Of all the wonderful places for golf in America, there may be nowhere more perfect to escape reality than Streamsong Resort. With a global pandemic disrupting so much of everyday life, It’s hard to imagine another time when a golf getaway has been more universally needed. Earlier this summer when Streamsong reopened to guests, my golf pals and I saw an opportunity to rescue our annual guys trip. With a window open for us to safely visit Florida’s most celebrated golf destination, we jumped at the chance to go.
Thanks to the coronavirus, 2020 has been a wild and unpredictable year. For golf enthusiasts, that has meant closed courses, cancelled trips and a serious longing to be near friends again. Though the virus still has a firm grip on the country, our group was able to safely visit Streamsong and pull off a buddy trip we won’t soon forget.
A remote location, bad cell service and adventurous golf are a pretty good recipe for letting go of today’s challenges. Streamsong offer those in spades. We spent three days and two nights there — and despite the limitations on the experience, every second of the trip was a much-needed treat.
Having been to Streamsong as recently as two years ago, our group originally had sights set on a different destination for our annual getaway. But that location remained closed through the target date of our trip. Disappointed we might not be able to find a backup, the mood of our group changed when Streamsong Resort announced the re-opening of its lodging options. After reviewing all the precautions taken by the resort and finding comfort in their attention to detail, we quickly made our plans to depart. With a variety of golf package deals available and our circle of friends itching to hit the road after being locked down all Spring, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Streamsong has made a name for itself in the world of golf travel by combining first-class hospitality with some of the most heralded new golf courses built this century. It is the only golf resort in the world with courses by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak, and Gil Hanse. These golf facilities pair well with an impressive collection of boldly designed buildings set among the natural wonders of the Central Florida wilderness.
With a growing reputation derived from the overwhelmingly positive experiences of guests, Streamsong has inserted itself into the discussion for the best golf destination in America. Being only a few hours from our home base in Tallahassee, our group continues to be lured by the unique charms of the resort. Even in a pandemic, Streamsong was calling us to return.
Like every other hospitality outlet in America, Streamsong has made numerous changes to its operation to keep both guests and staff safe. Beyond the face masks, gloves and distancing requirements, there have also been many changes to the services offered. For starters, only one of the three highly acclaimed courses was open. When stay-at-home orders were issued in Florida earlier this year, the leadership at Streamsong decided to expedite a greens renovation project previously scheduled to finish in 2021. Both the Red and Blue courses were shut down to go under the knife. With those courses closed, the clubhouse that serves them was also shuttered for summer.
Even without the Red and Blue, there is still much to enjoy at Streamsong. Currently the resort is offering golf play on Hanse’s Streamsong Black along with the Gauntlet putting course and Roundabout short course. The Streamsong Black clubhouse and Bone Valley Tavern are open for guests, but social-distancing precautions are closely followed. The lodge is open for overnight stays with its restaurant P2O5 and pool both available for guest use. Such popular amenities as the rooftop bar Fragmentary Blue, relaxing spa Acqua Pietra and fine dining at SottoTerra remain unavailable at this time.
Our group of 16 golfers were not deterred by the limited offerings. The opportunity to get away and enjoy each other’s company while playing world-class golf has always been the main attraction of our annual trip. Streamsong provided a responsible way to do that.
On the golf course, there were plenty of measures being taken to insure social distancing carried over to the fairways and greens. Flags were not to be removed and cups were turned over to reduce touched surfaces. Caddies were limited to one per player, and carts were available for single-rider use. On-course water stations were removed and replaced by staffers bringing individual bottles as needed. But none of this diminished the golf experience.
Our group was initially curious about playing one course for three straight days, but the experience turned out to be as enjoyable as it was unique. Typically, when traveling to a resort such as Streamsong, golfers aim to play every course available at least once. I would most certainly recommend that for anyone visiting for the first time. But to have the chance to play one of the top courses in America multiple times over the span of a long weekend is a great way to gain further appreciation for it.
After our first trip to Streamsong in 2018, I think most in our group would have rated the Black course as the third best on the property. Playing it three days straight changed those opinions drastically. Streamsong Black is a wild ride of a golf course, and like any masterpiece it takes a few looks to appreciate its complexities. If you ask our gang to rate the courses today, I believe all would put Streamsong Black firmly at the top.
For those who have yet to experience the wonders of Streamsong Resort, let me say this: There is truly nothing like it on the East Coast of the United States. Streamsong is located in a remote corner of Florida’s rural Polk County. The former phosphate mining site looks like something from another planet. With towering sand dunes and deep lakes left over from the mining process, Streamsong makes for an incredibly unique golf landscape. The contrast between the rugged appearance of the land and the modern and luxurious hospitality offerings is both stark and compelling. Even with the full Streamsong experience being limited, it is still one of the best places to go for golf in America.
What our group was reminded of during this mid-pandemic vacation was that the main two ingredients for a good golf trip are a compelling course and high-spirited friends. As wonderful as it is to visit an amenity-laden resort, our new normal continually shows us that even a scaled-back experience is still worth having. Streamsong did such a great job hosting our group that there is even talk of making it a permanent home for our annual outing. I’m hopeful that next year we can all enjoy it in its full glory again.
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Streamsong Resort is currently scheduled to re-open the Red and Blue courses on October 1, 2020.
Jay Revell is the author of the new book, The Nine Virtues of Golf: Essays, Musings, and other Contemplations on the Game.