May 4, 2017 By: Matt Ginella – Gil Hanse’s hits just keep on comin’…
Whether it’s via Twitter, Instagram, Morning Drive or at an airport bar, I’m always happy to answer viewer and follower questions about courses, resorts or buddies trips.
A recent Twitter question from Derek Goss requested a review of Streamsong Black, the new Gil Hanse design at the much-lauded golf destination in Bowling Green, Fla. Streamsong is 65 miles from the Tampa airport, and 85 miles from the Orlando airport. Rent a car from National at either airport for the short drive to the resort.
In an era of almost no new courses, Hanse keeps landing dream jobs. From Castle Stuart in Scotland (2009) to the Olympic Course in Rio (2016), he is also responsible for Mossy Oak in West Point, Miss. (2016), and he will soon break ground on a short course and a new No. 4 at Pinehurst. Not to mention significant renovations and restorations to Doral, Winged Foot, host of the 2020 U.S. Open, and Los Angeles Country Club, host of the 2023 U.S. Open.
To know Hanse and the way he goes about his work is to know why he keeps getting all of those calls. He has an impeccable reputation for not only being user-friendly, his portfolio is player-friendly. Still not above doing the work himself, Hanse’s humble and awe-shucks demeanor is a nice complement to his unbridled passion for each project. He also garners appreciation and respect from the industry of architects for the way he supports and empowers his crew, especially his partner. Hanse ends every phone conversation with: “Please make sure you give Jim Wagner the credit he deserves.”
From the looks of it, Team Hanse will get the credit they deserve for the work they’ve done at Streamsong. Not only is the course massive, it’s going to be well-received by the masses.
According to Hanse, the Red and Blue courses use a combined 160 acres of maintained turf. The Black will use roughly 100 acres. But scale and the way the Black course sprawls out along the sand-based topography won’t be the only thing that differentiates Black from Red and Blue.
The grass that will be maintained will be different. Black will have Celebration Bermudagrass on the fairways. Red and Blue has Tifway 419 Bermudagrass. Greens on all three courses are MiniVerde, but Hanse will extend that grass into the chipping and collection areas around his greens.
“That will do two different things,” says Hanse. “It will create more options for how to play shots around our greens. And from approach shots, it will make the greens looks much bigger than they are.”
But the differences don’t stop at turf types and some optical deception.
The general topography of the dunesland Hanse had to work with is much different than that of Red and Blue. Where Coore, Crenshaw and Doak utilized dramatically steep and sharper dunesland, the Black course will have severe undulation changes, but they will unfold throughout the round as a slow roll. Especially through the land used for Black’s first 11 holes.
The bunkering around the Black greens will also look and play a little different than it does on Red and Blue. And Black will also have its own clubhouse, a putting course they’re calling The Gauntlet, a driving range twice the size of the one used for Red and Blue, and the Black course will have up to six extra short holes for pre- and post-round festive golf, usually involving bags of beers and lots of sidebets.
Like the first two courses, the Black will have a halfway house specializing in one type of food. Red offers barbeque, Blue offers tacos, and Black was recently testing spam sliders. They’re much better than they sound, and with the walk you’ll make to complete the Black, it will be easy to justify the aggressive caloric intake.
With a wide variety of long and short par 3s, 4s, and 5s, to play the Black will be the adventure all golfers are beginning to expect from a Hanse routing.
The Black course begins and ends with par 5s. I’m most looking forward to playing the long and treacherous 5th hole, an impressive par 3 I’d compare to 13 at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. Which is to say, long and left will be much better than short and right—a double bogey at best.
The ninth green is a punchbowl, not nearly as pronounced as the 14th at Cruden Bay or the fourth at Fishers Island, but I’m a fan of every punchbowl I’ve ever played. And this punchbowl green, like the 16th at the National Golf Link of America, will offer a windmill in the distance.
The 11th hole returns to the clubhouse, which is one of the highest points on the routing and will offer almost a 360-degree of the surrounding area.
Holes 12 thru 17 and parts of 18 are built in a part of the property nicknamed “The Glove.” So the story goes, that back when Bill Coore was sorting out a routing for what would ultimately become the Red course, he saw an aerial picture of the land where the dunes and sandy outcroppings in that area looked like a baseball mitt.
The holes in Hanse’s Glove are going to be a blast, and will look, feel and play a lot differently than the first 11 holes of the Black course. Like the ninth at Pacific Dunes, the 13th at Streamsong Black has two greens. If you’re playing the left/lower green, keep your tee shot to the right. If you’re playing the right/upper green, keep your tee shot to the left.
The 14th is a driveable par 4 to a slightly elevated and well-protected green. The 15th is a 140-yard par 3, inspired by another one of C.B. Macdonald’s template holes. Better known as The Short, the original version was the fifth at Brancaster, which is now the fourth at Royal West Norfolk Golf Club in England.
Having walked this routing with Hanse and his crew during various stages of development, you can tell they are all proud of the finished product.
“For us, it’s our most eagerly anticipated opening since the Olympic Course,” says Hanse. “There has been lots of commentary and buzz and now we’re just excited to take the veil off and let people get out and play it.”
Hanse and Rusty Mercer, the czar of agronomy at Streamsong, are both pleased with the grow in. And unlike Mike Keiser, Rich Mack of Mosaic, the parent company of Streamsong, doesn’t subscribe to the idea of preview play. Mack prefers one opening day, which should be in late-September or early-October. Rates on Oct. 1 for all three courses is $205 for public and $155 for resort guests.
“It’s our most important new course to date,” says Hanse. “Because of the quality of land we had to work with, Streamsong’s reputation, and because it sits next to the two firms we respect the most in the business.”
Streamsong will be the first golf destination in the world to offer courses by Coore & Crenshaw, Tom Doak and Gil Hanse, arguably the three leading architectural firms in an ongoing era of modern minimalists, as well as specialists in preserving the best of the Golden Era.
So, Derek…see you on Opening Day?