About an hour and a half southwest of Disney in Orlando, Florida and 60 minutes east of Tampa, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is an oasis that has created a buzz in golf. A new luxury resort called Streamsong (www.streamsongresort.com) offers 36 holes of golf (the Red Course and the Blue Course) and a hotel/spa to open in the fall.
Well-known course designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, two-time Masters champ, teamed up to create and build the Red Course and Tom Doak designed the Blue Course. Both courses offer a links-like golf experience with towering sand dunes, bunkers, natural wild grasses and native vegetation.
Streamsong opened this past December. Hearing so much about the resort, I carved out a day to explore and play it. And what I immediately discovered is that it’s as close to an Irish or Scottish golf experience one is likely to get on the East Coast of the United States with one big difference: bright and sunny skies in Florida are obviously more the norm than the four-seasons-in-a-day likely experience over the pond.
The property is located in Polk County and sits on over 16,000 acres of a former phosphate mine. The owners are the Mosaic Company, producers of crop nutrients. After five decades of mining the land, what remained — the sand dunes, tall grasses and vegetation, contours and elevation of the land – became the canvas the course designers were hired to work with. Mother Nature was the Picasso with this project. And the course architects used restraint and good judgment in letting nature prevail.
After a ride that seemed endless, alas, the long road to the entrance of Streamsong put me in front of the contemporary clubhouse. Little did I know that the adventure was just about to begin.
The clubhouse itself has 12 guest rooms, a golf shop and a congenial bar at the entrance of the steakhouse. A spacious golf shop with welcoming assistants greeted me as I checked in.
I played the Red Course with a fellow golf author. We enjoyed the company and the knowledge of our caddie.
We both found the first nine holes extremely difficult, as we got used to the speedy greens, changing elevation and swirling wind. But the fairways are wide open and the greens are fair, once you get used to the speed.
Standing on the top of the tenth tee box, one of the highest points in Central Florida, and inspired by the view, I was ready to start playing some golf! (I also got over the fact that I did not allow myself enough time on the range to warm up!)
To my extreme delight (and the thrill of my caddie), here’s how my back nine played out: par, birdie (hit an exceptional shot onto the green from a fairway bunker and made a 18 footer for birdie), par, par, bogie, par, par, par… BOGIE! Yes, I was at ‘even par’ heading to the final hole, a par five. My caddie was as excited as I was. I was hoping to at least par the final hole to finish the back nine with an even par 36. But I hit a poor approach shot, missed the green, had to chip on and two putt for a six. But hey, I was not going to complain about shooting 1 over on the back!
My better-than-expected play on the back nine (won’t comment about my play on the front!) made the course even more enjoyable. Afterwards, I had a burger in the steakhouse and was delighted to meet Dr. Roy Vomastek, who had recently celebrated his 87th birthday, and was still shooting in the seventies, having been the oldest ever, when he was in his seventies, to qualify to play in the Senior Amateur Championships. A book is being written about him.
Expect to pay between $125-275 for green fees, depending on the season. And if you forget to bring enough cash to tip the caddies, to the tune of $80-100 per player, there is an ATM machine in the lobby of the clubhouse! The experience is well worth the cost.
It’s nice to know that serious golfers looking for a links-like experience don’t have to leave the East Coast. The flight from New York to Orlando or New York to Sarasota is no longer than 2 hours 45 minutes. Yes, Streamsong is not just around the corner once you land, but most likely, the sun will be shining and two challenging, beautiful courses set in a most unique terrain amongst a natural oasis await. It’s well worth the trip!