Several years ago the Mosaic Company, the world’s largest combined producer of potash and phosphates, was about to reclaim 16,000 acres of land near Fort Meade, Florida that had been mined for nearly 100 years for phosphate. Instead, Mosaic CFO Richard Mack proposed building a golf resort. When Mr. Mack invited the design teams of Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw (and later Tom Doak) to tour the area, they were stuck by the unique assortment of dunes, elevation changes, sand and native grasses that distinguish the property from your typical Florida landscape. It is estimated that the mining process stockpiled 15 million cubic yards of sand. The land sat untouched for over 50 years, and what nature gave back was a spectacular collection of dunes, lakes and sandy soil on which to build golf courses. Tom Doak famously said about the property: “”If you parachuted me into Streamsong, and you gave me 75 guesses as to where I’m at in the world, my 73rd guess might be somewhere in Florida.”
Streamsong Resort opened in January of 2013 to rave reviews. The Coore & Crenshaw designed Red course is ranked fourth in Florida (#18 in the US) and the Tom Doak designed Blue course is number six (#24 in the US) on Golf Digest’s Best in State Rankings. Both courses were built and opened at roughly the same time. In fact, Doak and Coore collaborated on the overall routing of both courses and even shared the design of some holes on each course, the details of which seem to be closely guarded. Because of the collaborative effort and clever routing of both courses, players can play some unique non-traditional six or twelve hole loops, including six holes on the Red and six on the Blue.
The Red course measures 7148 yards (74.2 / 130) from the longest tees and 5184 from the shortest, giving everyone a course that is challenging but fair. I found the Red course to be a little more forgiving, with shallow bunkers, fewer forced carries and greens that were flatter and featured prominent chipping and run-off areas. The Blue course stretches to 7176 yards (74.1 / 131) from the back tees and down to 5531 from the gold tees. The Blue course has larger, more undulating greens and deeper bunkers, but like the Red course, it generally offers plenty of space off the tee. The relative lack of trees and exposed elevations of both courses means that the wind is always a factor, especially when playing from, over or around any of the large dunes that dot the landscape. My first round on the Blue course in late January was negotiated in constant 30 mph winds with gusts into the 40s. The terrain tends to play hard and fast, giving golfers many options for approach shots along the ground. For example, on the 18th hole of the Blue course my playing partner Jay and I waged a “closest to the pin” contest for fun from 125 yards out in the fairway. With our putters. The contours of the hole and the shape of the green gives you the option to run the ball up along the ground, and we both managed to get the ball on the green. Many holes on both courses set up the same way.
These Boots Are Meant For Walking
During peak season from January 1 to April 15 Streamsong is walking only. They have an experienced roster of professional caddies available at all times. (At additional cost) During the summer months when temperatures usually hit the mid 90s, golf carts are available, but the use of a forecaddie is mandatory. This walking-only policy may turn away some visitors, but Streamsong believes walking is by far the best way to appreciate the subtleties of the golf courses while keeping the turf in excellent shape year-round. Of course those with physical disabilities are allowed to use a cart, and caddies are not required when walking but highly recommended. Most of them have lots of experience on both layouts and are of great assistance in plotting your way around the course.
Almost as striking as the dramatic landscape is the architecture at Streamsong. The golf clubhouse is a modern looking structure designed by Alberto Alfonso. It sits between the dunes and next to a lake that golfers must carry the ball over on both courses at one time or another during the round. The building has everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Besides the pro shop and 4500 square feet of conference space, the steak and seafood restaurant Fifty-Nine and and outdoor terrace, the clubhouse also has twelve guest rooms that served as the only on-site accommodations when the resort first opened.
Since opening in January of 2014, the Lodge has become the center of off-course activities at Streamsong Resort. This 216 room luxury hotel sits on the shores of a pristine private lake teaming with wildlife and stocked with bass. The horseshoe shape of the building gives every room a great view of the lake, outdoor fire pits and beautiful infinity pool. AcquaPietra, the 7000 square foot subterranean grotto-style spa with seven bathing pools and and nine treatment rooms will help melt away stress and treat those aches and pains.
With four top notch restaurants on site, you’ll never leave hungry. SottoTerra features traditional Italian cuisine, P2O5 serves traditional Floridian favorites like oysters, conch chowder and fried chicken, and is named after the chemical symbol for phosphate. Finally, take a short elevator trip to the rooftop grill of Fragmentary Blue to enjoy Sriracha glazed chicken skewers, buffalo pork rinds and other casual fare while having a drink and enjoy the views that go on for miles in all directions.
Off Course Activities
The virtually untouched lakes and streams surrounding Streamsong offer some of the best bass fishing in the state, and guided tours depart from the docks just a short walk away from the Lodge. For shooting sports enthusiasts there’s also a well designed Sporting Clays course led by certified instructors just a short drive away on property. For large groups, there is 18,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, but who expects to get any work done at a place like this?
What makes Streamsong Resort so unique is the location and topography. Situated just over an hour from Tampa and about 90 minutes from Orlando, it is close enough for a quick weekend trip, but the property itself is so remote and isolated that you don’t feel like you are that close to any civilization. Some people have compared Streamsong Resort to Bandon Dunes in Oregon or Cabot Links in Nova Scotia, and perhaps the comparisons are valid in terms of remoteness, but to me comparing repurposed phosphate mines in rural Florida to true seaside links land isn’t fair. Bandon and Cabot are on the coast, but Streamsong is over 40 miles from the Gulf or Mexico and the weather is much better!
The Future is Black
Where all these resorts do compare however is in the accolades they have received. In just a few years Streamsong has managed to get everyone’s attention and rank highly in many golf industry rankings. Both courses sit in the top 20 nationally in rankings from Golfweek, Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and others. But if you thought Streamsong would rest on their laurels, you were wrong. 2016 Olympic course designer Gil Hanse was recently announced as the architect for a third golf course that will start construction this summer with an anticipated opening in 2017. The new Black course will have its own clubhouse and dedicated practice facility and be located a short distance away from the Red and Blue courses. The terrain for the Black course isn’t quite as dramatic as the original two, but there is no shortage of interesting land forms and vegetation to route a course through. There are also rumors about a fourth course in the future. With 16,000 acres to work with and given the stellar golf Streamsong has produced so far, perhaps the comparisons to Bandon Dunes will continue – Minus the ocean breezes and rain of course.
At Streamsong Resort, the course designers proved that you don’t have to move tons of dirt and sand to make beautiful and playable golf courses. The leadership team also proved that when executed properly, a piece of seemingly useless land can be transformed into a place people really want to go. In many respects, Streamsong is a collection of contradictions. It’s remote enough that you could never find it by accident, but close enough to Tampa and Orlando for a day trip. The golf is played on foot with caddies, but valet service and complementary shuttles transport guests to and from the course. The post modern architecture of the clubhouse and lodge clash with the unkempt wilderness that surrounds them. The land that sat untouched by humans for decades now attracts people from all over the world.
Streamsong Resort is a must-visit for all golfers. The courses are among the best in the US, the accommodations and dining are excellent, the amenities are a perfect complement to the golf and the service is exceptional. Stay and play packages range from $139 to $199 per person depending on the time of year and size of your group. For more information visit http://www.streamsongresort.com/