At the lowest point of the economic downturn in 2007, with virtually no new golf course development going on, the management of Mosaic Company called the two design firms of Tom Doak and Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw to come out and look at a reclamation project of vast acreage in central Florida from which they had been mining phosphate for a half a century.
Mosaic had made a deal with the state that, rather then expend the money to bring the ground back to it’s original condition, they would be permitted to build a golf resort on the property. Mosaic had in mind kind of Bandon Dunes East, multiple, free-flowing sand based golf courses in the middle of central Florida to attract the high end retail golf community. They could not have picked two better modern, old-school architects to help put this resort on the map in a very challenging economic environment.Doak’s reaction, when he stepped off the helicopter that brought his team for the first site visit, was a “Dorothy you are not in Kansas anymore” moment. There is just no way they would have expected to see such a turbulent piece of sandy topography in the state of Florida.
Given four parcels to consider, the two groups set about a collaborative process of identifying the best ground and prospective routings for the first two courses. The central part of the property had the tallest piles of sand and the deepest crevices from the mining days, so this was what they identified as the most opportune place to create 36 holes of walking golf with plenty of width and plenty of drama.
Tom Doak will tell you that his team got the more cohesive and dramatic part of this parcel which meant he could route greens and tees in close proximity to make the walking efficient. Better still, the width and elevation changes already existed to support his preferred design style, open and accessible green complexes with lots of adjacent short grass contour which would require careful thought by the players off the tee to get to the optimal approach line for the day’s flag positions.
With very little perimeter boundary in this part of the property and few absolute forced carries, he could provides players of all caliber a way to get around without the anxiety of penalty shots and searching for Titleists and Srixons. Nice feature in a resort golf experience.
The walk up to the 1st Tee is your first workout of the dayThe hike up to the first tee box may leave you winded but the view unfurling beneath your feet will set a tone for this Blue Course experience. The hole is only 330 yards and there is plenty of open ground on which to land this drive, but the steep slope up to the green complex and the angle to the day’s flag that avoids the offset greenside bunkering puts a premium on picking the advantage approach line. As Jack Nicklaus used to say, you have to play the holes backwards in your mind if you are going to be successful on a course with so many strategic options in play.
All the options on the 1st Hole as seen from the top of the world A couple of sprawling holes in the next two bring you to the middle of the outward half, which is one of the most unique sequences on the course. It speaks to Doak’s ability to draw from the existing terrain natural looking holes with strategic challenge for the strong players while giving the lower trajectory players plenty of options for success.
4th Hole has a rustic flair of a links gem
The fourth hole could have come straight out of the Coore-Crenshaw Bandon Trails Course at in Oregon. After hitting the drive into a generous upramp framed by bunkers on the left, the player who wants to challenge the flag has a super steep elevation approach to a blind green complex perched on a corner plateau above a constellation of nasty sand bunkers. For those with less adventure in mind there is a diversionary option to play at the huge bail out area right and long from which making a bogey should be a cinch.
Just 120 yard pitch, the green on the Par 3 5th is very elusive even with no wind
What follows is a short pitch 120 yard Par 3 that most architects would not have the temerity to present today. The narrow serpentine green is 74 yard long stretching along a spine on the hill below that falls sharply away from the line of flight of your tee shot. If the wind is blowing at all the exposure of the green will make getting a ball to find and stay within a particular section of this green an act of pure golfing wizardry. Many a big hitter will be walking off this green writing down an above par score, scratching their head wondering what went wrong.
The next short, quasi-driveable Par 4 is where Tom alighted from his helicopter on his first site visit. From the tee you are looking up and across the brow of the hill to a wide landing area that feeds down to the foot of one of the most prominent dunes on the property. Given the juxtaposition of the slope of the green to your approach angle this could be one of the most difficult 75-yard pitch shots you will have to hit all day.
Pure eye candy off the tee box on the Par 3 7th HoleA short walking path brings you around the dune to the most awesome Kodak Moment of the day. From the precipice tee on #7 you get to watch the majestic flight of this 175-yard shot plummeting into the pocket of a catcher’s mitt green nestled into the base of the nasty dune complex on the other side of this mine-made lagoon. If you end up on playable turf it will be a big fish story to share at dinner tonight.
As you finish the opening nine, make sure to saunter over to their halfway hut that features an interesting array of southwestern fare. These tasty and homemade these tacos are not your typical dog at the turn.
When you look at the work of Tom Doak and his associates the real architectural genius is often displayed on holes where they did not manipulate the ground very much at all. Such was the case on the 11th, the number 1 handicap hole on the course where they draped a rumpled fairway over and across a low hill leaving just enough landing area blindness to put doubt in your mind of the best line to play. What follows is a long downhill approach to a bunkerless green that drops away with the natural flow of the land. Picking the right landing area short of the green with just the right release to let your approach leak onto the putting surface requires great judgment and skill. The brilliance in this hole was letting the ground speak for itself and not adding any unnecessary static to what nature presented.
The 12th is the first of two very technical holes….hazards leave no room for errorAs you approach the middle of the back nine the two courses coalesce as the Blue Course is working just inside the perimeter of the property and the Red Course is circling back along the property line toward the clubhouse. The short Par 4 13th is probably one of those holes that could have fallen into either man’s route plan and I expect there might have been pretty fiesty conversations on just how to handle it.
Doak is tempting you to reach for the Big Dog on the ‘driveable ’13thStanding on this tee the expansive driving area goads you into reaching for the big stick and maybe have a go at the green. Adhering to the adage “restraint is the better part of valor” is the way to go since even an 80-yard pitch into a slender, long green suspended above a seriously nasty waste bunker and the lagoon is all you can handle. The bail area to the right may comfort you but a recovery pitch from there brings the bunker across the narrow green back into your mind. This is a cleverly designed short hole which demands two controlled and accurate plays to get on without any serious scorecard damage.
The finish is very strong-three of the four hardest handicap holes on this side are in front of you. The sequence begins with a very natural looking minimalist presentation of a Par 4 that plays similar to the 6th with about 50 additional yards on the approach. No bunkers to avoid in the green complex but the short grass surround contours and the pitch of the green surface make using the ground to control where your approach will come to rest of crucial importance.
The longest Par 3 of the day-plays effectively over 225 yards with the uphill green setting-is followed by a very kitchy truncated 575 yard Par 5 that requires three strong and accurate blows for a par opportunity.
Courses that finish with a grand look of the clubhouse are rare, but Doak was blessed with a perfect piece of sloping ground to create a memorable and difficult finishing hole to do just that. Standing on the tee it just looks like an horizon of fairway in front of you, there is no hint of what is to come if you can land your ball at the top edge of the hill that looks down at clubhouse green setting below.
The look down to the final green is surreal against the dunesThe long approach shot must carry a distracting bevy of bunkers almost 100 yards from the green complex and one solitary pot directly on line to the center of the green about 40 yards short. Doak provided plenty of bail room to the left but that is the devil’s bargain since even a short pitch from there is straight down the fall line and it will be difficult to keep a recovery pitch anywhere close to the flag. No, this approach shot is a hitch up your pants moment where a draw working around the pot bunker straight at the flag is the only sensible shot to play.
Taking the short walk off this green to the clubhouse staging area barely gives you enough time to exhale and appreciate how vigorous a golf experience Doak orchestrated in the Blue Course at Streamsong.
Architect: Tom Doak ( 2012)
Tee Par Rating Slope Yardage
Green 72 74.1 131 7176
Black 72 72 127 6698
Silver 72 69.7 123 6285
Gold 72 71.6 122 5531
For more Streamsong images click to see Postcard From Streamsong.