Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Streamsong Resort Review

Step onto the back terrace of the Streamsong clubhouse, and  the scene in front of you doesn't look like Florida.

The wild, exotic sand mounds-- some as high as 75 feet-- conjure up images of Ballybunion in Ireland or the somewhat bizarre Tobacco Road in Pinehurst. The unusual terrain looks ominous, but it's definitely an inviting setting for golfers.

You're in Florida, alright. Smack in the middle of nowhere.

Streamsong is an 80 minute drive from Orlando and about an hour from Tampa. Set in Polk County near Fort Meade, the resort is still a 40 minute drive from the nearest possible hotel options in Lakeland.

That said, there's a phenomenal clubhouse on site, which sleeps 16, and an upscale bar and steak restaurant.

The Golf

Streamsong has 36 holes of golf set on terrain that was previously used as a phosphate strip mine. While the miners have packed up and left the site, what they left behind is soaring sand mounds, lakes and vegetation that are a something to behold.

Developed by Mosaic, the company that has owned the land for more than five decades, Streamsong has been called by some writers as Bandon Dunes South. From a golf standpoint, I'd say it's right up there with Bandon, but I'll reserve judgement on the overall experience till its open for a couple of years and we see if the service level on and off the course stays consistent.

Two of the most respected design teams in the world were recruited to fashion the land into world-class golf courses.

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw's team built the Red Course and Tom Doak's Renaissance Golf Design group did the Blue Course.

On my visit, I played the Red Course, but did not have time to play the Blue. However, I took an extensive cart tour of the layout.

A couple of things I really like about both courses are the wide, very generous landing areas off the tees. It makes them more playable and helps speed of play.

If you play the correct set of tees for your game, you can score well on both layouts when playing well.

The Red Course has several large green complexes for roll-offs, which I like, and Coore and Crenshaw offer numerous opportunities for bump and run shots. They also limit the carries over water to par 3's. With few large trees, the wind comes into play often and you'll need a good ground game to do well.

On the Blue, the first thing you'll notice is the gargantuan elevated first tee, the highest point on the property. The greens are large on the Blue and it appears to have deeper bunkers than the Red. There are also more forced carries over water.

Favorite Holes

One of the great things about the Red Course is that no two holes are even remotely alike. It's difficult to single out some holes as being better than others and my choices are very subjective.

First, let me say, I'm a sucker for short par 4's and Crenshaw and Coore have provided a couple of doozies on the front nine.

My absolute favorite is the 312 yard (from back tees) no. 9. With a good poke off the tee you can find the green. From the black tees it's 271 yards and from the silver it's 257 yards. The green is gigantic so even if you reach it, the chances of a three putt are high. The 330 yard (from back tees) no. 4 is another superb short par 4.

For a par 3, you won't find a better one, in my opinion, than no. 16, a 208-yard (from back tees), 184-yards (Black) and 160 yards (silver). A stunning view from an elevated tee and undulating green complex with a bailout area to the left dominate this great golf experience.


The sleek, minamalist design clubhouse has the avant-garde appearance of something you might see in L.A., not the wilds of Central Florida.

 It has 12 private guest rooms, a veranda overlooking a lake, a golf shop, bar and three meal/steak restaurant named Fifty-Nine.

Appointed with plush leather chairs, design carpeting and rich wood fixtures, the ambiance of the clubhouse is decidedly upscale.

10 Little Things I Like About Streamsong

1. The bye hole, designed by Tom Doak, near the clubhouse, which is great for settling bets.

2. Small chunks of railroad track used as tee markers.

3. The fast greens are among the best I've played in Florida.

4. The frosted beer glasses in the bar.

5. The great selection of quality beers on tap like Goose Island 312 and Smithwick's.

6. The minimalist design of the clubhouse and the elegant, sophisticated furnishings.

7. The emphasis on using a caddie and walking.

8. The phenomenal practice putting green.

9. No home anywhere on or within miles of the golf courses.

10. The spectacular views from the elevated tee boxes on no. 7 and no. 16 on the Red Course

It Remains to Be Seen

Streamsong Resort had been open only a few weeks before my visit in late January (2013).

You have to be very careful on evaluating a golf course facility in its embryonic stages. Who knows if the eager beaver, overly friendly staff of the first few months will lose their enthusiasm and the service level drops. We'll have to wait and see at Streamsong.

One of my concerns is what the experience will be like playing in the torturously hot months of June, July and August. With virtually no shade on the courses, it might be somewhat of a death march, especially if you're walking.

In conversation with staff members, several said they had to travel more than 30 minutes from their homes to Streamsong. Hopefully, they won't tire of the commute and the service level will stay up.

Slated to open in late 2013, the 216-room lodge looks like a luxurious gem if the developers follow through on their promises.  It will include a spa, guided bass fishing and sporting clays range.

Presently, the best hotel options are a Residence Inn and Courtyard by Marriott in Lakeland, about a 40 minute drive.

Important Information if You Go

* When you drive out to Streamsong, be aware, there is very little signage for the resort. To be sure, don't look for any large billboards because there aren't any. There are a couple of little road signs (see below), but beyond that, not much.

* I found the cell phone service in the area to be hit and miss, so you can't always rely on your GPS, which is annoying.

* The county roads are not well marked, either, especially County Road-630, which is the main arterial to Fort Green Road, which leads to Streamsong.

To Play

The main number at Streamsong Resort for tee times is 863-354-6980.

Premier Golf, a highly respected golf travel company, has a special "Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue Package" starting at $495 per person that includes one night of accommodations off site, breakfast off site, 2 rounds of golf with cart, all taxes and special golf and lodging benefits for PGA Professionals. Call 888-258-4653 or click

Monday, January 14, 2013

10 Hot Golf Travel Destinations in 2013

Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic

Are you in search of new golf getaway frontiers in 2013?

Here are ten hot golf travel destinations where adventurous golfers will congregate this year:

1. Puerto Rico--This picturesque island with its great beaches, tropical rain forest, excellent rum and well designed golf courses has always been a bit underrated as a vacation destination. With the opening of the new Ritz-Carlton Reserve Hotel in Dorado Beach and Royal Isabella golf course, Puerto Rico will become even more attractive to visitors. Stretching along rugged cliffs in the northwest region of the island, Royal Isabella, located about 75 miles from San Juan International Airport, will immediately take its place as one of the Caribbean's best layouts. Other popular places to play include Bahia Beach Resort & Club, Dorado Beach Resort & Club, Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort and Trump International Golf Club.

2. Biarritz, France--"Tre bien" messieur, the golf in France is indeed, very good. The unofficial French golf capital is Biarritz, on the Atlantic coast in the southwestern corner of the country, which has 10 golf courses. Among the top layouts are Biarritz Le Phare, the second oldest course in France (1888) and Seignosse, a Robert von Hagge design with wildly undulating terrain.

Kauai, Hawaii

3. Kauai, Hawaii--It's the road less traveled in Hawaii. While tourist throngs gravitate to Oahu and Maui, Kauai offers a more sedate environment with stunning scenery and an impressive menu of golf courses. You run out of adjectives describing the island's garden-like beauty and course designers have taken full advantage of the exceptional terrain on the island to build picturesque and challenging layouts. Top places to play, include Kauai Lagoons, Poipu Bay, Pukea, Princeville and Wailua Municipal.

4. Ireland--A year-long celebration called "The Gathering" is designed to entice an estimated 70 million people who claim Irish ancestry to the Emerald Isle. The recent decrease in the Value-Added Tax from 13.5% to 9% is added motivation for tourists and American, Aer Lingus and United are gearing up more service to Ireland. Flying to Dublin and Shannon is convenient and a good value. For golfers, the emergence of Irish golfers Rory McIlroy-- the number one player in the world-- and Graeme McDowell has given Ireland lots of notoriety in the golf world. Among the courses on most must-play lists are Ballybunion, Lahinch, Portmarnock, Waterville, Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Doonbeg and European Club.

5. Belek, Turkey-- On Turkey’s southern coast, the beach destination of Belek has 14 golf courses with designer tags like Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, David Feherty and Irish golf designer David Jones. There are more than 30 four-star and five-star hotels in Belek. In 2012, the region took center stage in the golf world when it hosted the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final at Antalya Golf Club (Sultan Course).

Turning Stone Ayunote Course
6. Finger Lakes Region, New York--Encompassing towns like Utica and Rome in the central part of the state, this region, known for its wineries and craft breweries, has more than 30 golf courses. The golf season runs from April to November. The focal point for golf in the region is Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, which has five championship golf courses highlighted by the Atunyote Golf Club course, a Tom Fazio design.

Corales at Puntacana
7. Dominican Republic-- The "D.R." is on a roll and has taken its place as one of the Caribbean's best places to tee up. Selected as the Golf Destination of the Year 2013 for Latin America/Caribbean by the International Association of Golf Travel Operators (IAGTO). Spectacular expansive, luxury resort complexes like Casa de Campo, Puntacana and Cap Cana feature courses by the biggest names in design, Pete Dye, Tom Fazio and Jack Nicklaus. Besides the adroitly designed layouts, stunning picturesque golf course views and fantastic weather, an added bonus is you can enjoy a fine Dominican cigar during or after a round.

Cabot Links
8. Nova Scotia, Canada--Dubbed Canada's answer to Pebble Beach, Cabot Links is one of the most exciting new golf courses to be introduced in North America in recent years. This phenomenal links layout on the western side of Cape Breton Island in the town of Inverness in Nova Scotia is a wonderland of stunning ocean views, deep pot bunkers and swales. Opened in June, Cabot Links was developed by Mike Keiser, who created Bandon Dunes in Oregon. A second course, Cabot Cliffs, designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, is scheduled to open in mid-2014.

Streamsong Resort
9. Polk County, Florida--With the January opening of the fabulous Streamsong Resort, this county, about 45 minutes west of Orlando, will take center stage in 2013. The two 18-hole championship golf courses at Streamsong are collaborative designs by highly respected golf architecture firms, Coore & Crenshaw (Bill Coore and Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw) and Renaissance Golf Design (Tom Doak). The Coore-Crenshaw and Doak teams have been awarded six of the Top 20 Best Modern Golf Courses by Golfweek Magazine. Set on formerly mined land, the courses incorporate hills, dramatic landforms, sweeping sand dunes, ridges and vistas. Other courses to play while in-county, include Diamondback, Southern Dunes, Providence and Mountain Lake.

10. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania--Site of the deadliest and most influential battle of the Civil War, Gettysburg is one of our nation's most important historical sites. In 2013, it will commemorate the 150th anniversaries of the Gettysburg Address and the bloody Civil War battle. Key events will take place in June and July. The undulating terrain, dense woodlands and winding streams that made Gettysburg such a torturous place for advancing armies to attack, have provided an excellent topographical pallette for innovative golf course designers. Some of the more popular courses in the area are the Links at Gettysburg, Bridges Golf Club, Penn National Golf Club and Carroll Valley Resort.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Graeme McDowell's Nona Blue Tavern: A Video Preview

U.S. Open Champion Graeme McDowell, the amiable Irishman and Rory McIlroy buddy, is set to open a new tavern/restaurant called Nona Blue in the Spring (2013) in Orlando, Florida. For a quick overview of what's to come, check out this visual preview:

Click logo or picture for video:

Future home of Nona Blue at Lake Nona Village in Orlando, FL