” on Inniscrone as it was early in his career and he was given both a bad piece of land and had to incorporate a large housing development.
I was slightly disappointed by the Black course. I played it twice. It's a very good layout but with 4-5 of the silliest greens I have ever seen. It has a hole that is among the worst holes I have ever played in golf that could be transformed to a very good hole. The “bad” greens and that one hole are so over-the-top that unless you are one of the first groups off, your round is going to approach five hours. I don't play courses if I know it is going to be a five-hour round.
Caddies do not help on the Black course as much as the greens are large which only serves to increase the effect of their slants and tilts. I do not blame this on the caddies. The fairways are very wide that you do not need caddies to tell you the line off the tee. For all three courses I found a caddie necessary for the first time playing it. A caddie is always helpful on the Red course. For the Blue course, for the third time around you likely no longer need a caddie. Overall, I felt the course could have benefited from the greens being about 20-25% smaller.
There are good visuals on the Black course as the routing takes advantage of the land features that are available. The views are expansive but also lead to the holes sometimes lacking definition due to the endless horizon.
The bunkering is good although I could argue some of the bunkers are unnecessarily punitive when combined with the silly greens where the chance of recovery is substantially reduced.
All courses are in good conditioning as there is an excellent course staff.
There are many holes that one will really like on the course while some others are not as memorable. The holes I liked the most were 4, 7, 10, 12, and 18. The par 5’s are a highlight of the golf course.
One interesting aspect is that many of the greens are angled left to right.
There are four sets of yardages at 7331, 6759, 6240 and 5293, par 73. The Green tees are rated 74.7/135 while the Black tees are 72.0/140, the Silver tees 69.5/125 and the Gold tees are 69.5/119. It is surprising to me that the ratings are essentially the same on the Silver and Gold tees are the same rating given it is a 1000 yard difference. As mentioned, we played the Black tees. I consider the back nine to be more difficult than the front nine.
1 – par 5 573/508/466 - a good, gentle par 5 with sand down both sides of the fairway but the fairway is wide enough. Most players can hit the green in two shots or be very close to the front of the green. There is a collection of bunkers about 25 yards short on the right that are raised that can block the view of the green and create a somewhat blind recovery shot. This is a rare green angled slightly right to left. There is a bunker on the left front of the green. The troublesome bunkers are behind the green which make recovery difficult given the green slopes back to front. It is a nice starting hole.
2 – par 4 361/326/309 - an uphill second shot is required to this short par 4. It is difficult to hold a second shot on this green if the wind is behind you as the green has a falloff spine along the back of its entire length. The fairway narrows on the left while the right side offers an opportunity for a safer angle to the green even if it creates more of a blind shot. The green is angled left to right. I like the hole, but in a high wind at one’s back it is nearly impossible to get a ball to stay on the green to a front right pin location. The hole would be better if the green were five yards wider. There is not much room to putt from just off the green as the sand begins very quickly.
3 – par 4 480/423/394 - a terrific downhill par 4 to a wide fairway with a single bunker set off to the right. There is a wetlands area both left and before the green. The hole has an incredibly large green that requires an excellent first lag putt. The green is borderline unfair due to the many humps and undulations. There is a section of the green back left that is its own island due to the bunker cutting in from the left and wetlands further left. Overall, I like the hole but one better hit it close and not merely be satisfied with hitting the green.
4 – par 5 601/581/550 -My favorite hole on the front nine is this long, par 5 with a split fairway for the second shot. You have to cross a creek on the tee shot and the second shot if you want to shorten the hole. To shorten the hole, the second shot must navigate the hill which creates a blind shot. The other option is to play your second shot straight to the end of the fairway leavings one a blind shot uphill to the green of 100-150 yards. The green is huge, set off to the left and has a big falloff on the front right. Overall, I like that the hole provides options. After playing it twice, I do not know which is the better strategy for the average length player. If one can successfully navigate the hill on their second shot, they will see the green and now the shot they need to make. There is a line of sand on the right as well for a second shot struck too weakly. There is also a troublesome bunker that creeps into the fairway just before the green. At the green there is a falloff into the sand on the right.
5 – 211/177/158- I do not like this hole. It is a long uphill par 3 with a green angled left to right. The only way to play the hole is to land on the left side and have the ball release down the sharp bank to the right. There is a series of bunkers on the higher left edge of the green. There is a single large bunker on the middle-back right that collects a lot of balls as the slope of the green is so severe. If you hit to the left side of the green and the ball stays up there on the shelf, there is no possibility to stop it on your first putt; it will end up in a greenside bunker. It is a terrible green. I don't know what the shaper was thinking. The joy is sucked out of playing golf when playing this hole. The bunker on the right is very deep. On both rounds we waited fifteen minutes on the tee as players tried to deal with the severity of the green.
6 – par 4 342/321/299. A short par 4 with a bunker that pinches in the green a bit to cut the green in half. There are two small bunkers on the right that should not be in play. The green is angled again left to right, the third green like this in six holes. It is an okay hole but the weakest on the front nine.
7 – par 3 178/158/135. A well bunkered medium length par 3 with a good green. Five bunkers surround the green. It is the best green complex on the front side. It is probably the best hole on the front nine although I like the fourth a bit more.
8 – par 4 427/408/377. A dogleg right par 4 where the line is down the right towards a collection of bunkers that are raised. There is no reason to take on these bunkers if one is an average length player as there is ample room to the left. The bunkers on the left of the fifth hole come into play on the left about 30 yards before the green, eating into the green a bit. This is either the second or third best hole on the front nine. The green is enormous with ripples throughout. I like the hole.
9 – par 4 450/408/360. This hole plays as a slight dogleg left par 4 with a blind shot over a rise to a punchbowl green that is huge and very undulating. The green is stupidly undulating with some of the rises being three feet, possibly more. It's no fun. By far, it is the worst punchbowl hole I have ever played and the only punchbowl green I do not like.
10 – par 5 548/524/502 – This is a very good par 5 requiring good shots all the way to the green. The hole plays as a dogleg left then back to the right. The longer player will try to fly the sand that eats into the fairway about 60 yards short of the green. There is an interesting bailout area behind this sand which is about 40 yards wide where there is a sliver of a fairway and five bunkers on its left side. The line most taken for the second shot is to avoid that large sandy area by playing left of it but the fairway narrows quite a bit. The only part of the hole I disliked is that the green has a silly mound build on the right side that has a peak to it like someone was trying to build a volcano for a school science fair. Again, I don't know what the shaper was thinking. Ugh. The ripples on the front to back sloped green behind this mound are fine, but the mound should be removed.
11 – par 4 463/395/378. This is a long, hard par 4 to a somewhat elevated green that falls off to the left which will make your ball end up in the waste area about 25 yards away. There are also two large, deep bunkers on the left side. The green is angled slightly right to left. It is a fair hole; just hard. If you miss left you will likely make a six or seven. I made six and a five in my two rounds.
12 – par 5 571/531/510. This is another terrific routing for this par 5 although a little out of character to the rest of the course due to how the second shot has the fairway a bit more pinched in. There is sand everywhere on this hole running down both sides, fronting the elevated green and surrounding the elevated green. The green is angled left to right in a semi-circle. It’s the best hole on the back nine and probably the best on the golf course. This is my favorite hole on the course.
13 – 430/409/368. There are two greens on this par 4 with squiggly cross bunkers in the middle of the fairway. I am only referencing the green to the left as the right one was not open on either day but it makes the hole about 30 yards longer and it is a better shaped green. The big problem for the green on the left is that the approach shot is slightly uphill and you have to carry a bunker fronting the green, yet the green dramatically slopes front to back so an approach shot is unlikely to stay on the green. This is the left green. I did not care for the hole. While I like cross bunkers, the shape and sculpting of this cross bunker is silly as it limits the opportunity to recover. In addition to the front to back slope of the green, the right side of the green has large ripples in it as well as a severe falloff pushing balls off the green? This entire green complex should be reshaped.
14 - par 4 298/286/261- Other than 17 at Cabot Cliffs and 5 at Quivira, this is the worst hole I have played on a good golf course. It's a short par 4 with bunkers all down the left to a green that is on a man-made hill of perhaps seven feet. There is tall grass down the right. The green is significantly raised and crowned and has so many undulations and dips to it that I expect there are many five putts on it. You have to be perfect here. My guess is that a par is achieved by driving the green and a three putt. I witnessed two five putts and one person who stopped putting and walked off. Only the world’s best putters can two putt this green. If one goes too long over the back of the green the ball will fall well off the green and could go into the bushes and trees. This can happen even if putting from the fairway side. If one goes over the green, they face an even steeper hill back up the green. Both times we walked off thirteen and sat down near the alternate green on thirteen to watch players on the green with two groups waiting to play. The back-up is due to players trying to drive the green as well as players that are determined to putt out no matter how many strokes it takes. It took us 45 and 50 minutes to play this hole after playing 13. I wanted to walk off the course. If golf courses were like this, I would stop playing. This is a well-conceived hole on paper and could be transformed to a terrific hole if the green’s height was reduced by 50%.
15 – par 3 133/131/110. This is a short par 3 playing to a thin, but wide green fronted by bunkers and a single pot-like bunker on the back right. Sand is behind most of the green as well. The best part of the hole is that one does not have to wait on the tee. Although thirteen and fourteen are holes with tremendous flaws, I think a better hole should follow as this one is too easy.
16 – par 4 463/442/400- Right next to the thirteenth tee is the sixteenth tee. The hole is a long dogleg left with a half acre of sand on the left. The green has sand starting about 15 yards before it on the front right. The green is another one angled left to right. It’s a good hole even though I doubled it both days.
17 – par 3 205/189/154. This is downhill par 3 with an enormous green that funnels anything hit next to the green onto the green. Because of the size of the green, a two putt is a real achievement. I found there to be nothing remarkable about this hole.
18 - par 5 586/530/495. This hole requires three good shots. The fairway tilts left to right with sand down the left side and a string of bunkers down the right. The fairway is sufficiently wide for the tee shot. The second shot must be played left of a narrowing hazard as represented by a lake and bunkers on the right. The green is (surprisingly – just kidding) angled right to left but mainly just set off to the right. The third shot often requires you to go over the bunkers fronting the green to a somewhat skinny green no matter if you have made the thin part of the fairway parallel to the pond and bunkers. Or laid up before the bunkers fronting the pond. There is a single bunker back left and encircling the right side front to back. I thought it was a good finishing hole. Par is an excellent score on this hole
A good hole, a well-designed hole is still a bad hole if it has a bad green complex. The green complexes on four of the holes on the Black take the joy out of playing these holes. Five-hour rounds take the joy out of playing golf. It is the four-five greens that cause the slow play. The design and routing are very good. When I return to Streamsong I might skip the Black unless I get the first tee time. Even then I might choose not to putt on some of the greens. Fix the greens on several holes and this could be a 5. I struggled between a 4.5 and 4 but as I place it third at Streamsong, I will leave it at 4.
Date: July 22, 2020