In October 2017, Mitch Laurance and Darin Bunch had one of those mornings about which golfers dream. An early morning tee time on Streamsong’s (then) newly opened Black Course, Gil Hanse’s addition to the Coore-Crenshaw Red and the Tom Doak Blue courses at the award-winning Central Florida resort. They wound up being paired with a twosome from Long Island, N.Y. — a father and son on a golf adventure. And two years later, the friendship formed that day with residential and commercial architect Bruce Siska is still going strong, as evidenced on this Episode 146 of the “Talking GolfGetaways” podcast, presented by Rams Hill Golf Club.
Bruce, a devotee of history and classic architecture not only in his work at his successful firm Bruce A.T. Siska Architecture but also in his favorite golf courses, begins the conversation by explaining his own extraordinary connection to history as the 13th generation of his East Hampton family, one of the original five founding families of that well-known Eastern Long Island location.
He then turns to that memorable day at Streamsong, explaining how he and his father (also named Bruce) are golf-travel partners with a long tradition of exploring some of the world’s great destinations together and had come to Streamsong to experience all three of the resort’s acclaimed courses. Having already played the Red and Blue on previous days, he and his father were looking forward to the much-anticipated Black course, arriving early in the morning to warm up when they noticed two curiously dressed golfers — one in a kilt and the other in plus-fours. Shortly after that, on the range, they realized the two highly unusual men were also playing with hickory clubs. At the appointed time, all four started walking to the first tee, and it was then that Bruce realized he and his father would be part of a most unique foursome.
Bruce shares his thoughts on that first experience around the Black, discussing the elements Gil Hanse contributed to what has become one of America’s great golf destinations. He compares the course to others he’s played, including the Red and Blue, and also turns his attention to the Black’s clubhouse, which he considers to be one of the coolest he’s seen in his travels. As an architect as well as a golfer, Bruce was also drawn to the design and function of Streamsong’s award-winning Lodge, which he, Darin and Mitch all agree might be the best golf lodging-restaurant combination in the game. Bruce’s discussion on why he feels that way is a most interesting one.
The conversation then turns to the Siska’s most recent golf adventure — a trip to Wisconsin and a chance to experience another of our game’s best destinations, Sand Valley Golf Resort. Bruce talks about how much he and his father loved the realization of developer Mike Keiser’s Wisconsin dream, sharing his initial, blown-away impressions of the original Sand Valley course, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and explaining how the routing, challenge and beauty of their work swept him away. He moves to his round at the magnificent Mammoth Dunes course, and details the incredible work done by David McLay Kidd in producing another extremely fun, awe-inspiring layout. Wrapping up the conversation on Sand Valley, Bruce describes his reaction to playing the Sandbox, the 17-hole par-3 layout, which he played barefoot and calls “soooo much fun”, plus talks about the Dunes Lodge and the beauty of the view at Craig’s Porch, the highest spot at Sand Valley.
Next on the Wisconsin itinerary was Erin Hills, site of the 2017 U.S. Open and designed by the team of Dr. Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Witten. Bruce describes his experience at Erin Hills on a brutally windy day, which made playing it a severe test on a course already noted for its challenge, having been created with the sole goal of hosting a major championship for the world’s best players. Though considering it a beautiful layout, Bruce, a single-digit handicapper, explains why he considers Erin Hills to be more of a test than most golfers can easily enjoy. It’s a fascinating discussion about Erin Hills’ place in the traveling golfers’ possible destination trips.
Living in East Hampton on Long Island, Bruce has the luxury of being close to some of the game’s greatest courses, an iconic collection that for most golfers represents a true bucket list. Bruce talks about some of his favorites, including Maidstone (whose list of hands-on architects includes Willie Park in 1894, Seth Raynor, Willie Park, Jr. and Ben Crenshaw); Shinnecock; and one of Bruce’s all-time favorites, Friars Head, the stunning modern creation by Coore-Crenshaw, which opened for play in 2003. Bruce also talks about his favorite public course in the area, Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course, originally designed in 1927 and redesigned by the team of Robert Trent Jones Sr. and his son Rees in 1968, and a course he considers one of the best values you’ll find in the game.
Bruce then shares his love for his home club, Noyac Golf Club in nearby Sag Harbor, N.Y., originally designed by William Mitchell in 1963 and restored in 2007 by Stephen Kay and Ross Forbes. Growing up playing the tight, parkland layout gave Bruce an appreciation for its challenge and constant beauty — and set the foundation for his lifelong love affair with the game.
Finally, Darin asks Bruce about the next plans for the father-son golf-travel team, and Bruce talks about how they’ve decided on a pilgrimage to the legendary Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. After listening to this podcast, you can be sure it’ll be a trip full of great golf and family memories for Bruce and his father.