Let’s get this on the table right from the get-go.
The three golf courses at the Streamsong golf resort in Bowling Green, Florida, are exceptional: each one could stand alone as a bucket-list destination, but putting them all in one complex is almost unfair. The resort experience itself is top-shelf luxury with outstanding accommodations, fine dining, and amenities that make it, as one member of our foursome described it, a “guy’s paradise.”
It’s the kind of place every avid golfer should visit – you’ll have a hell of a time.
But depending on your personality and what you like to do and see when you travel, one visit might be enough.
Miles From Nowhere
Google reviews of the Streamsong experience, and you get the same story from each reviewer: Streamsong is in the Middle of Nowhere.
To get to Streamsong, you first have to make your way to the Middle of Nowhere, ask for directions, and then drive another 25 to 30 minutes. It’s in the part of Florida where people who live in the Middle of Nowhere go to get away from it all.
Yeah, it’s remote.
The golf, however, is world-class, and a perfect place for a buddies’ trip. This particular adventure served as a grand reunion for the mid-1980’s WEEI NewsRadio 590 news writing team. We’re old-ish men now, but in the mid-80’s we were serious Boston newshounds in our mid-20’s. Jon stayed in business and is now a feature reporter and news anchor for Channel 7 in Boston (he was, and still is, the best looking of the bunch), Mike is public relations director for ConEdison in New York. And Dana – who spent time as a traffic reporter – is now a counselor. Old friends are still the best friends.
We visited Streamsong in early November, right after the change from Savings to Standard time. Jon was the point man making the arrangements, and when he booked the trip, he was told by Streamsong to wait until a month or so out before specific tee times, which proved to be bad advice if you hope to play 36 on any given day at that time of year.
Pro Tip #1: Make your tee times early if you want to play two rounds per day.
We joke about the remoteness of Streamsong, but it’s really only about an hour-plus from Tampa and around two hours from Orlando. However, once you’re there, you’re there. There’s no place to go or sights to see anywhere nearby.
We flew into Tampa and rented a car, but you can Uber from the airport to Streamsong for about $125.00 each way. Once on the property, you can take the shuttle from the Lodge to whichever course you’re playing. If you drive, you have to valet park your car at the Lodge.
Lay of the Land
The Streamsong resort is owned by a $9.6 billion international conglomerate called Mosaic, the world’s largest producer of potash and phosphates used in agricultural fertilizer. Mosaic is a Fortune 500 company, employs 12,000 people in 40 countries and built Streamsong for $140 million on one of its expired phosphate mines. For a company the size of Mosaic, 140-mil is couch cushion money. Mosaic’s most recent annual report is 102 pages long, and in it, you’ll find no mention of Streamsong whatsoever. One staffer told us the resort doesn’t even register on Mosaic’s income statement.
The original facility featured two courses – Streamsong Red ( a Coore/Crenshaw design) and Streamsong Blue (a Tom Doak design) – and opened for play in January of 2013. The 216 room Lodge opened that fall. A third course, the Gil Hanse-designed Streamsong Black, opened with its own clubhouse in 2017. The Red and Blue courses are side by side and share a clubhouse, while the Black course/clubhouse is separate, and they’re far enough away from each other – and from the Lodge – that you have drive or take the shuttle.
The 216-room Lodge is on the level of a high-end resort. The rooms are mini-suites with a sitting area separated from the sleeping area by a desk and two big-screen TVs, one facing each direction. The beds are comfy, and you’re provided with plush terry cloth robes to make you feel like a VIP. Mike, my roommate for the weekend, said the shower was roomier than your typical New York City co-op. The Lodge also features two full-service restaurants and a rooftop pub and bar. There’s a bar and restaurant at the Red/Blue clubhouse, and a more informal dining facility at the Black clubhouse.
Pro Tip #2: Make dinner reservations for each night as soon as you arrive. Reservations are required and the place gets crowded on the weekend. We learned the hard way, eating our first dinner at the rather small bar in the Sottoterra Ristorante downstairs in the Lodge.
Each clubhouse has a Pro Shop with plenty of high-end Streamsong merch – none of it at a discount. Be prepared to pay $15 for a ball marker, $40 for a hat, $75 for a headcover, and anywhere from $78 to $125 for a shirt. Forgot your sunglasses? You can buy some Maui Jim’s or premium Oakley’s for $350 to $400.
There is a convenience store in the Lodge, but it mainly sells non-golf related souvenirs. You can buy discontinued shirts there at a discount, but the selection is limited. They also stock essentials like ibuprofen, but if you need anything like Benedryl or other specific items, make sure you bring it with you. Otherwise, it’s at least a 30-minute drive.
Day 1 – Streamsong Black
We arrived at Streamsong late morning for a 2 PM tee time and immediately drove through the weaving entry road to the Black Course clubhouse. We skipped lunch at the Bone Valley Tavern, although the Pulled Pork Burger looked outstanding, and hit the practice area.
There’s a chipping and pitching green, a huge driving range and a large, undulating putting green, a cryptic foreshadowing of the adventure we were about to face. There’s also an 18-hole putting course at the Black, similar in style to the Himalayas at St. Andrews. There’s no charge for it, but it does get crowded at day’s end.
All of the courses at Steamsong feature very wide – I mean really wide – fairways. I only lost one ball during the weekend, and that was on the very first swing on the first hole on the Black (we played one Mulligan per round. Hey, we’re on vacation).
The general rule at Streamsong when looking for errant shots is if you can’t see your feet, stop looking for your ball – Copperheads, Coral snakes, Cottonmouths, Water Moccasins, and Diamondback Rattlers all make Streamsong home. Although we were all old friends, none of us really wanted to suck venom out of each other.
The Black touts itself as a links-style course, but I didn’t see it. No, it doesn’t have any trees, and yes, it’s built on sand, and yes, it reminded me very much of the Castle Course at St. Andrews, but it didn’t scream links golf to me. To further confuse matters, there aren’t a lot of partial wedge shots on the Black – it encourages the bump and run on many holes. But it’s not a links course.
The greens are what liken Black to the Castle course. Our foursome’s reactions ranged from challenging to tricked out to borderline comical. Our caddie said they buried dead elephants under the greens to create all the crazy undulations. I think he was kidding.
Pro Tip #3: Take a caddy! I’m not sure how a first timer would navigate his or her way through any of the courses without one. There’s very little signage and no clear paths from any green to the next tee. Be prepared to pay anywhere from $120 to $150 per person (they carry two bags), tip included.
For our first round at the Black, we did use carts and had Brandon forecaddie for the group. He was indispensable when it came to explaining the hole layout, and he quickly learned how to club each one of us. He wasn’t a great green reader, but then again, he had just arrived for the winter season after caddying at Bethpage in New York for the summer. The good news is the greens on the Black course are huge, and that also happens to be the bad news. They’re also on the fast side, and you do need to get a good read as three-putting from anywhere is a real possibility.
There’s also a ton of sand on the Black (and on the Red and Blue), and even a dynamite tee shot can wind up in a fairway bunker. Our caddies (Brandon all three rounds, with Mike joining us for the final two) pointed them out, but bring a GPS unit if you have one. We used the Sky Caddie SC500, and its precision helped us get an accurate picture of the hazards. It doesn’t mean we avoided them all, but at least we knew where they were.
A true highlight at Streamsong is the halfway snack shacks. The Black course shack (they’re all after the 8th hole rather than the 9th) was the star of the weekend with an overstuffed and outstanding Lobster and Shrimp roll for SEVEN FREAKING DOLLARS.
Three of us enjoyed those while Jon opted for the Chicken Salad roll, which was similarly overstuffed. Four rolls and five Gatorades – always treat your caddie – ran $47, the only real bargain to be found at Streamsong.
As mentioned earlier, our first dinner was at the bar in the Sottoterra Ristorante in the main Lodge lower level. The nouvelle cuisine was delicious, but you will spend a few bucks. We each started with a $12 Artisan Salad – it was appetizer-sized – and we were advised to try the 1-pound meatball as an app as well, which we split four ways (it was outstanding).
The entrees were typical nouvelle cuisine: pretty to look at, delicious to eat but remarkably small in portion. Mike and Jon had the Linguini Nero – squid ink linguini with scallops, mussels, shrimp, and a lobster claw. They both enjoyed it, but for $37 a plate, it was not what you’d call a value meal. The same applies to Dana’s spaghetti and meat sauce. He loved it, but the $30 price tag didn’t go down easily.
Yours truly read the tea leaves correctly and opted for a $16 pizza with mushrooms, spinach, gorgonzola, and caramelized onions. It was excellent, both from a flavor and value perspective. We wound up splitting the bill four ways (Mike and I don’t drink), and it came to $73 per person.
Day 2: Streamsong Red
Like any good late-middle-aged travelers, Mike and I started Day 2 with a workout in the fitness center. It has only one elliptical machine but is otherwise well-equipped. We followed our workout with the breakfast buffet at P2O5, the main dining option on the main floor of the Lodge. The name, we learned, is the molecular formula of phosphorous pentoxide and honors Streamsong’s former life as one of Mosaic’s phosphorus mines.
You can do breakfast la carte, but the buffet is a good value at $20, featuring the usual breakfast items plus a made-to-order omelet station.
Pro Tip #4: If you’re not a big breakfast eater, skip the buffet and get a breakfast sandwich at the clubhouse at each course for only $6, and some free coffee.
To a man, our group liked Red the best. While it still featured wide fairways, Red asks you to be a bit more precise from the tee than either the Black or the Blue. The greens are smaller with much less undulation than the Black, but still require you to read them carefully.
Our caddies were excellent tour guides, invaluable course strategists, and excellent company, but as mentioned earlier, their green reading was fair, at best. Our best recommendation: when in doubt, go for the hole and don’t overread the break. Even then, a 3-jacks is always looming. I was a 13-footer away from a closing birdie and a 79 on Red. Three puts later, I carded an 81.
The Par 3’s on both Red and Blue are memorable, and they collide with Red #16 and Blue #7, both downhill shots over water to cleverly tucked greens. It’s a definite photo opportunity. Red also features some short Par 4’s (as does Blue). While it’s tempting to whack away driver, seriously consider a long iron, hybrid, or utility – you run out of real estate quickly, and those generously wide fairways turn narrow and nasty, in a hurry.
The Red snack shack features BBQ and is another fantastic value.
After the round, I chose to get a massage at the Spa while the rest of the gang hit the Infinity Pool. Like everything else at Streamsong (except the snack shacks), the massage wasn’t cheap (50 minutes for $225 including tip), but, like most everything else at Streamsong, it was excellent. The thing about a place like Streamsong is that after a day or so, it’s like Vegas. You figure what the hell, I’m here, let’s live a little.
The Spa itself provides you with a locker and a robe. There’s a sauna and steam room, and a series of non-jetted hot tubs. The tubs are different water temperatures, starting at 85-degrees, then 95-, 100- and 105-degrees. The idea is to warm your muscles up slowly before you jump into a 45-degree tub to shock the living hell out of your nervous system. You’re supposed to go back and forth between the 105 tub and the 45 tub a couple of times, just don’t make too much noise getting into the cold tub. They’ll come and shush you.
Pro Tip #5: If you’re going to get a massage, do it early in your trip. Once you get a massage, you get complimentary use of the spa for the remainder of your stay. Otherwise it’ll cost you $20 a visit.
The boys gave the Infinity Pool and the bar there very high marks, and they enjoyed the floating chipping green. For $20, you get 20 balls and can try to hit a small green floating in the lake next to the pool. It’s a carnival game, but they had fun.
Dinner that night was at Restaurant 59, the steak house in the Red/Blue clubhouse. For apps, by all means, skip the Caesar Salad, which features four romaine lettuce leaves – yes, four – with dressing and a handful of croutons. Dana, justifiably grumpy, sent his back.
The Strawberry Walnut salad was a bit more substantial and very tasty, and the French Onion soup – with a shot of Jägermeister cooked in – was excellent.
Our steaks were good but, to a man, we agreed, a bit underdone. 59’s idea of medium rare is closer to what most people would consider rare, and rare was damn near tartare.
A la carte sides included grilled asparagus (good), grilled mushrooms (very good), and Gouda mac ‘n cheese (life-changing). A staffer recommended the Bacon Toffee Sundae for dessert – Mike tried it and liked it, although the toffee was more like a hard candy instead of crushed up. We also had a fair crème Brulee and some excellent vanilla ice cream.
Day 3 – Streamsong Blue
Our group was divided on the Blue Course. Dana, Mike, and Jon rated it as their second favorite of the three Streamsong courses. I ranked it a distant third, mainly because I had a horseshit round as my putting stroke deserted me overnight. A 10-foot birdie putt on the first hole turned into an ugly 3-jack for bogey, and the round went downhill from there.
Style-wise, Blue is very similar to Red: memorable Par 3’s, tough, fast greens, and more sand than the Gobi Desert. All three courses have challenging finishes, but 16-17-18 on Black was particularly devilish, leading to a bogey-double-double finish for an 87.
Both the Red and Blue courses feature more elevation changes than you’d expect from Florida golf. There are no palm trees anywhere on the property. If it weren’t for the occasional alligator, we could have been anywhere.
Also, you do need to bring a strong bunker game – fairway and greenside – to Streamsong. About the only trouble, you can get into off the tee will be in fairway and waste bunkers. The Black, with its large greens, is a bit more forgiving in that way, but Red and Blue combine small greens with plenty of sandy trouble.
The Blue snack shack features beef, pork, or fish tacos, and they’re very much on par with offerings from the Red, although nothing can touch the Lobster and Shrimp roll from the Black.
For dinner that night, we went back to P2O5, and it was by far the best overall value of our stay. Dana had a real Caesar Salad, which did not make him grumpy, and we had outstanding fritters and very good chicken wings. The Blackened Cod, New York Strip, and monster burger all get high marks.
After dinner, we moseyed up to the 6th Floor to Fragmentary Blue, the rooftop bar. It’s a pleasant, informal place for drinks and bar food, with fire pits outside for some cigar-centric male bonding.
If you want first-class golf, luxury accommodations, and the full high-end resort experience, you should definitely do Streamsong. But all during our stay, I kept thinking of that scene from A Bronx Tale when the biker gang pisses off Chazz Palminteri, and he locks to door to the bar…
Now youse can’t leave.
That’s kind of how staying at Streamsong felt, without the wiseguys beating the snot of you, of course. Instead, you’re stuck in a luxury resort with world-class golf – an altogether very different experience. The horror, right? Everything you could want is right there; first-class golf, gourmet dining, top-shelf resort-style accommodations, but…youse can’t leave.
Make no mistake, we enjoyed every minute at Streamsong, the golf is among the finest in the world, and it should be on every serious golfer’s bucket list – once.
A place like St. Andrews, one could visit again and again, and even play the same courses again and again and never tire of it. Golf is woven into the fabric of the town, but it’s also a place where people actually live and work, and there’s so much more to see and experience. Pebble is the same way, plus it has 17-Mile Drive and the Pacific Ocean. Streamsong, however, is Streamsong: you golf, you eat, you chill, and then you do it all again.
To be fair, there are other activities at the resort if you tire of golf, including guided bass fishing, archery, and sporting clay shooting. But…youse can’t leave.
Don’t get me wrong, Streamsong has plenty going for it. If you want a first-class, luxury golf trip but can’t fit Pebble into the budget, Streamsong is doable. Our three night-three round stay was $1,500 per person, double occupancy. With caddie, tips, meals, the massage, etc, the tab totaled around $2,300, plus airfare and car rental or Uber.
I’d gladly play any of the Streamsong courses again but, having done the Streamsong experience already, only as part of an overall Florida trip. It’s an hour from Tampa, two hours from Orlando, three hours from West Palm Beach, and four hours from Miami and should be must-plays if you’re planning a Florida golf vacation or are in the area on business.
Greens fees are reasonable for the caliber of course, too. Summer, if you can take the heat, is $125. From the end of September to January 12th, it’s $215; January 13th to March 31st is $275; April 1st to May 5th is $185, and May 6th to May 26th is $155.
I’m anxious to hear your thoughts. Have you been to Streamsong? What are your experiences?