THE SPORTING LIFE
thrice as nice
Streamsong’s two quirky courses have been smashing the clichés about Florida golf. Now there are three. By Josh Sens
| ANDRISEN MORTON
n a lush swath of central Florida, at a triangle point between Tampa and Orlando, the flat terrain begins to wrinkle like a rumpled bedsheet. The air is warm, but a breeze is blowing as white-sand dunes rise into view. In the near distance, down a sleepy turnoff south of the city of Lakeland, a modern wood-stone-and-glass clubhouse stands lonely sentinel, its windows glinting in the daylight. Behind it stretch green fingerlings of fairway, bent and knuckled, fringed by knobby mounds and native grasses. Welcome to Streamsong, a slice of Scotland in the Sunshine State. From the day it opened in 2014, this upscale resort has upended preconceptions about Florida golf. While the stereotype features geezers riding golf carts on cookie-cutter courses carved through gated subdivisions, Streamsong offers something wild and otherworldly. Its location alone sets it apart—on a former phosphate mine, far removed from any residential sprawl. Here, there are no houses. But the land itself has plenty of life, marked by shaggy hillocks and sandy gouges, with elevation changes that are hard to come by elsewhere in the state. At its inauguration, Streamsong cut the ribbon on two courses, the Blue and the Red, designed, respectively, by Tom Doak and the duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. If you’re looking to name-drop in golf architecture circles, the names don’t
get much bigger than those three. True to their reputation as rugged minimalists, Doak and Coore/Crenshaw crafted layouts that required little earth-moving. On both the Red and Blue, the holes buck and roll with the dips and rises that phosphate mining left behind, their imprint lying gently on the land. Before you could yell “Fore!” Streamsong gained acclaim as a pleasure ground for purists, celebrated for its throwback style of golf. Unlike many Florida layouts, which require blunt-edged aerial assaults, the Red and Blue encourage creative play. You can launch high shots. But you can also bound your ball along the firm, wide fairways, making use of the quirky humps and hollows. Though the two tracks are a long way from identical—the Blue has larger greens; the Red has tighter tee shots, among other distinctions— both are shaped by a similar aesthetic. They are reminiscent of British links, except that they are nowhere near the sea. Although walking isn’t mandatory, it’s highly recommended, just as it is throughout the British Isles, where the philosophy holds that a caddie beats a golf cart any day. “As public-access, two-course complexes go, there’s none better in the United States,” raved Joe Passov, Golf magazine’s chief architecture critic, after seeing the property for the first time. That assessment was correct but it needs
updating: Today there aren’t two courses at Streamsong, but three. Last fall, the already sprawling resort expanded further with the opening of Streamsong Black. Designed by Gil Hanse, another noted architect, whose heralded course credits include Castle Stuart in Scotland and the 2016 Olympic Course in Rio de Janeiro, the Black is a kindred spirit of the Red and Blue—with magnified features. Located a mile southeast of its two siblings, it spreads across a larger footprint. It has broad-shouldered fairways, cavernous sand traps and dunes that loom like scale-model Himalayas. It’s a course that calls for power but also precision, as evidenced by the holes such as the short par-four 14th, with a green that’s reachable from the tee—if you can laser your drive along the proper line. As a complement to its time-capsule golf, Streamsong rolls out refined accommodations, its lodge honeycombed with 216 custom-designed guest rooms and suites. There are four casual and fine dining restaurants. There’s a full-service spa. There’s a convention center’s worth of conference rooms and meeting space. Inside, you’re coddled by contemporary comforts, just as you would be in a luxury hotel in Tampa or Orlando. Outside, though, the mood is different. Step onto the first tee and click your spikes. You get a funny feeling you’re not in Florida anymore.
Opposite page, clockwise from top: The Blue course features multiple elevation changes, fairways navigating wild grasses and deep-water ponds; the Red course boasts decadesold sand dunes, lakes and natural bunkers; the resort’s Lodge has a quiet loft/lounge area, along with a grotto-style, full-service spa and a fitness center; the Black course is known for its sand ridges akin to the Sand Belt Region of Melbourne, Australia; the Red course was designed by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw; guestrooms have floorto-ceiling glass with custom louvers, with many offering stunning water views.
3/12/18 8:33 PM