September 6, 2016 By: Steve Waters – Coming off the successful debut of the golf course he designed for the 2016 Olympics, Gil Hanse is keeping busy with projects that should have golfers lining up to play those courses.
Hanse’s selection over a number of high-profile designers to build the Olympic course was surprising to many, but the raves from the men and women who competed in Rio de Janeiro showed that the Olympic organizers made the right choice.
While working on the Olympic course, Hanse renovated the Blue Monster at Trump National Doral, which had hosted a PGA Tour event for more than 50 years. Owner Donald Trump was so happy with Hanse’s work that he also had him renovate his Golden Palm and Red Tiger courses.
Hanse, whose design company is in Malvern, Pa., also designed Mossy Oak Golf Club in West Point, Miss., which opened for play on Saturday.
His much-anticipated Streamsong Black in Central Florida is in the process of having its grass grown in. That course will be open for play in the fall of 2017, where it will join the acclaimed Red and Blue courses at Streamsong (streamsongresort.com), which is 27 miles south of Lakeland.
Built on reclaimed land from a phosphate mining operation, the Red was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and the Blue by Tom Doak at the same time and the courses intersect each other.
The Black is apart from them and afforded Hanse the rare opportunity of a blank canvas on which to fashion a course.
“It’s phenomenal,” Hanse said. “Knowing the quality of what they’ve already done with Red and Blue and then coming here and seeing basically, ‘Here’s 800 acres, pick what you think is the best part of that to make into a golf course,’ is a dream come true.
“As Bill Coore said to me when I was talking to him about it, I said, ‘Bill, what should we do about this?’ and he said, ‘Gil, run, don’t walk, run down there to work with these guys because they’re the best.'”
The Streamsong courses feature lots of sand and water, as well as dramatic elevation changes, from the mining days, along with a variety of native grasses.
Hanse said when he looked at the property for the Black course, he narrowed his focus to 250 acres of “the best pieces of ground out there.” One of its most appealing features is a long sand ridge.
“I think most golfers appreciate elevation change. And obviously I think all of us love elevated tee shots,” Hanse said. “In Florida sometimes that’s hard to find in a natural setting. You can create that, but I think what we were looking at here was it was a golf course that already has some significant natural elevation change and how do you maximize that in a round without being repetitive?
“You wouldn’t want to always play down to a green and then walk up to the tee, down to a green and up to a tee. So we tried a number of ways to utilize the ridges and the elevations. I think Streamsong Black gave us that opportunity, not only a big ballpark to work in but perfect terrain suited for golf.”
Building a new golf course at a resort that already has two great ones could put pressure on a designer to live up to those standards, but that was not an issue for Hanse.
“We’ve had a little bit of training,” he said. “Working with Donald Trump and working in Rio, it teaches you a little bit about pressure.”