BOWLING GREEN, Fla. -- From wasteland to wonderland, Streamsong Resort is as good a rags-to-riches tale as any in the golf travel world.
It was just four years ago that I ventured deep into central Florida -- seemingly lost -- trying to find the grand opening celebration of the Red and Blue courses at Streamsong. Fast forward one high school graduating class later, Streamsong, developed by The Mosaic Co. from an old phosphate mining site, is putting the finishing touches on the remarkable new Black course by Gil Hanse. When the Black course opens on Sept. 28, Streamsong will become golf's only resort with courses by Hanse, Tom Doak (Blue) and the dynamic duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (Red).
For all the holes in Streamsong's resume -- there's no beach or history of hosting professional golf -- it's hard not to call it Florida's best golf resort. Taking a caddie during the walking-only rounds in high season mimics similar experiences being peddled at Bandon Dunes, the Straits course at Whistling Straits, Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Ocean course at Kiawah Island and Pinehurst No. 2 -- all among the finest resorts in golf. Streamsong's majestic dunes, scruffy-edged bunkers and perplexing greens lend themselves to a one-of-a-kind golf weekend in the Sunshine State.
Streamsong: The resort
Somewhere between modern and futuristic, the architecture of The Lodge certainly stands out. My room -- one of 216 rooms and suites -- had some subtle touches I'd never seen before: Custom-made louvers that essentially turn the windows into walls when they're shut at night and an open concept with an island featuring a TV facing in each direction, so you can watch if you're in bed on one side or sitting on a couch or at a desk on the other. The clubhouse features its own 12 private guest rooms as well.
The dining scene is almost as vibrant and memorable as the golf. The elegant steak and seafood-themed Restaurant Fifty-Nine in the clubhouse is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving much more than just traditional golf grub. I could barely dent my portion of crab macaroni and cheese at P2O5 near the lobby (where SottoTerra is another choice). Sunsets often start and evenings always end at Fragmentary Blue, the Lodge's six-floor bar hangout with floor-to-ceiling windows. The new clubhouse being built for the Black course will add another restaurant/bar into the mix. Our media group tested the menu in an outdoor tent, savoring beer cheese soup, chicken chili and massive burgers with cheese packed inside. Good thing walking is required for the golf.
I haven't explored the grotto-style spa, fitness center, outdoor lakeside pool or gone on excursions bass fishing or shooting sporting clays and archery, but I'm sure they're in line with the other first-class amenities.
Streamsong: The golf
There is no true consensus on the best course at Streamsong, the Red or Blue. The stereotypical answer is the Blue favors higher handicaps because three-putting Doak's wild greens is more forgiving than losing balls on the demanding tee shots of the Red. Both have some dynamite holes -- the most-photographed par-3 seventh on the Blue and the dunesy par-5 seventh on the Red. The layouts are so intertwined that the resort sells a 12-hole loop -- playing the first six holes on each course -- to guests who arrive late in the day or only have a short window for golf.
It's easy to see, though, that the Black -- coupled with Hanse's fame -- will likely eclipse both in popularity, at least in short term. The 7,566-yard course, a rare par 73, will be fully grown in for almost a year, so it won't have any of the headaches that most new courses offer. It will likely host some tournament golf, possibly top amateur or college events.
The vision is to make the Black a hangout all its own. The floor-to-ceiling windows of the clubhouse, and its bar, will look out upon the Gauntlet, a huge putting green modeled after the Himalayas putting course at St. Andrews in Scotland. A practice area called the "Roundabout" features four greens (two of them double greens) that can be played as par-3 and par-4 holes, or as an alternative ninth hole in the routing that leads players back to the clubhouse.
Missing the real ninth hole will be a mistake in my opinion. Anybody who has played the blind shots of Scotland and Ireland will love its hidden punchbowl green. A windmill is the only landmark that leading players in the right direction toward the green. I hate to feed the hype train that's already running at light speed, but I can't wait to go "Back in Black" when I visit Streamsong again.