By Jason Bruno
It was a gorgeous sunny Monday afternoon at Streamsong Resort for the Grand Opening of their latest (sure to be Top 100) layout – Gil Hanse’s Black Course. September 25th, 2017 was a day that many in the golf design, resort, and media industry had circled on their calendars. It’s always an honor to get the invite to events such as this and when Streamsong and Kemper Sports team up to host a celebration of this magnitude, you know it’ll be a day to remember.
A group of nearly 100 or so golf media and other dignitaries within the industry teed off at 1:30 pm after a warm welcome of food, drinks, and the opening ceremony. We had chamber of commerce conditions for an event in central Florida in late September – 80 degrees and sunny with enough of a breeze to make the walk enjoyable and club selection a bit of a challenge at times.
In the coming days, we’ll give a detailed hole-by-hole description of Gil Hanse’s new creation in its entirety, but in this post, it’s all about giving you the experience of being on hand for the Grand Opening.
Group 1B with Streamsong Director of Golf Scott Wilson, course architecture journalist Bradley Klein and PGA Magazine’s Ryan Adams (Group 1A was Course Designer Gil Hanse, Mosaic CFO and Streamsong visionary Rich Mack, Kemper Sports President Josh Lesnik, and Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella).
Is there anything better than walking a brand new (potential top 100) golf course with really great people, while having your sticks looped by an upbeat and skilled caddie? We may have had the best caddie in the house – Brian Wilson. B.W was spot on with reads and club selections all round long, but more importantly, was pleasant and invested in our experience. The course was everything Hanse said it was – big, bold, and fun.
For me personally, it was eight months of anticipation since I bumped into Mosaic’s Vice President of Land Development & Management – Tom Sunnarborg at January’s PGA Show in Orlando. When we discussed the opening of Streamsong Black back then, Tom just flashed that big smile of his and said, “The grand opening will be in late September, and You won’t be disappointed”. Five and a half years ago it was Sunnarborg that gave me a site tour of the Red & Blue courses during the grow-in period, so he was pretty confident that I’d appreciate what Gil Hanse & Jim Wagner had created with the resort’s third course. The resort can now stake claim to being the only destination on earth with Doak, Coore/Crenshaw, and Gil Hanse designs in one location.
Gil Hanse spoke genuinely about how this project meant so much to him and his design partner Jim Wagner. He described the joy of getting the opportunity to work with an untouched parcel of land of the scale and sand component that’s an architects dream. Hanse became emotional as he expressed how appreciative he was to Rich Mack and Mosaic (who is the parent company of Streamsong) for including Jim’s name on the clubhouse plaque (pictured above).
He went on to thank everyone involved with the project and gave special thanks to Streamsong Director of Agronomy Rusty Mercer and his staff. Gotta love when the guys who do much of the heavy lifting day to day get a round of applause.
Wait until you experience the uber Punchbowl ninth green (above), it’s Gil’s twist on a Raynor template design on a massive scale.
The new clubhouse (pictured above) and Bone Valley Tavern restaurant at Streamsong Black is your first impression driving up to the entry of the resort’s latest attraction. Award-winning architect Alberto Alfonso, who created the design for Streamsong’s original resort lodge and clubhouse, crafted another gem just a mile down the road from the mothership. The Black’s clubhouse is both sleek and minimalist in its style, but it packs tons of function and fits nicely in the scale of its surroundings. Truly unique, as you play the course, its low profile and streamlined profile look so brilliant on the vast central Florida horizon.
As far as new course openings go, this was about as grand an event as you could imagine. Head Golf Professional Scott Wilson was the perfect host, as were all of the fine folks at Streamsong and Kemper Sports.
As far as the Black Course is concerned, if you like hitting lots of fairways and enjoy having a variety of different types of approach shots into large greens, then the Black will thrill you. The challenge really begins once you reach the greens on Gil’s big and bold new design. These are truly some of the most fascinating putting surfaces you’ll ever encounter -an instant must-play. It checked all the boxes of fun and challenging golf for me.
Just outside the clubhouse is Gil Hanse’s “Gauntlet” putting course. Ryan Adams (from PGA Magazine) and I came right off the 18th green after our round and took on “The Gauntlet”. This is an ideal spot for drinks and casual competition before or after dinner with friends.
As we enjoyed the delicious gourmet tavern selections after the round in the clubhouse at Bone Valley Tavern, Scott Wilson reminded me that we would’ve had a hell of a best-ball score. After thank-yous and goodbyes were said, I headed for the valet station just as the sun was vanishing on the horizon. As I looked back at everyone inside the clubhouse having a great time celebrating this fabulous new place, I thought about the tens of thousands that will do the same in years and decades to come.
I couldn’t help but think about Rich Mack’s vision to turn this old phosphate mining property in the middle of nowhere into the destination it has become today.