Above the much photographed par 3, 7th hole
I am in the taxi on my way to Streamsong resort after flying into Orlando Sanford Airport and the driver is telling me that the resort is in the middle of nowhere. It reminds me of a Kevin Costner film I once watched about building a baseball stadium in the middle of nowhere. ĎBuild it and they will comeí he was told, and I think the guys at Streamsong have the same philosophy. If itís that good, golfers will come.
Arriving at the beautiful clubhouse my clubs are whisked away and as I survey the dunes I get this unerring feeling that the ocean is just hidden from sight Ė even the gentle breeze that you associate with a links course is there, and it just seems to tug at my senses.
Today I am playing the blue course and I am introduced to my caddy Smitty, who turns out to be an ex-PGA Tour caddy. We make our way up through one of the dunes and as I walk out on to the tee the course seems to unravel before me. Itís like the course has been totally camouflaged until you get to this point and it certainly has the wow-factor. The views are stunning Ė not the mountain-and-hills stunning but more lakes-trees-and-just-seeing-for-miles stunning.
But still that links feeling persists: the movement of the land and the complexes on the greens, the sand and the tight-cropped fairways all add to the impression of a links course. But this is no man-made course in the true meaning of the word. Itís obviously man-made but all the dunes and wasteland are from years of mining phosphorus. The quarries have slowly filled over the years with rainwater and the mounds that have sprang up from all the digging have just grassed over. But with the sandy base, thatís what gives it that links-type feeling.
Every hole from the first to the 18th is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but what makes this a great course is the challenge it represents to players of all abilities. The fairways are wide and you have to be extremely wide to lose a ball here. But if you want to shoot low on this track, not only do you need to be in the right part of the fairway, you need to be hitting to specific sections of the green to get at the pins.
There are a lot of pin-position options on these greens, and with the green complexes and large greens, if you are not in the right position, getting away with 3-putting will seem like an achievement!
It would harsh to pick out individual holes because there are not any weak ones on the blue course. There is the photogenic seventh which you will see in all the resort brochures, but to be fair to the other holes I think they offer just as much beauty and challenge.
As I sit in the bar, a well-earned beer in hand watching Costa Rica beat Italy to eliminate England from the World Cup, I canít wait for tomorrow to tee it up on the red course Ė but Iím having pangs of regret that I canít play the blue again!
Another fitting finale at Streamsong resort, this time on the blue. The 487-yard par 4, 18th hole
Sitting in the dunes, the par 4, 6thAnother stunning hole at the 8thThe sun slowly sets over the 12th