Friday, December 13, 2013

52 (U.S.) / 12 (Public) Steamsong (Red)

November 8, 2013

Work sent me to Orlando for a show and while there, I knew I wanted to get in a round at Bay Hill, regardless of whether it is in the top 100 or not. Anything attached to a the name of an iconic legend like Arnold Palmer can't be missed.  My recount of that round is here.

So, about a week before I made the cross country trip from Seattle to Orlando, my good friend Joe contacted me.He advised his company is affiliated with Streamsong Resort and he could get me a tee time.  Knowing that Streamsong only opened for business in January 2013 and both the red and blue courses cracked the top 100 in the U.S., I knew I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to play it. To make the top 100 list is a feat in and of itself, but to be selected just a few short months after you've opened to the public is incredible. And Streamsong didn't disappoint.

Joe scheduled a tee time for us and we were set for a Friday mid-morning round. Since I only had one day, we had to make a tough decision of which to play, the red or the blue. With the red being ranked at 52 and the blue being ranked at 62, we decided on the higher ranked course.  I made sure to get up an hour before the sun came up to make the two and a half hour drive south from Orlando.  Just a heads up if you decide you want to give the courses a play - plan ahead.  There are no hotels, except the few rooms (14 I think) offered on the course, for at least 20 miles. The only restaurant around is the Fifty-Nine, which is housed inside the only building around with the pro shop and club house. And my Garmin couldn't find the place. Luckily my iPad could pull it up on Google maps and I was off.

I arrived about an hour before our scheduled tee time as I had planned. I always like to get to a course about an hour early so I can hit the range, explore the pro shop, and stretch out properly. As with everything else that is a good deal away from the resort, so is the parking lot. I dropped my bag at the bag drop and drove back to the parking lot. They have a shuttle to pick you up but I declined. I wanted to walk and soak in my surroundings. As mentioned in my "About me' blog post, I like to take in the environment surrounding a golf course as much as I like hitting balls on the course. It is a total experience and it helps soothe the soul.

I made my way into the clubhouse, a very sleek, hardwood floor entrance. I didn't take a photo of it as I don't yet own a digital camera (though that will hopefully get remedied after Christmas), so I use my cell phone currently to take all my photos.  Here is a photo I found on a quick Google search of the clubhouse.

The pro shop is to the left, the Fifty-Nine Restaurant is to the right.

After checking into the pro shop, paying more than I did at Harbour Town just a few weeks before, picking up a logo ball for my cabinet, and picking out the steel blue shirt with course logo I was going to buy after the round, I made my way out of the double doors pictured above and to the cart queue, caddie station, and starters area. I have to admit I was extremely impressed with the service. I hadn't taken more than five steps before the marshal came up and greeted me and introduced me to our caddie for the day. He then directed me to the cart that would take me to the driving range. Remember, nothing is close by Streamsong and the range is no different. It is a five minute ride. It was a windy day, a perfect match for this gorgeous links course, and my balls were being pushed 20 yards off the target line from the 20 mph sustained winds and gusts up to 30 or so.  Fortunately, the sun was out with only a few scattered clouds so it was a beautiful day. I made adjustments to where I aimed down range, and to my luck, I was striking the ball cleanly and well.  I was excited. A short time later, Joe arrived, hit a few balls, and we were off.

I didn't feel right pulling my phone out too many times on the course (another reason to pick up a small digital camera when I am able to), and we were off. As mentioned in my blog about Chambers Bay, links courses are where I feel the most comfortable and most at home with. As I looked out at the first hole of Streamsong Red, that feeling swelled inside of me and there is no place on the globe I would rather be at that moment than on that course. I've said a few times about how everything is far away from Streamsong Resort. Well, it pays off in spades for the playing experience.  After the clubhouse is out of sight, there isn't another building or structure around. It is just you and the golf course.  It is a pure golf experience and a gorgeous sight to behold.

I was nervous teeing off and shanked my first shot left.  My caddie immediately showed he was going to help us have the best round possible and told me to forget about it and hit another.  I felt a sense of calm come over me and struck a pure drive down the middle. 

It is what you would expect of a links course. There are gradual meandering hills and dunes (some of which can be 15 or 20 feet tall or taller), deep bunkers spread smartly throughout, a few blind shots, and a few feet into the rough will kill any chance of a good score on any particular hole due to the make up of the rough, whether it be tall scrub bushes or rocks and sand mixed.

One of the first things that made Streamsong stand out from other courses I played came on the 3rd hole. The hazards are...different. The tee box looks out over about 150 yards of water before it gives way to the fairway.  With the winds, it is a tough shot with a high dune to your right and a lake to your left. Luckily, I put mine down the middle. Once we rounded the bend, crossed the bridge, and entered back onto the fairway, we weren't expecting the lateral hazard we found.

The lakes are filled with alligators. You have to be careful if you hit the ball near the water's edge because you never know when one will be lurking. On hole 7 or 8, there is a gorgeous peninsula hole surrounded by water.  While we are putting, another 15 foot alligator started lazily swimming our way. Not wanting to tempt fate, we finished up and let him (or her) be. And alligators aren't the only natural hazard to watch out for. On the first hole, Joe had hit his into the rough. He started to venture out into it when our caddie warned us to be careful and that a golfer had been bitten by a rattlesnake or a copperhead just a week before. 

But, the dangers of the creatures were soon forgotten with the beauty of the course itself. As we made our way through the course, I pulled out my phone and shot the photo somewhere along the front nine. My apologies for forgetting what hole this is. In the future, I am going to be more careful about tracking what the photos are that I take.

Much like Chambers Bay, every hole is unique and has it's only little quirks. It makes for a very memorable round.  Did I mention I love Links courses? And I think this is one of the reasons. Every hole is different if allowed to mature on its own. As you can also see, there isn't a building or structure around.

Our caddie also took a photo of Joe and I, and since I don't have many photos of the course, I am going to post it here. (I am on the right in black shirt).

Again, you can see the high dunes in the background and the rolling hills in the left back of the shot.

On the back nine, the blue and red butt up against each other on a few holes. We were on 15, and we were looking down onto the shot that has made Streamsong famous from their blue course.

A gorgeous par 3 from an elevated tee.

I regret not taking more photos and will make sure to do so the next time I play Streamsong. The money spent was worth every penny and I would highly recommend either course to anyone. If I had a choice of clubs to join, Streamsong would be right up in the running as a top three pick. The fairways and greens were immaculate, the bunkers were in pristine condition, and no buildings around gives you a pure golf experience that is hard to find nowadays.

After an awesome day on the course, Joe and I retired to the Fifty-Nine Restaurant for beer and dinner. We caught up on old times. I then made a quick stop by the pro shop to pick up my shirt and made the long drive back to Orlando.

Joe advised to come back and play anytime. I am going to hold him to it the next time I am anywhere within 100 miles of the resort. I want to get the Blue Course under my belt and play the Red Course again (and again and again).  Thanks for an awesome day, Joe!

Streamsong Red is ranked #52 in the U.S. It was not ranked in 2011.

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