Streamsong Resort, Red Course Rankings:
Golf Digest: #18 US public, #100 US greatest overall, #4 Florida
GolfWeek: #30 US modern, #2 Florida public, #12 US resort
Golf.com: #52 US top 100, #12 US public, #2 Florida public
Designer: Bill Coore, Ben Crensaw (2012)
From the moment you turn on to the several mile long driveway of the extensively rural Streamsong Resort near Bowling Green, Florida, there is evidence everywhere that this is a different and amazing golf destination.
The entrance sign, a large stone slab with the “S” logo on it, stands out front and assures visitors that, yes, they have managed to find the correct driveway. Put the windows down and look all over – all you see is unspoiled land and nature. And the golf courses have the same feel: Unspoiled, natural, in harmony with the land.
Zen-like, if you will. It is not all peacefulness, though, as the rugged landscape of the Red course unfolds over and alongside alligator-infested swamps, deep, craggy bunkers, dramatic mounding in the fairways and a wonderful ebb and flow to the fairway levels.
Golfers get lost in nature over the first six holes – the most scenic and wild stretch on the property – before coming back toward the clubhouse and some fantastic inland layouts that challenge and amaze. The overall feel to the sequence on the Red course is one of intimidation in the midst of an abundance of glory.
Considerably more difficult off the tee than its sister Blue course (WiscoGolfAddict review of Streamsong, Blue course), the Coore/Crenshaw Red layout eases up on the throttle around the greens – while less wildly undulating than Doak’s putting surfaces, they can still never be described as “Easy.” Fast and true, downhill putts travel seemingly forever, and subtle yet strong breaks leave very few easy clean-up putts.
Slightly higher rated by all national and state-wide publications than the Blue course, the Red course has some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen on a golf course. Coore and Crenshaw crafted this magnificent topography expertly in their creation of the nation’s 18th best public course (Golf Digest, 2015/2016) and 30th best overall modern golf course in the country (GolfWeek, 2015).
As a quick disclaimer, I was having a lot of issues with my cameras during this trip, so I apologize for the photos where there is a smudge in the top-left. It started when I got to the course and found that my backup camera (my girlfriend’s Digital Elph) had a crack in the viewing area from shipping, so I took my original Digital Elph to the first tee of the Blue course and it was giving me an error that the memory card was locked. I tinkered with that for a while, unsuccessfully, before going to my really old Digital Elph that appears to have some marks on the lens that will not come off. Thankfully, though, I did not have to go to my last resort of the iPhone!
The first hole tee box is situated just beyond Streamsong’s practice green, and features elevated tees that look over a large pond teeming with some of the largest gators I saw the entire trip.
I saw three during our trek across the bridge to the first fairway, including one that looked massive. I am told there have been occasions when a twelve-footer will come out around the bridge area, suspending play for short periods of time.
While this was not the case during our round, they are everywhere and I can imagine running in to one of these behemoths just before the fairway could get your heart pumping early.
The tee shot on one is one of the most forgiving on the Red course, with a wide fairway and straightaway layout. Slightly uphill from the fairway, the green is situated between large dunes with deep fairway bunkers short, short-left and right of the putting surface.
The second hole tees up over massive ponds with a fairway that runs hard left to right. “Don’t try to cut off any distance to the right,” I was told, and took aim at the middle-left portion of the fairway. A dramatic slice had it going toward the right side, and I could have sworn I saw it bounce. Gone – the fairway on the right runs hard in to the pond, and anything hit there will bound toward the water.
The first par five on the course, this hole is all about the tee shot. Play it safe and stay away from the right side and this is an excellent opportunity for an early birdie.
With what appears to be a sliver of a driving area to target, the third hole on the Red course features another fairly intimidating tee shot. The fairway doglegs right, though, and leaves a little more room toward that side than appears off of the tee. Target the trap straight away to set up an uphill approach to a green that falls hard left-to-right just over the front-left green-side trap.
An almost drivable par four, the fourth is straight away from around 300 yards. Traps abound short of the green complex, and the green on this hole reminds me a lot of the putting surface on the 14th at Erin Hills – elevated with a hard swing that has to be taken in to consideration in order to get the approach shot anywhere near the hole.
The tall mounding beyond the green creates a back-stop for the backside of the green, and helps hold approaches with back pin locations.
A long 453-yard par four from the tips, the fifth on the Red course is considerably easier from the 344 yards one set in. With a large inland pond covering the entire right side of the fly zone, the smart play here is to the left or middle of the fairway to set up an approach to a small green that borders the pond.
The first par three on the Red course, the sixth is a beauty with a large, slanted green complex situated amid craggy hills and large sand blow-outs. The green on six is fairly similar to the seventh on the Blue course, which rises hard toward the back and can demand some extremely long uphill putts.
The seventh is a manageable par five just over 500 yards, with a large pond running the entire left side of the fairway. The 18th fairway of the Blue course runs beyond it and to the right, which is the first time on the Red course where evidence of other golfers or civilization, in general, can be seen.
A cute little par three, the eighth is level from the tee to green, with hellacious green-side bunkering and a green that is anything but level. This hole seems simple from the tee, but its simplicity can easily woo players in to a lot of trouble if not careful.
Finishing off the front nine is not only a fun, reachable par four, but also the best on-course dining experience I have ever seen: The Shack BBQ! Take the short dirt pathway to the right of the ninth hole’s tee boxes and enjoy some fantastic barbecue on the go – everything is made to be hand-eaten and create zero messes. I had the country-style rib on a stick, and absolutely loved it.
The ninth, like the fourth, is straight away and drivable off the tee, but the small, elevated green and front-side traps make actually hitting it a task.
One of the longest par fours on the course, the tenth hole has a sharp dogleg left with much more room to work with on the right than what is shown off the tee.
A long approach is going to come in to play for anyone on this hole, but make sure to take in to consideration that the approach is probably longer than expected… A huge swale just before the green makes up for 30 yards of approach area that will undoubtedly create a punch-and-run situation for a third shot.
Another long dogleg left par four, the eleventh plays toward the central sand traps, then meanders uphill and left toward a crowned putting surface with traps everywhere. The sides of the crowned green complex are shaved tight, forcing anything short, left, right or long to fall off hard.
The longest par four on the Red course, the twelfth plays from 472 from the first tees in, and 500 from the tips! This is a strong, strong par four with a downhill-running fairway and a litter of sand traps that line the right side to help keep errant approach shots from finding the lake.
A peak back up the fairway on twelve:
The thirteenth and fourteenth holes on the Red course reminded me a lot of another of my all-time favorite golfing destinations: The Prairie Club in Valentine, Nebraska. This was also not lost on Julian, one of our caddies for the round, who spent the previous year in Valentine at the Prairie Club (another KemperSports property and world-class pure golf destination).
The thirteenth is a strong par five uphill with a number of blind target shots. While it is simple off the tee, the second and third shots require golfers to know their overall goals before hitting.
The hole plays straight away off the tee, then veers uphill and to the right, making any shot toward the green in two completely blind.
Deer traipsing the fairway traps left:
The fourteenth on the Red course reminded me a lot of the sixteenth on the Dunes course at the Prairie Club. Both holes are relatively level from tee to green, but have limited visibility and a whole lot going on between and to the sides of the green complexes.
Miss left on this hole and find a lot of sand. Miss short and find a severe false front.
A long par four from over 450 yards from the first two sets of tees, the fifteenth has one of the widest fairways on the entire course, with plenty of room to miss right. The fairway runs hard uphill and to the left, though, which means cheating toward the left side of the driving zone can set up a much more direct, less problematic approach.
The sixteenth hole on the Red course is simply gorgeous: The huge inland lake that creeps up to the clubhouse and is played over for the neighboring seventh hole on the Blue course needs to be flown to one heck of a challenging biarritz green complex (a nearly 80-yard long green from front-to-back, with a chasm in the middle that means hitting the right section of the green is absolutely critical. The left side of the green on sixteen falls off hard to a collection area, while anything short is either in the water or one of the affronting bunkers.
My tee shot was about 15 feet left of the front pin location, and if it didn’t go in the hole for birdie would have probably gone ten feet by. The scorecard doesn’t show how a two was carded, though, and a birdie is a birdie!
A short par four by the Red course’s back nine standards, the seventeenth is a brute of a 384-yard two-shotter! An ocean of sand covers the right side of the driving fly zone, and a huge blow-out comes in to play on the left. There is a seemingly very small target zone to hit here, and it’s true. Manage to miss the traps off the tee and find a mostly blind approach shot over the fairway’s mounding to a small putting surface with a deep pot bunker left and one short-right.
While hitting a shorter iron in on seventeen is a nice change of pace on the back nine, this “little” par four plays anything but easy.
A look at the blow-out fairway trap on the left side of the fairway:
Eighteen is a masterful finishing hole on the Red course. The dunes in the distance frame this hole so beautifully, and following them left to the green complex leaves very little doubt as to where this 500-plus yard par five finishes.
The left-side fairway trap is no fun to hit out of:
A look from the right side of the fairway shows the strong contours and false front on the right-side of the green complex:
For pure golf, the courses at Streamsong Resort are nothing short of world-class. A truly memorable walk, the layout on the Red course is rugged yet comfortable on the feet, challenging off the tees yet so aesthetically captivating that a lost ball here and there cannot possibly scar an overall golfing experience that breaks all the rules of “Florida golf.” No homes or commercial developments mar its natural perfection, which abounds early and often, and genius hole designs implemented by Coore, Crenshaw, Doak and their teams make strategic golf fun and rewarding.
Walk the courses at Streamsong, and stay on-site. For more information on these opportunities, visit my overall review of the resort here:
Location: Streamsong, FL
Yardage: Green-7148, Black-6584, Silver-6094, Gold-5184
Slope/Rating: Green-130/74.2, Black-125/71.7, Silver-119/69.4, Gold-122/70
Weekend Rates: $115 (Summer) to $225 (Winter)