STREAMSONG, Fla. -- It's the talk of Florida golf, if not the rest of the golf nation.
The buzz at Streamsong Resort in central Florida has been steady since it opened a little more than two years ago. Typically, when you get that kind of hype, you're set up for disappointment. But I can honestly say that I wasn't let down. Streamsong is all it's cracked up to be, especially if you like links golf.
So if you're an avid golfer, you owe yourself a trip to Streamsong. In fact, if you check it out in the summer (when you can actually take a cart if you really need it), you'll find some great deals, but more on that later.
So when you're ready to knock this one off your bucket list, here are some things you should know:
Getting to Streamsong Resort
"So where is this mysterious Streamsong?" you might ask. After all, it seems to be in the middle of nowhere, and it is, sort of.
You can actually fly into Tampa-St. Petersburg or Orlando; Tampa, however, is a little closer. Either way, you should plan on at least a 90-minute drive to get out there from either. The closest town is Fort Meade, and although there's signage directing you to the resort, you'll probably want to do this in the daytime.
The drive out will provide perspective as to how this place developed. The resort is located on tens of thousands of acres owned by The Mosaic Company, which has for decades mined for phosphate. The result of the minding is an endless supply of sand, like a beach, because this part of Florida was actually undersea at one point. And sand, as we know from Ireland and Scotland, is a great base for building golf courses. It drains naturally, so there's no need for USGA greens, and the courses generally play firm and fast, great for a links setup, which is pretty close to what you have on both courses at Streamsong.
Video: Ginella on Streamsong's new Black Course
Three courses at Streamsong
If you're visiting for more than a day or so, you owe it to yourself to want to play all three courses, all of which have a links feel to them but allow you to play the ball in the air as well. The newest is the Gil Hanse-Jim Wagner designed Black Course, which opened for play in the fall of 2017. Larger in scope than the first two courses with 11 acres of greens complexes, it's actually an easier walk than the other two because it's much flatter. Playing to a par 73, the 7,000-plus yar course has a terrific variety of par 5s and par 3s and a couple of short par 4s that are drivable for stronger players. There's also a punch bowl green on the ninth that's good fun. There's also a new putting course by the Black called The Guantlet, which sits next to the new clubhouse there. In addition, the Black Course features a short course as well as an optional ninth hole.
The other two courses are intertwined, and they were built at the same time. Tom Doak crafted the Blue Course (ranked 24th on Golf Digest's Top 100 public list) while the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw did the Red Course (ranked 18th). Doak's may have a little more of a links feel, while the Red Course considerably more water.
Both courses' signature par-3 holes converge. The Blue's seventh hole plays over a lake to an amphitheater-type green complex, parallel to a similar hole, the 17th on the Red. From both elevated tees, you can see the majority of both courses, including the clubhouse.
The Red and Blue play just less than 7,200 yards each from the tips (there are four sets of tee boxes). They both offer plenty of elevation change, generous fairways and undulating greens. The Blue Course's greens are probably a little more difficult, although the Red Course's greens can be tricky to read.
There's also an extra hole, the par-3 "Bye" hole that you can play after your 18 on either course. Playing over water, it's pretty dramatic in its own right, so you'll probably want to take that in, whether you have a bet to be decided or not.
And just for good measure, at least another 18 holes are on the way. The Black Course, being designed by Olympic Course architect Gil Hanse, is scheduled for completion sometime in 2017. With more golf, Streamsong is certainly on its way to becoming the Bandon Dunes of the East.
Walking, caddie policies at Streamsong
Not only are the two courses very linksy, but also they're walking only, unless you have a medical dispensation or it's summer, when it's just too hot and humid for most mortals to walk.
You don't have to take a caddie, but it's highly recommended, especially if it's your first time. At the very least, take a forecaddie or pay attention to someone else's caddie in the group if you elect to carry your own bag. (By the way, if you do get help from someone else's caddie, it's customary to offer a small tip to him or her at the end of the round.)
A smart caddie, in this case, will certainly help you navigate the course and read greens. While there isn't an overabundance of blind shots, there are some, and the caddies have good advice on laying up, where to miss or what part of the green to hit (especially on the Blue) to avoid an impossible putt.
Accommodations and dining at Streamsong
At the resort it's valet parking only, because when you get there, you won't need to be driving anywhere -- and there's also no parking lot next to the resort. (If you're coming in for golf only, there is parking at the course.)
While the courses aren't next to the hotel (it was done that way intentionally), there's a shuttle that will take you back and forth any time you need it. And since there's nothing close by, it's not like you're going to want to get in your car and have dinner somewhere else.
Fortunately, the four restaurants at Streamsong Resort are way beyond adequate, so you won't want to venture off campus to eat. Dining ranges from terrific seafood and aged steaks at the clubhouse Restaurant Fifty-Nine (named for the elusive score accomplished only by six PGA Tour pros) to the rooftop Fragmentary Blue, the perfect spot for watching sunsets.
Renowned architect Alberto Alfonso designed both the clubhouse and The Lodge. The architecture meant to blend in with the surroundings, offering simple but elegant functionality.
When the resort first opened in late 2012, there were just 12 guest rooms, which are still available in the clubhouse. The new Lodge offers an additional 216 rooms, which are all individually designed.
Activities after golf at Streamsong
While Streamsong Resort is designed with the avid golfer in mind, it's not the only activity. Guests can also partake in hiking, trap shooting and guided catch-and-release bass fishing in the waterway behind the lodge.
There's also the AcquaPietra Spa, a European-style grotto sanctuary that features eight indoor treatment rooms and six unique pool experiences, as well as a hair and nail salon.
And for larger groups, there's also 24,600 total square feet of flexible conference and meeting space -- along with outdoor event space -- supported by event professionals who can provide custom dining experiences.
How to score value at Streamsong
Streamsong is a premium product, to be sure, from the resort to the golf. As such, you'd expect it to be priced that way, but if you play in the summer (offseason), you can actually get some good deals. Green fees on all three courses range from $85 to $255 depending on season, residency and whether or not the golfer is a guest at the resort or not.
There are also stay-and-play packages that are ore economical. During the offseason, late spring to early fall, you can get double occupancy packages that include golf that start as low as $123 per night per player. It's considerably more in the winter peak season, but not out of line for the quality of golf, lodging and other experiences they offer here.