NCGA Golf

Spring 2018

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I t's 27 miles from my front door to Streamsong Resort. The fact that a first-class golf mecca has made Polk County, Fla., a bucket-list destination is as mind-blowing to locals as it is to the rest of the world. The ride out to Streamsong is Boonies, USA. I have seen alligator road kill in these parts. The only reason my family used to drive out Highway 37 was to bass fish in the phosphate pits. Now that unique phosphate mine land sets the stage for three unexpected golf treasures designed by four industry legends: Tom Doak ( Streamsong Blue) , Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw ( Stream- song Red ) and Gil Hanse ( Streamsong Black ). Florida golf conjures up images of palm trees, flat terrain, back- yard swimming pools and endless golf cart rides through cookie-cutter subdivisions. Its reputation is quantity over quality. None of that applies to Streamsong, a 16,000-acre oasis of sand dunes, hilly terrain and endless panoramic views. Streamsong Black , which opened in September, is big, bold, strategic and fun and while the other two courses are intertwined, the Hanse track is set apart with its own modern top-to-bottom glass clubhouse. The vast par-73 layout features five par-5s, a couple of risk-reward drive-able par-4s and a punchbowl green that requires a blind approach on the ninth. You may feel the urge to sprint after your shot the way Sergio Garcia did at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah. Don't be afraid to throw in a scissor-kick. Walking is encouraged at Streamsong, some months even required, and a well-versed caddie will save several strokes on the mammoth, undulating greens. The three layouts are varied and distinct and like a parent asked to pick their favorite child, there's no clear-cut favorite course among visitors. It's 65 miles from Streamsong to Tampa International Airport (TPA), and high-rollers can fly into a number of regional airstrips. Streamsong is as pure a golf experience as you will find, but it isn't lacking in the off-course amenities category either. There is a full spa, archery, tennis, bass fishing, bird-watching and sporting clays, not to mention five dining options onsite. Don't miss the one- pound meatball at Sotto Terra, or Bone Valley Tavern —"BVT" for short — and its to die-for bacon-wrapped meatloaf filet. And Another Thing: It's always fun to play a PGA Tour track, for the obvious reason of trying to match the efforts of tour pros, if only for one hole. Innisbrook Resort in nearby Palm Harbor features four distinct layouts (not all feel like Florida), including the Copperhead Course , home to the Valspar Championship in March. With Innisbrook located only 20 miles from TPA, it's easy to go inland first to Streamsong and then check out any number of pristine beaches along the Gulf of Mexico en route to Palm Harbor. While Streamsong is the kind of place you make camp once you arrive, Innisbrook has a jewel next door in the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks . Fertile sponge beds first brought divers to Tarpon Springs in the early 1900s. Today there are over 100 unique shops and restaurants surrounding the docks. Experience an authentic Greek dining experience at Hellas , owned and operated by the Karterouliotis family since 1970. Start the meal with Saganaki – flaming goat cheese doused in brandy – and end it with Baklava. And if you're anything like my family, you won't leave town without a huge chunk of Greek feta in the cooler. n Beth Ann Nichols has traveled the globe as a writer for Golfweek since 2002. She played collegiate golf at Florida Southern and sorely misses the free range balls. Streamsong Black A FORMER PHOSPHATE- MINING SITE Yields Three Top 100 Courses in Florida By Beth Ann Nichols 34 SPRING 2018 | NCGA.ORG Streamsong Red LC LAMBRECHT

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