Living on the east coast, I am often envious of the people out west where there is highly concentrated, top-notch public golf. Monterey has Pebble Beach, Spyglass, Spanish Bay, Poppy Hills, and Pasatiempo. Oregon has the golf mecca of Bandon. To be sure, the east coast has some really good public golf courses, but not as concentrated as these two areas (North Carolina certainly has great public golf, but, still, not this many top 100 courses within a three-wood shot of each other). That's why the opening of Streamsong was such a game changer. From New York, it's a 2.5 hour flight to Tampa and then an hour drive to the resort. Though Streamsong is indeed in the middle of nowhere, it is fairly easy to get to (unlike Bandon that is a 4 hour drive from a major airport). Now, we have three top-tier public golf courses in one place.
The resort as a whole finds a middle ground between the golf only mentality of Bandon and the ritz of Pebble Beach. Streamsong is certainly a golf-centric resort like Bandon, but I would happily spend a few afternoons here not golfing. The place has an overall fun vibe--a bunch of good restaurants, a cool looking underground spa, an infinity pool overlooking a central lake, fire pits, and a great lawn where people were playing lawn games.
As to the golf, there are three courses designed by, arguably, the best living architects in the game today--Coore & Crenshaw (Red course), Doak, (Blue course), and Hanse (Black course). The resort is built on the grounds of a former phosphate mine and the entire property is defined by monstrous dunes and abundant sand. I only had time to play the Blue course, so I cannot compare the courses. However, I do get the impression that the courses are not as diverse as what you will find at Bandon, which I think of as having three distinct terrains (Bandon and Pacific using both ocean and inland terrain, Old Mac using only inland, and Trails using forest). I am sure there are differences between the Blue, Red, and Black, but nothing as extreme as what you will find at Bandon.
Now, let's get onto some individual holes on the Blue.
1st--330 yard par four.
The first is a grand entrance to the course. You have to trek up a steep hill between towering dunes to get to the tee. Once there, you get a sweeping view of the property. At only 330 yards and a downhill tee shot, the first hole is pretty easy. Hit a decent drive and leave yourself a wedge in over the massive bunkers protecting the green.
Path leading up to first tee.
First tee at 8:00 in the morning.
Approach to first--looks scarier than it is. A large green sits just over those bunkers and you should be no more than 100 yards out.
Looking back towards the first tee through the early morning haze.
2nd--530 yard par five.
The second continues to ease you into the round. The drive and second shot both provide for a generous landing area on this dogleg right hole.
Second tee. The line is at the grove of trees in the middle of the photo.
Approach to second.
Bunker to the right of second green.
3rd--370 yard par four.
This is a tough hole. There is nothing terribly tricky about the drive--just hit the huge fairway. But the approach is to a green sitting atop a steep hill. Come up short and it is going to roll 40 yards backwards, leaving you with a pretty terrifying chip where there is a decent chance the ball will roll back to your feet if you come up short again. This was my favorite scoring hole of the day. Sprayed my drive to the right into a bunker, chunked it out to 50 yards short of the green, pitched up that scary hill to 8 feet, and made a extremely fast downhill putt for par.
Third tee shot with the green up to the left.
Approach to third.
Chip you are faced with if you come up short of the third green.
4th--417 yard par four.
I assume the term Beauty and the Beast is used to describe many golf holes. If it is, this is one of them. The hole is defined by a fairway bunker the face of which must be 15 feet high. It is simply mammoth. The only larger one I have ever seen is on Pacific Dunes' sixth hole.
Approach to four.
Managed to avoid this monster.
5th--121 yard par three.
Clearly do not go left on this short par three. But, what you cannot see from the tee is that landing the ball fifteen feet right of the pin causes your ball to catch a ridge and funnel down to a different tier of the green, thus making the landing zone on this green exceptionally small.
6th--317 yard par four.
If you have not noticed the dunes yet, you can't miss them on this hole. The green is built into the large dune you see in the distance.
Flag peeking out over the bunker.
Approach to six.
Dune behind sixth green.
7th--188 yard par three.
Probably the most recognizable hole on the course--a downhill par three to a green in a punchbowl of dunes. The green itself is divided in two by a monstrous ridge. If the pin is on the left, as it was on our day, hit the middle of the green and it will feed towards the hole. Get on the wrong section of the green though, and you will be three putting.
This gives you an idea of just how towering the dunes are.
Really neat bridge leading to seventh green.
8th--437 yard par four.
This is the second hardest hole on the course, and I felt it. Because of its length, the carry required on your second shot to clear the marsh is not easy, and if you bail out too much to the right, you will find some deep bunkers.
Tee shot on eight with the resort's lodge rising in the background.
Approach to eight.
9th--541 yard par five.
The ninth is a really fun tee shot--blind and over enormous bunkers akin to the one on the fourth hole. After the tee shot, the hole is pretty straightforward.
Tee shot on nine.
Bunkers to clear on nine.
Rest of the ninth hole.
Terrain to the right of the ninth fairway.
10th--161 yard par three.
This is one of the weaker holes on the course as there is not a ton going on. Short, flat, and routine bunkers. It is among the easier holes though, so your back could get off to a good start. Also, be sure to get some tacos at the snack shack on this hole--they were surprisingly good. Pace of play was not a problem at all on the day I played. However, my playing partners said it was a bit slow for them in previous days. Though the tacos are tasty, perhaps not the ideal food to serve at the turn from an efficiency perspective.
From the right of ten green. This is one of my favorite photos ever taken on a golf course.
11th--454 yard par four.
Here it is, the hardest hole on the course. The difficulty really comes from the length (especially when playing into the wind, as we did) and a tricky green.
Approach to eleven.
12th--390 yard par four.
This hole was really made by the green complex--a multi-tiered green and a bunker on the left that I am sure catches a lot of shots.
Approach to twelve.
13th--293 yard par four.
Earlier I said that the bunker on four reminded me of the bunker on Pacific Dunes' sixth hole. The entire 13th hole here reminds me of the sixth hole at Pacific. Short par four to a perched green with a deadly bunker to the left, a steep collection area to the right, and a narrow green. Wit this set up, if you hit the left bunker, there is a likelihood you will go over the green into the steep collection area and you could find yourself in a ping pong match with yourself.
Approach to thirteen.
If the thirteenth green complex was not scary enough.
14th--510 yard par five.
Similar to the ninth hole, this par five is among the weaker holes in my opinion. Given it is uphill, it is a three shot hole with little risk reward. Hit your drive to a big fairway, layup, and then go at the green. Danger up the left, but if you manage the hole properly, you should be executing fairly easy, strategic shots.
Tee shot on fourteen.
Approach to fourteen.
15th--398 yard par four.
Really enjoyed this hole. If you are a long hitter, there is a risk you will hit the mound of bunkers in the middle of the fairway, in which case you either have to lay up or thread the needle between the bunker and the rough (your choice whether you go left or right of the bunkers).
Bunkers in middle of fifteen fairway.
Approach to fifteen from left of bunkers.
16th--215 yard par three.
Tough hole--long, uphill par three with a strongly canted green. Straight into the wind when I played, a baby driver was in order, which works one in five times. It worked this time and made a nice par here.
17th--573 yard par five.
Long par five that doglegs right on your third shot. Like a bunch of other holes on the course, this hole is defined by a set of cross bunkers that threaten your second shot. Get over them, and you are well positioned for your third. Wind up in the bunkers and it is effectively a stroke penalty. Lay up short and you are making the hole much longer.
Cross bunkers on seventeen.
Close look at those cross bunkers.
18th--453 yard par four.
Strong finishing hole. The drive is not all that interesting--wide, unprotected fairway. The second, though, is blind and bunkers lurk everywhere. It is quite the hard hole given its length and the bunkers that make it difficult to run balls up to the green. This may be a situation where you play conservatively and not be terribly disappointed with a bogey.
Approach to eighteen.
You will likely come up a bit short of the eighteenth, and, if you do, this is what you will be facing.
After having done this review, I have realized how much I loved this course. It has all the characteristics that make courses most enjoyable to me--fun, some jaw dropping scenery, and a design that makes you think on most shots. There are very few weak holes--I'd probably put 10, 11, and 14 in that category. Offsetting these holes are some insanely good ones--the opener is a great greeting to the course, the monster bunker on four, the dune on six, and the dune-flanked seventh. I think these four will be the ones I never forget from this course. I can't wait to get back, replay the Blue, and try the other ones!
After I completed my round, the staff let me walk around the course a bit as the sun was going down. Below are some random pictures taken at sunset.
Moonrise over the dunes.
First hole on the blue.
Clubhouse for the red and blue courses.
Shot of the seventh green from the first tee.
Lakeside fire pits.
Pool overlooking the lake.
Lake behind the lodge with the pool, firepits, and great lawn on its edges.