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 course.
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.
My first visit to the Streamsong properties. Each offering a different set of challenges and opportunities.
I felt the course to be a bit tighter than the other two courses and with that shot choices needed to be a bit more strategic to get the proper entryway into the green.
I've played the course quite a few times between 2020 and 2022. The layout is absolutely spectacular, although I think the Blue course has it beat (Blue is my favorite layout to play of all time). However, the greens are now completely shredded and are hardly playable. I played the course around New Years and they were in phenomenal shape. Now, the complete opposite. Many complaints can be heard around the property. Really disappointing and something they'll have to fix, and fast.
My first time on the property was courtesy of architect Tom Doak when he guided a few lucky invitees to see his work on the adjoining Blue Course. I happened to venture over to a number of the holes from the Red that were being created at the same time. I was quite fortunate in returning to the property not long after both courses opened and see how they both played.
The Red is the best of the existing trio in my mind. The tipping point? The need for a higher level of execution off the tee. Fairway widths are provided on the holes but the need to be on the correct side dictates plenty on what one is able to do with your approach play.
From the standpoint of openers -- the 1st on the Red is like waking up in the morning with a cold shower to get you going. Talk about pressure from the get-go! Having played a number of C&C courses I can't remember any having such a no-nonsense starter in the manner of what you face at the Red's opening hole. The tee shot must be played with both precision and with sufficient length. There's also the slightly uphill approach which calls upon proper club selection to get to the putting surface. One may hope for a par -- but unless you're ready to play -- it's likely a bogey will be on one's card at the start.
The 2nd is the perfect counterpoint. Birdies can be made - they're just not given away. The fairway width is certainly there but for those who want to get as much distance as possible you face a fairway that tapers down. If you achieve the ideal position off the tee -- going for the green is doable but the execution is an essentiality.
The 3rd is a mid-length two-shot hole but it's best to be on the more challenging right side for the easier approach angle. The key is choosing the right club for the approach as the green sits slightly above the fairway. For many golfers the inability to select the proper club for the 2nd shot will happen because of the inability to gauge the green's overall depth / position and any wind blowing that day.
C&C have always included at least one short par-4 that grabs one's attention and the 4th on the Red is another example. I have always been a fan of center-placed fairway bunkers because the design of clubs today limits the amount of sidespin motion golf balls will travel. Center-placed bunkers make golfers pause and ponder -- is the attempt to carry the prudent play? Is laying up a better option? The other fascinating element is the manner in which the green is shaped. Two frontal bunkers push back into the green so that any lengthy approach can be fraught with plenty of concern if one opts to take it on. The putting surface also has a number of hard to discern movements.
Just a quick word -- the par-4 5th is a gem of a hole. One is teased at the tee to hit it near the water penalty area on the right which then provides a better angle into the green. Pull the tee shot too far left and the approach angle becomes more challenging.
The outward nine presents a golden opportunity to score once you get past the demanding opening hole and in handling the aforementioned 5th. It's not preordained but players can reap the opportunity with quality execution.
The inward half of holes commences with three demanding long par-4's. Whatever gains one made on the front side can have that momentum quickly derailed. The mixture of holes -- in conjunction with the topography -- is well thought out.
The mixture of holes following the trio of long par-4's is very good. The long par-4 15th and the Biarritz par-3 16th are superb back-to-back.
The final two holes are good but hardly end the round in a tour de force fashion. The penultimate hole is smartly defended in the drive zone as the fairway tapers and the green is a vexing target to negotiate. The closing hole could have been in the same spirit as Doak's closer on the Blue, but C&C opted to provide one last possibility in leaving with a smile on one's faces.
My only slight disappointment with the Red is that it follows a long clockwise routing. There are times -- on the front and back -- where holes move in a similar direction so players can adjust their game accordingly.
That minor criticism does not hold back the series of quality holes one faces throughout the round. Driving the ball is tested and, most of all, approach play must be smartly carried out consistently. The green contours are also a fine mixture -- some quite intense while others tease players because of the subtlety faced.
My other concern rests with the speed of the fairways. I am curious to hear what others have found at Streamsong since the fairways were upgraded. If something close to "firm and fast" can be attained, then the very nature of the architecture will rise much higher.
The Red has been rightly noted by many as the best of Streamsong's fine troika of layouts. The end result is an 18-hole layout that showcases what can truly happen in a Florida geography when the right people are hired. Creating a layout that clearly causes one to want to play it again once the round concludes.
Undoubtedly, the mark of a high caliber course. Kudos to Mosaic in going forward with a golf concept when other options could have been pursued and in securing the architects who were eventually hired.
M. James Ward
Central bunkers are amazing - because they offer variety and often vex narrow-fairway-minded golfers who feel centre of the fairway is the place to be. They are often a feature from the golden age. However, I’d never considered them from the standpoint of being a design reaction to modern game improvement clubs. Clearly in need of a Renaissance. Kudos!
I really really liked the whole Streamsong experience and I thought the Red was the real standout. It fools you into thinking it's scorable...because after a tough start on #1, some holes are real potential birdie holes (2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9) but 10, 11, 12 is as tough a stretch as you'll find anywhere and 15 into the wind (or even a crosswind) is freaking impossible. Then after the carnival biarritz on 16 (I say that lovingly), you get a gentile finish with 17 and 18 available to maybe pick up a shot again.
#5: Plays like a cape hole but the options are all impacted by where the pin is. One day we played it hard top right shelf and you had to smash a driver to get any sort of angle. If it's lower left, 3W or Iron for a full wedge in is a better play. I just loved the decisions on this hole
#9: People probably like #4 more because it's easier as a short 4. You have real decisions on what to hit from that 9th tee. The front bunker can be dead and on a shelf green like 9 has, a 100 yard shot could be better than a 30 yard flip wedge that doesn't spin.
#12. This is an all world golf hole. I hit "good" drives on two different days and hit 3 Iron short one day and 9 iron pin high the next. This hole forces you to get bold with the driver and in terms of decision making, sometimes it's not what club to hit, sometimes it's how much to challenge a line. And then if the pin is right with water right behind it, you have to be super bold to go after it. Outstanding
#16: There is plenty of room to pitch from left of this green and the biarritz will actually help you play your pitch depending on where the pin is. Man though, if the flag is in front, you have like 3 yards to land a ball if you're trying to get it close, except 7 yards shorter than that is absolute deadsville. I think it's a much easier hole if the flag is back. sure you're hitting two clubs more but you're probably not dying the way that you can if it's up front.
One note that runs across the whole SS property but is most relevant to the Red, you HAVE to keep your ball in play and you have ample areas to keep it in front of you, but if you get in the native areas, you're bringing double into play when you should almost never make worse than bogey from the fairway (even if you hit 3W or 2I off the tee). The native areas can be that severe a penalty.
After three days and 72 holes at Streamsong, I didn't find a single person (and it was the topic at the bar every night) who thought Red was the third best out of the three courses. Red was always 1 or 2. I had it an easy #1 with Black being #2 because it's just so much fun to play (people complained too much about the Black greens (they're not that crazy if you miss on the correct side) Nothing against Blue at all. Third place in a beauty pageant is still gorgeous.
Final note: I walked and carried all but one round and every course is a great walk but you will be exhausted. You're walking through a lot of sand for mile after mile even if you never get out of line. Be prepared.
Of the three courses at Streamsong, Red was my least favorite, which speaks more to the overall strength of the resort than this course in particular. It's the most "traditional" course here in that the holes are more clearly defined - as opposed to the Blue, which feels primordial and recently hewn from the land, as if the tractors just left a week before. Black's design is akin to 18 cups cut into a disorienting endless moonscape of bumps and bowls.
Others have written plenty here but I'll say this - the par 3 16th Biarritz is possibly the greatest hole I've ever seen. The scale of it borders on insanity. It makes you feel small, insignificant - in the best way possible. I will never forget playing it.
Also - the wildlife here is national geographic worthy. Deer, Gators, Eagles, Birds, Owls - simply magnificent.
Similar to Blue, Streamsong Red has a very “classic” Coore & Crenshaw feel. Insane piece of property for Florida. Feels like you are walking around Jurassic Park for most of your experience. Difficult course with great bunkers and water holes.
The state of Florida has about 1300 golf courses. Seeing the 3 courses at Streamsong in the top 6 says quite a bit about the resort. The place is quite captivating. The Red gets the most outstanding accolades but the Blue is quite similar and the Black offers a little twist to the overall charm of the place. This is a place you just have to see to believe. Never would you imagine you are in Florida. The conditioning is excellent. You will love the width of most all of the fairways. The par 3's are the strength but the other holes are superb too. They have a super fee structure which adjusts by season and by residency.
The Red Course was designed by Coore Crenshaw- one of the outstanding golf architectural firms in the world. I love their courses! And at Streamsong they had a perfect canvass to create something special, with sand dunes and water aplenty.
I thought the front nine holes were very interesting with a combination of long par 4's I just could not reach in regulation (hole 1), water carries on 5 tee shots, a really fascinating short par 4 (hole 9) with a very tricky green, some picture postcard par 3's, and pretty interesting green complexes.
It was a delight to play, but very challenging! I am usually a straight hitter but here I hit the fairway bunkers a number of times.
We thought that perhaps the front nine was too tight off the tee- with water, and rough to negotiate and a lot of bunker 'fingers' reaching into the landing areas. If it were a little more lenient off the tee I think it would be regarded as a very good nine holes...
But the back nine on the Red Course had a totally different feel.It is BIG- long and wide. Forward tees may make the greens reachable, but not more interesting because the fairways are HUGE - and quite the opposite of the front nine.
Notable holes include:
- hole 1, a long, strong attractive par 4 opening hole
- hole 3, a ripping par 4 with water and dunes dominating the view off the tee
- hole 4, a delightful short par 4
- hole 7, a par 5 with water in play down the left
- hole 17, a dramatic par 3 over water
Streamsong Red is a tale of two nines- a world class front nine through dramatic dunes and water- and a longer, wider back nine that fails to engage to the same level
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Streamsong Red is the course where I think you need a caddie the most at Streamsong unless you know the course really well. The reason for the caddie isn't to read the greens, it is more to understand what Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are trying to hide behind the numerous mounds and disguises they put on the course. There is a fair amount of misdirection on this course, which is weird since Coore/Crenshaw have made a reputation as being minimalists and not wanting to have courses that are contrived. I have now played the course four times.
I slightly favor the Blue course built by Tom Doak. Most players favor the Red course. I have yet to meet anyone who favors the Black course. It is not something I argue much about.
The course is a par 72, with the Green tees being 7148 yards, rated 74.2/130. The Black tees are 6584 rated 71.7/125. The Silver tees are 6094 rated 69.4/119 while the Gold tees are 5184 rated 70.0/122. I have only played the black tees.
The are many holes I like on the golf course, perhaps more here than I like even on the Blue course. The course has one of the best three starting holes I have played. I consider 15 to be the best hole on the golf course followed by 12, 5 and 7. I also think holes 1-3, 6, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 17 are above average. That makes 13 out of 18 holes that I like which is remarkable. I think 18 is a very poor finishing hole. The course has a few holes that feel average to me such as 6, 9, and 14.
The reason I favor the Blue over the Red is I think the Blue is more consistent and builds to a better finish while the Red starts very well, then goes up and down before another good stretch from 15-17. However, I think 18 is a bad hole to finish on given the high regard I have for the rest of the golf course. It reminds me a bit of Friars Head where I also do not like the eighteenth.
1- par 4 474/464. A terrific long par 4 with an excellent green. The bunkering is superb for the entirety of the hole. The green site is wonderfully placed near the crest of the hill with a sloped green back to front and to the left. From an elevated tee you hit down the valley but then the green is above you making the approach shot play a bit longer. However, a lower approach shot will run onto the green. It plays as a dogleg right due to the location of the tees. There are bunkers left and right with two bunkers on the left pinching into the fairway. The green is nearly surrounded by sand, some of which are the five bunkers. My friends think it is the best hole on the golf course which is not something you actually want.
2 par 5 555/508 - a par 5 with the tee shot playing as a dogleg right requiring a fairly long carry over water with the tee shot. The water continues up the right side and a ball with too much hook in it could find the pond fronting the fairway or the long bunker placed on the left side for the longer hitters. This bunker on the left continues nearly to the green which is set off to the right against the hill. A player needs to know the mound next to the water on the right is hiding the fact that the water pinches in more than parallel on the second shot. On my most recent round, I went in the water on my second shot, but fortunately I hit my next to a foot to save par. There is plenty of room to hit left with your second shot but the mound on the right suggests there is plenty of room to the right. I liked the hole. The green is the easiest part of the hole.
3 – par 4 404/391. From an elevated tee this sharp dogleg right requires an exacting drive. Those trying to cut the dogleg could find one of many bunkers that go down the entirety of the right side finishing with one on the right side of the green. There is a bunker and more sand to the right. The really “evil” bunker is the small pot-like bunker fronting the green about 5 yards short. The green is a bit too tilted left to right. If you miss slightly to the left of the green, you will likely have to make a long putt to save par. I like the hole because the trees and bushes to the right and the setting of the green in a natural hollow.
4 – par 4 330/312 – This a short par 4 with a vertical, long fairway bunker in the middle. For whatever reason I do not favor this cross bunker which angles a bit to make it both long and wide. Longer hitters can fly this bunker so perhaps it would be better placed to start another ten yards closer to the green. For average length players I think a straight tee shot should be rewarded, not penalized. The wind held up my tee shot so I missed clearing the middle fairway bunker by less than a yard. There is plenty of room to either side of the bunkers in the middle so Coore/Crenshaw do provide reasonable options although the left side has a bunker pretty far up that many players likely will not consider. Off to the right is a long sandy area which I have generally found not to be overly punitive. Simply put, for the average length hitter, do not go into the cross bunker. The green has a big false front but overall is fair. It is wide but very narrow with sand and scrub very close to the rear of the green.
5 - par 4 453/344- A difficult driving hole as there is water down the entirely of the right side of the fairway. It plays as a gentle dogleg right with a mound to the left of the green where you cannot tell how close the mound is to the green unless you know the hole. There are two bunkers right and two behind the green to provide salvation from the pond and a chance at recovery. A caddie is very helpful on this hole.
6 – par 3 185/143. A short par 3 except from the back tee, water on the right and large hills to the left but neither really should be in play. There is a large bunker right with two small ones behind the green and a single, thin bunker on the left. I found this hole to be pretty, but average.
7 – par 5 527/521 – Tom Doak highlights this hole in his Confidential Guide to winter destinations. It is a short par 5 with a lake down the entire left side and scattered bunkers everywhere on the right and left. A large bunker creeps into the fairway about 100 yards short of the green. There are four bunkers on the left between the green and the lake. Mr. Doak highlights a seven feet mound at the center of the green as really wonderful in that it is left over from the mining days. But he also highlights that a pin behind it is nearly impossible to get close to if one is coming straight at it. On my last visit, the pin was right behind the mound. Mr. Doak is right, you can’t get close to it. The only possible way to get close to it is to have your second (or third) be off to the right of the green to provide an angle to a pin as the green runs away from the player. It is a large green so a player must know which side to come into it. Simply put, except in competitions they should not put the pin 8 feet behind that mound. Pars were made by all of us by a one putt, one of which was 30 feet long. Is that what is desired?
8 – par 3 247/119. A short par 3 surrounded by bunkers. I feel the holes lacks interest. This is the hole I have the most trouble remembering from previous rounds. After one plays it, there is a food and drinks stand.
9 – par 4 312/271. Another short par 4 with another mound on the edge of a fairway bunker hiding that the bunker continues on the other side of it. I thought I hit a good drive but it was in the bunker behind the mound. Again, a caddie would help or knowledge of the hole. Its an okay green with three bunkers at the front. It is an okay hole.
10 – par 4 486/431. This is a longish par 4 with sand down the entire right and trees and sand down the left. There are no bunkers around the green. I thought the hole was good with a good, undulating green. This is one of the better holes on this course.
11 – par 4 434/408. Three cross bunkers make this a difficult driving hole. Bigger hitters will fly all three bunkers. This is followed by a bunker front middle to a green that felt small to me for the length of the hole. I feel the green is a bit weird and could be reshaped.
12 – par 4 500/472. This is probably the most difficult hole on the golf course as a long par 4 dogleg left to a somewhat crowned green. Playing against the wind, it played over 500 yards for us. I had a double bogey here due to a bad tee shot left that required a pitch out, but I still liked the hole despite my score. Bunkers are scattered down the left side of the fairway for those trying to shorten the hole. At the green there are scattered, narrow bunkers on the right of the green. As mentioned, it is one of my favorite holes on the course.
13 – par 5 535/508. A shorter par 5 but once again with a bunker in the middle of the fairway and what looked to a man-made mound by the side of the green. The mounding is starting to be repetitive. Opposite the center-line bunker are long bunkers flanking either side of the fairway. The fairway goes to the right with a green sited next to another pond. The green is fronted by bunkers on the left and at the rear. I like the hole due to the movement required of the shots to the green.
14 – par 3 181/166. This hole seems to be a longer version of six although the bunkering is different with four bunkers set off on all sides. It is an okay hole.
15 – par 4 474/453. a long par 4 with a good green. This plays as a dogleg left with a large bunker left and a small one on the right. There are two bunkers about 20 yards short of the green. Another bunker eats into the left side of a narrow green with a fall-off on the right. From the tee shot to the green this is an excellent hole, perhaps not as visually as exciting as some earlier holes, but a real test of golf.
16 – par 3 208/184. From an elevated tee this is a long par 3 over water but the green funnels balls towards the middle (if you hit the green). This is a very pretty hole and a fine par 3. With the wind in our faces, it played almost two clubs longer.
17 - par 4 403/384. A ridge is down the left side of the fairway which hides a view of the green and the left greenside bunker. A caddie would tell you to hit down the right side despite the sand off to the right. There is a bunker creeping into the fairway on the left for the longer hitters. There are scattered bunkers near the green which is long. The ridge seemed manufactured to me. The green was fair but I think the ridge was a bit too much making the hole feel more contrived than natural, but perhaps it was there.
18 – par 5 540/505. One of the worst finishing holes I have ever played for the excellence of the rest of the course. This par 5 that is too short. There is a lot of sand down the left side but one can easily play away from it. The longer hitters in my first visit had eight irons into the green. There are two bunkers at the rear of this tilted green. I don't know what Coore/Crenshaw were thinking to have ended a good course with a horrible golf hole. Whenever I finish the round, I instantly want to forget this hole.
When I first played the Red course in 2012 I liked it more than the Blue. But after a second visit it has fallen below the Blue due to the contrived nature of some of the mounds, ridges and greens making it feel weird in spots. I would play this round with a caddie due to some of the obstacles. I didn't enjoy the Red quite as much on the second visit whereas at Bandon Dunes I enjoy all of the courses every time I play them. I do not think it is in the same league as Bandon Trails but the Trails course is blessed with much better land and natural beauty. However, I want to emphasize that this is a very good golf course and the resort is excellent, even if it is pricey in season.
Coore Crenshaw or Crenshaw Coore? More on that later but no better way to end a week at the PGA Merchandise show then a tee time at Streamsong right…this year it was the Red course.
We were the first 4ball off at dew sweeping o'clock and the opening hole wasn’t that much of a gentle opener off the back of a long drive from Orlando. Uphill all the way, the mist was still rising and our caddie’s smoke made way for a hit n hope approach. I found my ball long then hit it all the way back down the hill. Snowman!
Second allows for an early round risk n reward over water and a straight forward approach to a long, like real long, green. Two putt birdie and I was back in the game!
Three and Four are short, strategic par 4s – go left wing on both off the tee for best angle of approach before the fifth which has water running all up the right wing. I played away from the water with a low captain hook which resulted in an approach over a large mound protecting the front left of the green. Well thought out design & be mindful of a hidden bunker long here.
The elevated tee on the par 5 seventh hole is worth a team picture as it offers up a great vista of the red and some of the blue courses. If you play one hole off the tips on the red make sure its this one!
Well-guarded fairway with water up the left and well placed bunkers both sides but find the short stuff and you can get close in two. Avoid getting tangled up in the mound front right of the green and it offers up a good chance for birdie.
Par three eighth has a great false front green and then a run off back third – the greens on this course are just the BEST! I have never been happier three putting…..
The start of the back nine is a good test. We had the wind on the kisser for the first couple of holes with a large fairway bunker splitting the fairway on eleven needing to be avoided.
Twelve turns for the clubhouse and what a strong sweeping R to L par four with crocodiles and OB all down the left side before the shoulder opening par five thirteenth. Another mould protecting the front left of this green so distance control key to (third shot) approach.
Par three fourteen has a large green to hit, miss it and you will do well to make par, miss it long and you will do well to make four given the run off ala Donald Ross.
Stroke 1 fifteen has a bunker eating into the left half of the fairway that must be avoided at all costs. I found it and might was well have taken a bucket & spade given the amount of time I spent in there. Tight approach to uphill slopping green from back to front.
The run-in peaks at the picture postcard par three sixteen over water to a green sandwiched between a large raised piece of wasteland and severe run-off left of the green. It’s one thing hitting this green and another making three with its back to front split level green. Seventeen asks for placement off the tee amongst a lot of sand whilst eighteen was a real three shot par five for our group on the day.
Streamsong is a well-oiled machine from the bag drop on arrival through the welcome on the first tee and service on what was excellent post round food and beverages.
Our caddie for the day kept us at a good pace and was entertaining, playing off a five handicap he had plans to play the European Challenge tour this season. Go figure!
For two architects with a strong association to the lone star state I will give this red track five stars or better still six TP5Xs on my review score.
Its Coore Crenshaw by the way and as well as this course is rooted these could well be the best greens I have ever set spikes on.
If you get a chance go play it!