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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Streamsong - First impressions of Red and Blue (and the gorgeous clubhouse)

The first thing I noticed on arrival at Streamsong, near, (actually, not near anything) in Florida was the magnificent clubhouse. Contemporary, but not over bearing, the architect has made gorgeous use of natural materials and created a stunning building. It is located between 3 massive dunes and Alberto Alfonso's building is befitting of this new development that may well be the first serious contender to Bandon resort in Oregon in many years. Of course they will need more than two courses, but with thousands of acres available that is surely a matter of when, not if.

Inside the building is warm, inviting and service levels are first class, in keeping with everything Kemper Sports (the managers of the property) does in golf. Check in was great and our caddie for the day, Rich was a gem. It's somewhat disconcerting having a mini-tour player as a caddy, but he calmly and kindly put up with our tops and shanks and really made the day. The new 216-room hotel is under construction in the distance. The hotel is quite a way from the clubhouse and the red and blue courses and begs the question "Why build it so far away unless one or two more courses are on the way?" There are currently 12 guest rooms in the clubhouse, but securing one of those requires an advance reservation many months out - we tried!

So, the real reason we traveled 84 miles south of Orlando was to play golf. We began on Coore and Crenshaw's Red Course. The first tee is 30 yards from the back door of the clubhouse, right next to the large putting green. The condition of both courses was exceptional, with the greens stimping at about 12, which with the sloping greens was perfect. The superintendant and his team have done a remarkable job growing the golf course in and it's hard to believe Streamsong has just opened. On the way to the first tee we walked by the "Bye Hole", which a nice glimpse of what is to come. Here it is:

I have been fortunate to play many Coore and Crenshaw courses from Bandon Trails in the west to Hidden Creek in the east and I am a big fan. I suggest you add "Red" to their growing list of must play golf courses. There is plenty of room from the tee and I used every club in the bag. That said, prepare yourself, because this is also the hardest golf course from C and C I have ever played. My golf game these days is what I call fragile, so bring your game! Missing the wide fairways you will still find the ball and have a recovery shot from the sand. If you move the ball back a couple inches in your stance it really is not a hard recovery shot. Here's one example of a journey I made into the sand!

The greens complexes are fair and a number of holes are reminiscent of their opening design in Nebraska, the majestic Sand Hills. Here's a memorable and much photographed hole on the Red, the tough par three, 16th.

Following a quick (and excellent) lunch in the clubhouse we ventured up a huge dune to the first tee of the "Blue". This is a Tom Doak design. I'll start by saying I am a Doak fan and his Ballyneal course in Holyoke, Co is one of my top 10 courses in the world. So, I guess you know where this is going. You're right...this is not his best golf course and I suspect the main reason is he didn't have the best land to work with - most of that seems to have been used on C and C's "Red". For me the only stand out hole is the par three, 6th and even with this hole an awkward routing necessitates a walk back and forth across a wooden bridge to access the green. It also seemed to me that the left side of the green will require some work. The caddies said players regularly putt into the water hazard from the green...mmm, not good. That said this will be the most photographed hole on the course. The course is by no means easy, but it is much more forgiving on a player's game and I recommend playing "Red" and then "Blue" as we did - playing the closing nine on the Red with a tired swing will be very tough! Don't get me wrong, the "Blue" is a very good golf course - it's just not as good as the"Red"

Streamsong is a wonderful addition to the Field of Dreams philosophy of "build it and they will come" started by Mike Keiser at Bandon. It's miles from anywhere and a brave decision by the mining company, Mosaic to commit to building a first class resort. It provides great golf and a much easier travel alternative to Bandon and based on my observations of operations, the owners have a real winner on their hands. I expect more courses are in discussion on the property and Streamsong is going to provide the perfect winter destination for those from Chicago to New York looking for world-class golf and sunshine.

Here are another couple of photographs - looking at the clubhouse from the "Red"

We were blessed with gorgeous weather - 50 degrees warmer than D.C!

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