Make room in your bucket for Streamsong
At the end of our three exhilarating, energizing, exhausting and entirely excellent late-winter days at Streamsong, Mr. McMulligan and I couldn’t help but wonder why this place doesn’t appear on Coloradans’ bucket lists of dream golf getaways.
Sure, Bandon Dunes and Pebble Beach border the Pacific Ocean and Kiawah Island sits alongside the Atlantic. Pinehurst wraps its historic golf venues in Southern charm, shrimp and grits. But for the love of pure golf in a luxurious setting, Streamsong belongs in every conversation about those other destinations for which golfers make room on their calendars and in their budgets.
Especially us Colorado golfers in need of a winter haven. Though you’d never know it from the pictures, Streamsong is in Florida, with courses autographed by Tom Doak, Coore-Crenshaw and Gil Hanse, and Coore-Crenshaw opening a short course in late ‘23 just across from the Lodge. When Mr. McMulligan’s single-digit handicap buddies ask, “Is this my guy group’s bucket list trip?” he will be saying yes.
Mr. M: “I’ve traveled to Bandon Dunes twice, and Streamsong serves as an equivalent experience, sans the ocean cliffs, more consistent wind and cool weather. When I told other golfers where we were headed, the ones experienced in golf travel nodded their heads when I mentioned Streamsong. The sheer talent of the designers and the moonscape land makes it a bucket lister, and you can see that the ease of pushing around gypsum to build great holes makes the property a designer’s dream. It’s not an easy place to travel to and from – oh those foggy mornings on two-lane county roads with no shoulders – but once you’re there, it’s worthwhile. If you have the money and are a stud who can walk a lot of rounds, high season winter is for you and your group.”
Unlike at Bandon, Streamsong’s role model, walking isn’t always required – only in high season, this past year Dec. 13-March 1. At Streamsong, we walked 54 holes plus the seven-hole Roundabout in three days, after having played no golf at all in the two months after the December snowstorm closed Colorado courses. Ouch, our feet!
Luckily, we had an outstanding and personable caddie, which is such an essential part of Streamsong golf that even those playing from carts after March 1 must take along a group caddie. The only ways to play Streamsong without a caddie are to carry your own bag – and yes, we did that one day – or use your pushcart or one of those dreadful rickshaws resorts offer as discouragement.
Green fees have five tiers, the highest of them January through March and the lowest Memorial Day into mid-September, amounting to a $170 swing. Standard rooms that cost $450 in high season can be had for $150 in the sweatiest season.
The Streamsong conundrum, though, is that days are shortest in high season and only the early birds can play 36 holes before dark. Kemper Sports, which bought the 16,000-acre property from the Mosaic mining company late last year, is building a sweet little 3,000-yard 19-holer and putting course just across from the Lodge. It’s designed to be played in loops of six holes, 13 holes or 19 holes, and architect Bill Coore hopes for a November opening.
The 2012 resort has come a long way in its 11 years, and sales and marketing director Craig Falanga says he can tell from analytics that we Coloradans are taking note.
“Website traffic from there is definitely up,” Falanga says.
And one more thing. The Lodge has 228 rooms, and there’s nowhere else to stay in this middle-of-nowhere land: “We’re already booking up for fall,” he says. “Golfers who want to come for a weekend in November should be planning now.”
Here’s what to consider.
Fly from Denver to Tampa and plan for a 90-minute ride to the resort. Fly to Orlando and allow 2 hours. Neither drive should take that long, but traffic and drivers in the Florida metro areas are horrendous, which is why we recommend arranging a shuttle or car to the resort. Sit in the back seat and answer emails rather than looking nervously in your mirror at that big pickup riding your bunker. Once you get to the resort, you will never need a car. Shuttles run all over every five to six minutes, and there is nowhere else to go. On top of that, the staff at each course is accustomed to ensuring golf bags get to their tee times. No need to worry about your precious babies.
Streamsong’s guests are generally male private club members ages 40-70 with household incomes over $250,000. With high-season rooms starting in the $400s, green fees at $299 (add $100 if you’re not staying at the resort) and two-bagging caddie tabs at $200 plus tip, this can be a high-dollar destination. Bargain stay-and-plays may be found in the sweat season (July-August), when the days are long but no one wants to play 36 holes.
Streamsong does not look like Florida. It has elevation changes and massive sand dunes because it was built over phosphate mines. Our weather, in the mid 80s, was about 10 degrees unseasonably warm for February. Mornings were densely foggy, and sometimes there are delays on the golf courses even though they are more elevated than the Lodge. Hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through November. The area took a big hit from Ian last year, and we were sorry to find the Rooftop 360 tapas bar still closed for repairs.
I’m an average female golfer, a short hitter aspiring for bogeys and hoping to make up for them on the par 3s. The things I loved most about the Streamsong courses were their lack of forced carries – no big caverns to cross or lakes to leap – and their roll. My favorite was the Red, the shortest at 4,861 yards, and also the prettiest and most interesting. Thank you Coore and Crenshaw.
Mr. M, on the other hand, has a single-digit handicap and a beautiful game. Naturally, he sees a golf course differently, and I’ll let him go from here:
Mr. M: “All the courses are great, fair with inventive holes that create a variety of shot values and choices of how to play the holes. Streamsong plays more in the air than Bandon’s linksy on-the-ground game. How can you pick a favorite? Like Bandon, the courses are different yet similar, down to their skin-tight fairway lies. Everyone we spoke with, caddies included, prefers the Red. Being a huge Doak fan, I pronounced a tie between his Blue course and the Red. It’s hillier. The first tee is said to be the highest point in Florida, which coming from Colorado, was a bit of humor for us. From there the Blue caroms between the dunes and up and down slopes until you climb that hill again for the death drop par
“There were more water holes on the Red, which I played from the silver’s 6,008 yards. Inviting, inventive and interesting, the Red had some slopes to go with creative bunkering and wide fairways that even Crenshaw could hit (sorry Ben). I broke 80 for the first time on our trip. Without my caddie, I would not have made a putt, as my reads were so different on the typically sneaky Crenshaw greens. For comparison, the Red played easier than Coore-Crenshaw’s Colorado Golf Club in Parker, which bruises my noggin every time I tee it up on that hilly, deceptively difficult test that has hosted a Solheim Cup and Senior PGA championship.
“Our caddie for the first two days was a delight. One of the top loopers at Streamsong, Winston Valdez is from the Dominican and caddies for a living. Like any caddie, he was full of stories and I believed at least half of them. Most importantly, he is highly intelligent and instantly knew how to handle me: Tell me where to hit it, and shut up. He did that expertly and without request. He also understood my style of play instantly, which as a shorter hitter, is strategic, point-to-point approach angle execution instead of smash and gouge. Winston is also competitive, with other caddies who weren’t as good as he was, and by playing imaginary matches with me against other players. His spot-on green reads led to a birdie on the Blue and three birdies on the Red the next day. All his leaving me happily alone meant he could spend more time attending to Mrs. M, and of course use his Latin charm on her.
“Given it was the third walk in the heat – a Southerner would think it was mild without humidity – on mid-60s legs, I anticipated having my worst round at Hanse’s Black, which would play to 6,226 yards on the silver tees, in predicted 10- to 20-mph winds. Hanse is most famous for his Rio 2016 Olympic Course and remakes of Merion and Winged Foot. But he has plenty of other admired designs, and the Black is among them.
“We heard most about the humongous greens, but the fairways are gigantic as well, leaving the player little excuse to miss either. The sand traps never seemed to end. One-hundred-foot putts are the norm. The challenge is to avoid 4- and 5-putts on the medium speed MiniVerde greens. The Black was every bit the fantastic course, but my third favorite given my personal prejudice against blind shots (if they are good enough for Scotland, then by gad we should have them here too!). Chief among those on the Black was the punch bowl green of the ninth. Having no caddie the third day, we had no idea where the flag was and saw only a slope ahead. Only when you climbed to the top did you view what could second as a half-sized soccer pitch below surrounded by 360 degrees of stadium seating for 2,000. I ironically parred a lot of the blind holes I complained about, including the ninth after sticking my approach to just 50 feet and two-putting. My 82 didn’t seem as bad as I anticipated. Somewhere Gil is shaking his head over morons like me.”
We joked about the Lodge looking like a hospital or mental institution with its boxy, sparse exterior. Of course, says Mr. M, the golf is so challenging you may want to commit yourself. That feeling disappears in the large, comfortable rooms with silky linens and floor-to-ceiling glass.
The common areas showcase contemporary luxury, with clean lines, wood ceilings and more glass allowing for spectacular sunset views over the lake outside. You wouldn’t want to swim there with the crocodiles, so the resort installed an infinity pool with plenty of comfy loungers and a row of curtained cabanas. Golfers aren’t ignored, even at the pool: We can practice pitching from a pad in the pool area to a floating green in the lake, using water soluble golf balls.
The resort’s restaurants make walking the courses worthwhile. Burn all those calories and dine guilt-free on a Japanese wagyu strip steak with bruleed cream corn and house pork belly at Canyon Lake Steakhouse. Mr. M, who is not usually a fan of restaurant food, proclaimed his Bible-thick pork chop at Fin and Feather the best he’d ever had, and then said the same thing about his spaghetti Bolognese at SottoTerra.
He’s also not terribly big on spa treatments but raved about his Sports and Wellness massage at AcquaPietra the morning after Round 1. Michelle was smaller than him but her muscular hands could have delivered far more than the level 3 pain “relief” he requested. “She could have rolled me up and tossed me into the towel bin if she so desired,” says Mr. M. It was intense and wonderful enough that he required a post-massage cool down in the spa grotto resting room, sipping lemon water and chatting with a fellow spa goer who swore that the 42-degree cold pond reduced the joint swelling in his abused body. Bottom line: With all this physical exercise, massages are great and better done in the mornings, we were told, when the multi-hot tubs that range in temperature from hot to icy cold weren’t full of boisterous guy golfer groups. Have one treatment and you can revisit the tubs, sauna and steam rooms throughout your stay.
For those with leftover energy, other optional activities included hiking, guided bass fishing, archery and sporting clays.
The chef kindly complied with our request for the spaghetti Bolognese sauce recipe by giving our server a list of ingredients, and that says plenty about the five-star service at the resort. We never heard “No,” or “I don’t know,” or encountered the kind of attitude from staff that can ruin a vacation. The staff is trained to say hello to everyone and accept all requests in a can-do, friendly and never stuffy manner. That carries over to the caddies, of course.
Prepare to tip accordingly. We brought a stack of dollars, fives and twenties.
Dress code is all golf, although the fancier restaurants do not allow men to wear shorts or sandals. At the nicer restaurants in the evening, many men chose to wear business casual slacks and dress shirts, while slacks and a golf shirt were just fine. Female guests are welcome to wear just about anything. And, other than finding on-course restrooms only at the turns, I did feel welcome everywhere at Streamsong. Mr. M observed that his wife received over-the-top attention from various male guests, no doubt starved for female companionship. I’m guessing that once carts are allowed, more women golfers visit.
Couples? Sure, why not? We met one female non-golfer in the spa whose husband was suffering so much guilt from playing golf that he begged her to spend any money she wanted in the various pro shops, eat at the restaurants and drink at the bars, and take advantage of the spa services and other amenities.
If you go: Top tips
We saw strong, athletic-looking 40-somethings walk 36 holes, but they typically lost their games and did not seem to enjoy their afternoon rounds. … The popular cocktail at the turn shacks is the Transfusion — a refreshing mix of vodka, grape juice and ginger ale that really does rejuvenate. … Plan on enjoying one of the turn specialties that vary from course to course. I loved the fish tacos at the blue course and regretfully passed up the lobster and shrimp roll at the black. … Bring plenty of insect repellent and sunscreen: As soon as the sun disappears, the biting insects emerge. … Did I mention, the courses have bathrooms only at the turn? … From Mr. M: “Bring your most comfortable and supportive walking shoes, even if they’re not golf shoes.” He was in wide-soled cross-training shoes, happily so, because after just one round in new, fancy golf shoes, some rosy little heel blisters blossomed. “Bring the widest shoes you own,” he says. “You’re going to be walking across enough sand, you’ll be wishing for a camel to ride.” … Leave your heavy water bottle at home. Ice cold water in plastic logoed bottles is supplied every three holes. Extra special: A roving, cheery assistant in a golf cart offered fresh water and cold wet towels for your neck. … Buddy/couples trip: Streamsong is not a family destination. Fly to Orlando and let the kids wander Disneyworld with nongolfing spouse or grandparents for a few days while you escape to the golf mecca. … Streamsong has quite a comprehensive trove of information, not to mention gorgeous videos, at streamsongresort.com.
Molly McMulligan, created by golf journalist and CGA member Susan Fornoff, is the CGA’s on-the-course advisor on how to have more fun on the golf course. She answers questions in Dear Molly and will be sharing more of her travels.