The Streamsong Resort lies an hour’s drive south east of Tampa, within the confines of an old phosphate strip mine that was once operated by the Mosaic Corporation, and its three courses occupy a somewhat surreal landscape that's dotted with lakes and piles of spoil reaching almost 100 feet into the air.
When Mosaic decided to effectively return the Polk County site to the community, it seemed like a good idea to not just tidy up the property, but to put it to good commercial use by establishing an upmarket golf resort in the same vein as Bandon Dunes in Oregon.
And so the modern architectural “dream team” of Tom Doak, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw was given the opportunity at Streamsong to reproduce some of the golfing know how that had previously been used to fashion 54 of the 72 holes at the Bandon site.
The two 18-hole courses were built around the same time, after both sets of architects had agreed on their respective routings, with Coore and Crenshaw responsible for the Red and Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design Company delivering the Blue.
Both courses offer wide fairways and few forced carries, though the Red – which is routed more around the periphery of the property – is a little tighter than its sibling with more water hazards coming in play.
Remarkably, it’s said that the short par four 9th on the Red is actually Tom Doak’s favourite hole on either the Red or the Blue course. Measuring just 321 yards from the back tees, this little gem features one of the most interestingly contoured greens at the resort.In 2017, three years after the Red and Blue courses opened for play, Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner's Black course brought the number of holes in play at Streamsong to fifty-four. Set out on an open, expansive tract next to the existing two courses, the Black more than holds its own within this wonderful Floridian golf complex.
Coore&Crenshaw are very good. Red is very good but not great. The first hole does not offer you a good day but rather a gut punch warning you about dangers in the lion’s den. Long uphill into the wind, stay right off the tee to avoid the bunker. If the pin is front good luck. The 2nd is what the first should have been. A good risk reward hole, big hitters can get home in two by favoring the right side, but, danger lurks. Coming in from the left, there is a bunker in the middle of the fairway and the green tilts left. The 3rd hole is a mid length par 4, a good drive splits the middle of the fairway bunkers. This green tilts right so aim about 5 yards left of the pin. The 4th is a short par 4 with a narrow long green. Hopefully, the pin will be either left or right, so that you can avoid the intimidating visual of the bunker guarding the green on your approach. The 5th is a par 4 beast, dogleg right with a water hazard right to a two tiered green. Good luck. The 6th is the first par 3 with a HUGE green. The 7th is a par 5 with water all down the left side. Don’t try to be a hero stay right and get your par. The 8th is a birdie opportunity, especially if the pin is back. Interesting green with a bunker bisecting the front quarter. The short par 4 9th is deceiving in that the bunkers are much further than they look and the green is a dog, severe slope left to right and towards the front.
The backside starts off with a gut punch, a head butt and then a kick to the balls. Ten through twelve are two standard deviations from the mean on the level of difficulty. Ten hard to get home in two, same with 11 and then 12 is 500 yard par 4 and you must be right off the tee to have a chance. You get to exhale on 13 a par five. However, favor the right side as there is a huge sand bunker mogul protecting the green on the left. The 15th will pucker your sphincter once again, a long uphill par 4. Off the tee favor the left but be careful as there is the bunker from hell running along the left side. The par 3 16th is easily my favorite hole, 200 yards over water to a Biarritz green. The green is well over 50 yards so make sure you choose wisely.
Good but not great
This relatively new course is a great test of golf. I liked Red better that its Blue and Black neighbors at Streamsong. A good design that takes advantage of scenic elements, requires risk/reward strategy, and demands shot making. While I was there the wind was blowing hard, making many of the pins unapproachable. Greens run fast but true. Unlike most Florida courses, Red has many elevation changes. Coore & Crenshaw have done an amazing job designing this gem that is both beautiful and interesting.
I managed to fit in playing all three courses at Streamsong over a period of just 30 hours and the Red was first up. Both Red and Blue occupy the same prime piece of land across the spectacular property that’s jam packed full of dunes in the heart of Florida where fairways melt into sandy wasteland.
Whilst both the Blue and Red courses have many similarities, there are some subtle differences. The Red provides the greater test of strategy. There is an abundance of shots at this course, probably more than any other I’ve played where you’re faced with options and involve decision-making. Whilst the fairways are wide, they’re narrowed with the use of centreline bunkering on more than a handful of holes. This forces you to choose one side of the fairway and there’s excellent use of contouring and mounding around the greens, the most eye-catching being the small dune that you have to negotiate that stands guard at the entrance to the excellent par five 7th.
The opening three holes are a feast for the senses and I’d go as far to say that the first seven holes on the Red are all of the highest calibre. Water is brought into play more so than the Blue and the one hole that is devoid of water along this opening stretch, the 4th has one of those centreline bunkers and a large dune backboard, straight out of British links golf. The reason my rating falls short of the full 6-ball is that I feel that there’s a mid-round dip in quality; 8, 9 and 10 didn’t do anything for me and occupy the least interesting land on the property.
The back 9 is well over 400 yards longer than the front and with that, the walk feels more of a hike. What felt like a pleasant walk through 9 just felt tiring by the end of the round. The fierce challenge of the back nine is best characterised by the 15th which from the Black tees is uncomfortably long to the point of being unjust. Whilst it’s not the longest par four on the course, that honour goes to 12, being asked to hit a 453-yard uphill dogleg with danger all down the inside of the dogleg just felt punishing. In the main, the back nine doesn’t hit the heights of the front but the famous 16th is just awesome. The tee shot at this mid length par three played over the lake is only part of the fun as a massive biarritz green awaits when you’ve found the putting surface.
Whilst Gil Hanse’s handiwork is over on the Black course, I couldn’t help but feel reminded of a round that I played at Hanse’s Castle Stuart in Scotland when I played the Red. The bunkering style and the architecture in general feels more rugged than over on the Blue course, yet it also feels like they moved more earth to create the Red. Overall, there’s very little to choose between the two original courses and everyone will have their own preference but what’s consistent across all three layouts is a fantastically high standard of golf.
As I sunk my putt on the 18th, my first round at Streamsong concluded but there were still another two fine rounds of golf to come.
Streamsong is one of the hottest golf destinations in the world right now (not just in temperature). People debate whether Red or Blue is better, but both are great. I think Streamsong Red is worthy of its high ranking and praise. Some unique and memorable holes, with unbelievable bunkering.
I dislike Florida golf because of so many hazards from water, residential communities, and wetland areas. Streamsong is nothing like Florida golf. Wide fairways and interesting greens. Streamsong is as fun as it gets with golf.
The Red course was designed by Coore & Crenshaw and routed through prime alligator country full of sandy dunes. At Streamsong you just don’t see many people venturing into or near the water to retrieve their golf balls. What you do see are large gators sunning themselves and wetting their appetites for disobedient golfers.
The routing of the Red course is excellent, plenty of width without sacrificing challenge. A great mix of long and short holes in classic Coore & Crenshaw fashion.
The first 3 holes start off with visually spectacular holes combining water, waste areas and bunkers into what I found was quite intimidating off the tee, even though there is tons of width. The challenge is more in the angles used giving you the feeling there is much less room than there actually is. It’s really well done.
The 2nd hole is a Cape hole with the fairway running from left to right away from you challenging you to cut off as much as you can dare.
In retrospect it’s really amazing how much use of horizontal angels are used off the tee by C&C on Streamsong Red. This has been masterfully achieved and really adds a lot to the golfing experience.
Still I would have to say my favorite hole is the spectacular par 3 16th which is a Biarritz hole. The pin position on the day was all the way at the back plateau and very challenging to reach.
I would expect this course to continue to make a gradual rise up the US rankings over time and given enough exposure.
It’s not cheap but it’s public, it’s accessible and it’s absolutely worthy of many trips.
I enjoyed the Red Course, and prefer it marginally over the Blue Course. The Coore-Crenshaw design aesthetic just seems to suit my eye. The predominant impression coming away from Streamsong is the sand dunes, however, the Red Course also takes advantage of the savanna the course is on. One of the things that makes Cypress Point so special is that the course has six holes routed through the dunes, six holes routed through the trees and six holes routed along the water. Streamsong doesn't have any holes routed across the water obviously, but there is more variety that meets the eye, particularly the holes routed through the grassy plains part of the property that abuts the trees. These include the twelfth and seventeenth on the Red course. Number sixteen is a Biarritz style hole of between 160 and 208 yards that plays over the same lake as the seventh hole on the Blue course. I particularly enjoyed holes fifteen through seventeen, probably the best three-hole stretch on the entire Streamsong property. The Red is a fabulous golf course and is a fairly close approximation to the private Coore-Crenshaw course in Nebraska, Sand Hills. For those living on the U.S. East Coast, it is also easier to get to than the Bandon Resort and it has less wind!
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
I was able to play both the Red and Blue courses on a recent trip to the Streamsong resort. Both courses are excellent and great examples of the natural style of course design that thankfully is returning to modern golf architecture. The Red course is a unique blend of fun and challenge that should satisfy golfers of all levels. Coore and Crenshaw have crafted a great blend of long and short par 4's, challenging par 5's and interesting par 3's. The holes have a wonderful flow to them. There is quite a bit of elevation change on the property which is certainly unique to Florida. The rather wild waste areas also give the course an interesting and unique look. There are a number of water hazards on the Red, most of which are cunningly placed at an oblique angle to the shot at demanding clear thinking and commitment to
your line. The greens are definitely a challenge and with enough variety to keep you on your toes. There were so many great holes it's hard to pick some of them out. Certainly the short 9th mentioned in the course description above is wonderful. It's only 321 yards but the green has significant slopes and run offs that complicate the short second shot. I actually made birdie after driving it onto the path to the left of the green so I have fond memories of this hole. The par 3 16th is the sister hole to 7 on the Blue, both par 3's which from an elevated tee across a pond to fascinating greens.
The course encourages walking and has an excellent caddy program in place. I carried my own bag one day and it was great fun. I love courses such as this which harken back to the golden years of course design where the challenge was to use the natural contours of the land to develop challenging yet fun holes to play. There are strategic options galore for the talented golfer, yet there are never any do or die shots that modern architects seem to love but which severely limited strategic options. So which is better, Red or Blue? It's like choosing between two beautiful women and you won't go wrong with either course. Is Streamsong Florida’s premier golf resort?
Just got back from a return trip to Streamsong and I still have nothing but high praise for all three courses. The first 6 holes on the Red, and probably the entire front 9, are probably the best sequence of holes on the entire property. 10, 11 and 12 are slightly less interesting, but the strong finish confirms that this is a course of the highest quality.
I would offer the idea that the back nine on the Red course is amongst the toughest nine holes in American golf. At a shade under 3,800 yards, it’s 400 yards longer than the front side. The Starter on the first tee box even suggests playing the back nine from a set of tees further forward. Holes 10 through 12 are par 4s, at 486, 434 and 500 yards respectively from the back tees. Hitting anything short of a Driver isn’t really an option and suddenly the “fun holes” from the front nine are a distant memory. The 10th hole has huge undulation and this continues up the 11th hole before, what I would consider an unfair par 4 12th hole which is listed as index 3, but unreachable in regulation to 99% of the golfers that come through. The 13th is an uphill par 5 at 535, but it just feels like a slog. You really need to concentrate and things don’t ease up either when you stand on the 14th tee or 15th tee boxes. The 474 yard 15th hole is listed as index 1 and unfortunately lives up to its reputation. A punishing drive to an elevated undulating fairway with an unwelcoming multi-tiered green just aggregates to lots of lost balls. The 16th is a par three over a river to the Biarritz green leading to the final holes where there’s a glimmer of hope for birdies. A lot of tired golfers walk off the 18th at Streamsong (Red). Having played many Coore-Crenshaw courses around the world, this collection of holes are amongst the toughest they have signed off on.
The resort overall is an incredible experience, and with a 218 room lodge opening in January 2014 which includes 3 restaurants and luxury accommodations, the location will increase in popularity. Streamsong offers a serious test, unbelievable topology and a welcomed escape from the flatlands of the Sunshine State. It’s very tough to pick a favourite course as both as so memorable, fun, brutal and cruel! Shot-makers will prefer the Blue course and the bombers will prefer the Red course. The greens on the Red course were certainly more impressive and challenging. We’ll see how the evolution of this resort stands up against the likes of World Woods in a time of economic unrest. Watch out for the critters, rattle snakes and friendly alligators!