Reprinted with permission from Golf Odyssey:
Even after the recent rapid-fire opening of Cabot Links in Cape Breton Island, Trump Scotland Golf Links in Aberdeenshire, and Bandon Preserve at Bandon Dunes Resort, intrepid golf travelers can look forward to still more rousing debuts this year. The next blockbusters on the horizon are eighteens by Tom Doak and Coore-Crenshaw at Streamsong Resort in Central Florida. Streamsong, which occupies reclaimed mining land, is the first resort by the Mosaic Company, the world’s largest producer and marketer of phosphate-based crop nutrients. Both golf courses and the attending clubhouse are scheduled to open in mid-December. Since the clubhouse features 12 guestrooms, a full-service restaurant, and 4,500-square feet of meeting space, individuals and small groups will be able to enjoy a genuine golf getaway experience right away. But that’s not all. When Streamsong’s main lodge and conference center open in the fall of 2013, the resort hopes to become the next “hot” destination in Florida.
Since only a half dozen layouts are slated to open in the US this year, the fact that two courses are debuting at the same resort is big news. What adds further cachet to this rural Polk County backwater site between Tampa and Orlando is that the eighteens have been designed by two of the world’s most respected golf course architecture firms. Streamsong marks the third time Tom Doak and the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have built courses at the same resort. The other two places-Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon and Barnbougle Dunes Resort in Tasmania-aren’t too shabby. Streamsong is unique because the courses were built simultaneously and are products of a remarkable collaboration. Throughout the entire process, the course architects shared information, walked the grounds together, and even planned holes together.
At first blush, you may be wondering why anybody would try to bring world-class golf and a major resort to a remote and seemingly nondescript part of Florida. The best answer is the Streamsong site, which is utterly unlike the vast prairieland that surrounds it. Although the mining venture dates back to the 1880s, by the 1960s, most of it had ceased. Vegetation soon overran the land, which was filled with huge piles of sand-essentially becoming sand dunes-and sizable lakes and lagoons. One of those lakes acquired a reputation for some of the best bass fishing in Florida. Other wildlife, from deer to otters, alligators, and an incredible variety of bird species, also flourished. In 2008, the Mosaic Company, which has long reclaimed mining land for public recreational or environmental uses, began planning its first resort venture. The sandy terrain was ideal for inland links-style golf and the company vowed that the only major buildings on the site would be the clubhouse and the lodge. With nothing else in the area, the resort should be a genuinely peaceful retreat.
Tom Doak and the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw each began looking at the site in 2009. The ground now inhabited by the two courses was only supposed to be home to one golf course. Mosaic had designated another site a few miles away for the second eighteen, but the course architects found it lacking, and each firm wanted to work on the prime land. Doak and Coore then began to look for a way to fit both courses into the main site. Alas, try as they might, two eighteens simply wouldn’t fit into the intended golfing grounds.
A breakthrough occurred when Bill Coore returned and looked over some land on the edge of the site that hadn’t been considered before. This new area wasn’t as readily suited for golf, but it was arguably even more dramatic than the rest of the site. Although there was still mining work to do there, the addition of six holes from this new spot finally gave Streamsong two coherent layouts.
Once the courses were finally designated-Streamsong Red became the Coore-Crenshaw course and Streamsong Blue the Tom Doak course-the designers proceeded to put their unique stamps on the routings. However, in truth, Bill Coore selected some holes on the Blue and Tom Doak selected some holes on the Red. This close collaboration would not have been possible had Tom Doak, Bill Coore, and Ben Crenshaw not been so compatible. They are very familiar with each other’s work and share a minimalist design philosophy.
Tom Doak on how the Streamsong courses took shape
Tom Doak: The original idea was for Streamsong to have two courses on two different sites. One of the sites was great, but the other was inferior from an architectural standpoint, and it was clear neither of us would want to get stuck with the second site. So we tried to see if there was a way to get 36 holes on the primary site. We were sharing information the whole way among ourselves and sharing information that worked for the client. Bill did a few routing plans and came up with about 25 holes he liked. I tried to see how many I could fit in, and got it up to maybe 33 or 34, but any more than 30 would have been too cramped in. Then one day Bill walked over to the edge of the site, to an area that we hadn’t previously considered as part of the site. Some mining work remained to be done there, but he found land suitable for the remaining holes.
Streamsong’s two wind-buffeted, sand-based, inland links feature incredible variety. Doak’s team and Coore-Crenshaw not only had heaving dunes to work with, but also less dramatic rolling terrain reminiscent of the Nebraska Sandhills. Most of the holes have between 10 and 20 feet of elevation change, and others rise and fall by 20 to 40 feet. On top of this, the site also has large deep lakes-something you generally don’t find near sand dunes. Further, many trees surround the site, and some trees are integrated into the routings. It’s all very natural looking, but also hyper-natural. As Tom Doak said, if you had blindfolded him and asked him where he was, he would have never guessed Central Florida.
Doak told us he was quite pleased to work on Streamsong Blue. Of the two routings, the Blue has more natural landforms and is more conducive to minimalism. Whereas most holes track easterly and westerly, the routing benefits immeasurably from a couple that head north and south. The course also changes character in sections. Some holes are flatter; some are hillier.Whereas several tests are sheltered and a few have trees in play, others are completely exposed.
Bill Coore on how the courses were named and assigned
Bill Coore: We had made a topographical map of the two routings. One course was in blue ink; the other was in red ink. Since we couldn’t determine who would do which course, the Mosaic people suggested we flip a coin. Tom didn’t want to do that. I know Tom figured that if Ben and I were choosing, we would take the Blue course because the terrain on it was more naturally suited for golf holes. The Red course clearly needed substantial earth moving to form golf holes in the new area. Ben and I walked both courses, and he was fine with either. Finally, Jimbo Wright, who does our shaping, said, “well, if you have a choice, pick the course with more work!” And so we took the Red.
One of the dominant features of the entire Streamsong property is a giant “crater” that runs through the middle part of the site. It comes into play on the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 8th of Streamsong Blue. Doak expects the “short” par three to be especially memorable. It features one of the most unusual greens he has ever created. The putting surface extends some 70 yards from front to back. It is also angled. If the pin is in the front left, the hole may play only about 100 yards. Should the pin be set in the back right, the hole can play 160 to 170 yards. The edge of the crater looms behind the green on the left. Pull it left, and you’re gone.
Coore-Crenshaw’s Streamsong Red ebbs and flows from spectacular landforms to more subdued terrain. The first two holes pass through towering dunes. Holes 3 and 4 are beautiful, but much less dramatic than the openers. Bill Coore told us he thinks numerous holes, especially any of the tests from 13 to 18, are liable to be a player’s favorite.
We’ll focus on the 18th, an arresting and fun par five that will play 520 yards from the back. The hole tracks slightly uphill off the tee with gaping bunkers on the left. Many players will have a go at the green on the second shot. The green sits at the base of the most massive dune on the course. The entire right side of the green is like a giant false front, or, as Bill Coore says, a “valley of sin.” If you miss your approach to the right, your ball will make a right turn and come back toward the fairway. This will leave a recovery shot rife with interesting possibilities. You could putt, chip, or even pitch. It’s a nice way to finish and will yield its fair share of eagles and bogeys.
The clubhouse is being built below the dune line so as not to dominate the landscape. In fact, the clubhouse can only be seen from a few points on the course. The pro shop, locker rooms, restaurant, private dining room, and meeting space will be on the first floor. The second floor will house 12 guestrooms: eight standard kings and four rooms with two queen beds. Each room will have a flat-screen television and a bathroom with twin sinks and a shower. A shared common room with a large flat-screen television, two card tables, and a small bar will be available exclusively to overnight guests.
Streamsong attempts to evoke the serenity of its secluded surroundings. The resort expects to open its six-story, 216-room lodge and conference center, set on a big lake a good mile from the clubhouse, in the fall of 2013. The guestrooms will be somewhat larger than the clubhouse guestrooms and will showcase stunning views with floor-to-ceiling windows. There will be a fine dining restaurant, a main restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a rooftop bar with a small kitchen. A full service spa as well as a small fitness room will also be available. Resort activities will include an outdoor pool, a hiking and birding trail, and some of Florida’s best bass fishing.
KemperSports (Bandon Dunes Resort) is managing the golf and Interstate Hotels and Resorts (Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens, Sawgrass Marriott) is handling the hospitality operations. At press time, neither green fees nor room rates and packages had been established.
Requests for soft tee times and reservations can be made at streamsongresort.com.
The architects on what is so special about Streamsong
Tom Doak: This site, with its dunes and elevation changes and lakes, is just so varied and well suited for golf. It’s unlike anything around, and though mining was done here, it seems like a great natural space.
Bill Coore: The first question you might ask is “Why would anybody build two courses in this remote area of Florida in this economy?” But once you come here and look at the site, you’ll see how unusual and dramatic and beautiful it is in a rugged sort of way. The two courses are really good and they’re going to be very enjoyable to play.