Red, Black and Blue. It could describe an MMA fighter after a title bout, or it could be used to illustrate the most appealing triumvirate of golf courses in the state of Florida. This color combination can only be found at Streamsong Resort.
For golfers not familiar with the property – if there is such a person – Streamsong opened its doors in December 2012, with two non-traditional Florida golf courses. I say non-traditional because you won’t find many palm trees here; water, another staple to Florida golf, is minimalized. Streamsong Red, designed by Coore & Crenshaw and Streamsong Blue, designed by Renaissance Golf Design, with Tom Doak at the helm, opened to rave reviews and immediately received all kinds of accolades: both were recognized by GOLF Magazine in the publication’s “Best New Courses 2012″ list. In addition, Red, was named the “Best New U.S. Course You Can Play” while Blue received honorable mention in the same category.
With the addition of Gil Hanse’s Black Course in late 2017, Streamsong Resort has emerged as the premier golf destination in all of Florida. Located just over an hour from both Tampa and Orlando, Streamsong has it all: unrivalled golf, superior accommodations and great food. There’s also the Acquapietra Spa to chase away those post round blues.
Streamsong Red is 18 holes of unrivaled golf. It’s a course that can be played anywhere from 5,284 to 7,148 yards, giving everyone a chance. The 419 Bermuda grass fairways cascade through archaic sand dunes and natural sand bunkers; the course is routed such that it showcases the magnificence of these sand dunes, as well as the course’s unique topography and rolling terrain. Water only comes into play on a small handful of holes. On holes where there is no water, it is usually replaced with sandy waste areas. Red is one of those courses that achieves the task of being both playable for the average golfer as well as a course that will test every aspect of a scratch player’s game.
Streamsong Blue was designed by one of golf’s most contemporary designers, Tom Doak, who is perhaps best known for his crazy putting surfaces – multiple tiers that can sometimes be measured with a yardstick. The ever undulating and sandy property at Streamsong gave Doak and his team the opportunity to create exciting shot opportunities both uphill and downhill. In those areas where the land is flat, he makes the holes interesting with intricate green complexes which generously reward players that hit great shots.
Streamsong Blue is home to one of the most scenic holes on the entire property, the par 3, 7th. From the back tees, the hole plays over 200 yards long, slightly downhill over water to a green that slopes dramatically from right to left. Because of this, shots hit right of the green tend to funnel down towards the hole, making an otherwise bad shot look impressive. It’s a hole that will challenge every player.
In late September 2017, the much-anticipated Gil Hanse design, Streamsong Black opened for play. In just a short period of time, Black has already been honored by GOLF Magazine as the Best New Course of 2017. The course stands alone from the other two and stretches out over more than 300 acres with over 2 miles of golf course; much more than either of its two sister courses. Although the course is only a few months old, the way Hanse and his design team have sculpted the course, it looks like it has been here for years. There is no more than 30 feet of elevation change – much of which is natural – giving Black a look and feel that is completely different from the other two designs. Streamsong Black plays anywhere from 5,293 to 7,331 yards to a par of 73, with five par 5 holes. To say the greens on Streamsong Black are large is an understatement, they make up over 11 acres of the course. Although each one is unique with plenty of twists and turns, none of them is unfair. Whether your approach shot is a well struck wedge or a skulled 7-iron, a well-placed shot will yield good results.
Practice Facilities and Clubhouses
The driving range and short game area for Red and Blue are just a quick cart ride from the main clubhouse. The conditioning of the range is the same as you will find on each fairway and, with plenty of targets to aim at, you can hit to your heart’s content! The short game area is one of the best around and can easily accommodate 20 golfers at a time. Given the trickiness of the green complexes here, warming up the wedges is a good idea. Within mere yards of the first tee is a massive practice green, another must before starting your round.
Over at Streamsong Black, the Roundabout is a free-flowing practice facility complete with several green complexes and six practice holes which is a great opportunity to work on your short game. Not far away is the Gauntlet, a two-acre putting course that sits adjacent to the Streamsong Black Clubhouse.
That’s right, Streamsong Black comes with its own clubhouse. It too was designed by Albert Alfonso the architect of the main clubhouse. Black’s clubhouse is enclosed by glass windows from floor to ceiling and is home to The Bone Valley Tavern a casual post-golf restaurant with a 32-seat bar, 96 additional indoor seats, outdoor space and large screen TVs. The menu includes Chef Victor Kendlehart’s take on traditional clubhouse favorites as well as some of his own culinary creations. Bone Valley Tavern continues the Streamsong reputation of outstanding dining.
Alfonso Architects also designed Streamsong’s main Clubhouse as well as the Lodge. The Clubhouse was the original building and features 12 guest rooms. There’s also 4,500 square feet of meeting and event space and a world-class pro shop featuring a wide variety of logoed gear, high quality footwear and apparel. For dining, check out Restaurant Fifty-Nine, a steak and seafood themed restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. I highly recommend the caramel bacon sundae!
Streamsong’s Lodge features 216 luxury guest rooms, casual and fine dining restaurants, a grotto-style spa and 25,000-square-feet of flexible indoor meeting and special event space. If for some reason golf isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty to do including sporting clays, a lakeside pool, a nature trail, tennis, archery and guided bass fishing tours.
In a nutshell, course conditioning can be summed up in two words: “firm and fast.” These conditions are consistent from tee to green; everything is cut very tight. Caddies become an essential part of the equation at Streamsong and come in extremely handy on approach shots. It’s not uncommon to make what you consider to be a great approach shot, only to watch it run off the green because you didn’t hit the right spot. Knowing where to place it on the green is often better than pinpoint accuracy.
Another true golfer’s track in Central Florida is The Club at Eaglebrooke (www.eaglebrooke.com) in Lakeland, Florida. Eaglebrooke is an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Lakeland’s own Ron Garl. From the tips, Eaglebrooke plays 7,030 yards with a course rating of 74.6 and a slope of 140. Most players will have all they can handle from the White Tees at 6,316 yards. With six sets of tees, there’s one to suit just about anyone. For the past 10 years, Golf Digest has consistently awarded Eaglebrooke 4½ stars as one of the Best Places to Play.
Eaglebrooke boasts one of the most comprehensive practice facilities in the area, something that is quickly becoming a Ron Garl trademark. There’s a full length driving range with numerous target greens; you can hit balls to your heart’s content with a paid greens fee. In fact, many serious golfers pay a daily rate and come to Eaglebrooke just to practice. Just behind the driving range is a short game area complete with a large, slightly elevated putting green for chipping as well as bunkers to practice your sand shots. Not a bad idea to brush up on you sand game as Garl has strategically placed several evil pot bunkers around greens. Their immense practice green is always in great shape, so be sure to roll a few putts before your round and you will see how fast and true they roll.
One of the most memorable holes is Number 17, a dogleg left par 5. A well struck drive down the left side will give you a chance to go for the green in two. Just beware of the water short and right of the green, known to local golfers as Eagle Brooke! The green slopes dramatically from back to front so being below the hole is critical if you want to score well.
Eaglebrooke is both playable and manageable for golfers of all levels. The course requires both length and thought off the tee. Some holes will require your best tee shots in order to get on in regulation while others will take driver out of your hand and have you thinking about your second shot. Several holes present risk/reward opportunities as well. You will find a lot of rolling terrain on both fairways and greens. The course is in fantastic shape all year round.
Southern Dunes (www.southerndunes.com) is another truly unique golf course in Central Florida. The course is located inside the gates of the Southern Dunes community in Haines City, about 30 minutes southwest of Orlando. Southern Dunes has been awarded 4 ½ stars by Golf Digest as one of their Best Places to play, from 2004 – 2017 and is ranked #14 on GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play.
Southern Dunes is noted for boldly contoured fairways, extensive mounding and strategically placed bunkers, over 180 in all! A countless number of swales and hollows add both definition and drama to your round and the golf course will penalize poorly executed shots and generously reward a sound, well thought strategy.
Topography like that found at Southern Dunes is very uncommon in Florida and course architect Steve Smyers takes full advantage of it. This hillside layout can play as long as 7,227 yards or as short as 4,987 yards, giving golfers of all abilities the chance to experience it. Golfers will be challenged with over 100 feet of elevation change, massive high-lipped bunkers, large, well-undulated greens and sand, lots of sand! A lot of the dunes here are covered with tall, ornamental grasses, which create the framework of many fairways.
The most memorable hole is also the hardest, the #1 handicapped number 7, a dogleg left par- 4 that plays over 400 yards from any of the men’s tees (454 yards if you go all the way to the back). This hole requires your best drive of the day, preferably down the middle – followed by a long, arching approach shot that plays uphill over multiple bunkers to a long narrow green. There are no less than 10 bunkers on this hole, adding to the challenge.
These are just a few of the fine golf courses in Central Florida. Some others worthy of mention are:
Big Cypress Golf and Country Club (www.cypresslakesfla.com/big-cypress-golf-club) in Lakeland, FL, which features two courses. The South Course, designed by Ron Garl is an 18-hole championship layout that plays 6,680 yards and the North Course, a 3,500-yard executive course designed by Chip Powell. Both courses offer golfers of all abilities a great test.
Cleveland Heights Golf Course (www.clevelandheightsgolf.com) – 27 holes of Donald Ross-style golf designed by Ross contemporary W.S. Flynn and a proud member of Florida’s Historic Golf Trail. Tree lined fairways offer generous landing areas off the tee and the course was built for walking. Although the course sees a lot of play, it is typically in great shape.
Highlands Reserve (www.highlandsreserve-golf.com) in Davenport, FL, a Mike Dasher design that is affordable, walkable and just plain fun to play! Dasher makes great use of sand and waste bunkers with water only coming into play on two holes. It’s a course everyone will enjoy.
Providence Golf and Country Club is another Mike Dasher design. The 18-hole championship course will not only test your game but also provide some solace as it winds through ancient hardwoods, freshwater creeks, and wetlands. It’s only 15 minutes from the theme parks, providing refuge for those who need to get away for the afternoon.
Stonegate Golf Club at Solivita (www.stonegategolf.com) offers two championship courses by two local course architects. The Oaks Course was designed by Ron Garl and features well-defined fairways and firm, fast greens. The Cypress Course has been redesigned by Clifton, Ezell & Clifton, and is more challenging than before. Gently rolling fairways are flanked by undisturbed century-old cypress trees and the greens are larger and roll much faster.
If you’re coming to Florida to play golf as over 1.5 million golfers do each year, you owe it to yourself to take a good, hard look at what the Central Florida area has to offer. There are over 40 quality golf facilities in the area located between the two major airports in Tampa and Orlando. While enjoying quality golf on top caliber courses, you’ll also find that you save a considerable amount of money too. Enough to maybe play a couple of extra rounds. For a directory of all courses in the area, visit www.visitcentralflorida.org/directory/golf.