Review: Streamsong Resort – Black Course

Designer: Gil Hanse (2017)

Location: Streamsong, Florida

History:  Streamsong Resort is the brainchild of Mosaic Company, the world’s largest phosphate producer. Following in the footsteps of Kohler, Bandon Dunes, and other successful new golf resorts, Mosaic decided to build Streamsong on 16,000 acres of reclaimed phosphate mines in Central Florida. The Red and Blue Course opened together in 2012 and are both considered amongst the finest public golf courses in America. Rumors of a third course swirled, and finally Gil Hanse was given the difficult task of trying to follow the Red and Blue Courses. Streamsong Black officially opened in September 2017 to mixed reviews. It’s worth noting that we might see more courses added to Streamsong soon. Golfweek was the first publication to give a national award to the Black Course:

  • #31 Best Modern Course in America – Golfweek (2018)
  • #2 Best Public Course in Florida – Golfweek (2018)

Conditions: 9/10, Like the Red and Blue Course, the Black Course at Streamsong is exceptionally well-maintained. While it also features wide fairways lined by sandy dunes, I felt the Black Course played much firmer, possibly because the grass was still growing in and possibly because they want it that way to emulate links golf. This is especially true for the very firm, challenging greens.

Value: 6/10, The resort itself is expensive but daily fees at the courses are actually quite reasonable given the quality. Peak prices in the Winter season run at $255 for public golfers and $200 for Resort guests. Floridians also receive further discounts. Caddie fees are $90 per bag, and there are stay-and-play packages available as well.

Scorecard:

Tee                                 Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Green                            73            7331               74.7              135

Black                             73            6759               72.0              130

Silver                             73           6240               69.5              125

Gold                               73           5293               69.5              119

Hole Descriptions: We played Streamsong Black three months and one day after it opened, and this was arguably the most excited I’ve ever been to play a course.  I usually know what to expect from a course, but I went into the Black almost completely blind given how few reviews I’d read. The only things I heard were that the greens are massive, and the sheer magnitude of the course makes you feel tiny.

After playing Streamsong Black, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. There were some incredible individual holes (namely 5, 12, 16-18), but overall I came away disappointed. Why? Tee-to-green, the course is interesting and nearly as good as Streamsong Red and Blue, but I just couldn’t enjoy these greens no matter how hard I tried. Everything about the Black Course is massive, and this includes these greens, which are easily the largest I’ve ever played – so large that they require sprinkler heads in the green just to water them. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the size, but these greens are also the most tricked out I’ve ever played. On many putts, you had to aim the completely opposite direction just to get the ball close, and I had a horrific 43 putts (7 three-putts) on these monstrosities. I can appreciate a course with difficult greens (heck, I belong to one), but I don’t quite understand what Gil Hanse was thinking when he designed these greens for a resort course, which most people will only see once in their life.

Because of the greens, I have no choice but to say Streamsong Black was my least favorite of the three courses at Streamsong. Full disclosure, I also played terribly here and couldn’t see where I was aiming due to fog for the entire front 9, so take this with a grain of salt. One thing I will commend Streamsong Black for, however, is its uniqueness compared to the very similar Red and Blue courses. The Black Course is much more open and exposed, with links-inspired firm and fast conditions.

The opening hole at the interesting par 73 layout is a 508 yard par 5. This hole is relatively straightforward with a wide fairway lined by sandy waste bunkers on both sides. The 1st gives you options on the lay-up, with a large series of bunkers found on the right side of the fairway about 70 yards short of the green. This green is extremely wide and runs back-to-front with serious undulations throughout.

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The approach just short of the right cross-bunker on 1

The short 326 2nd is one of the easiest holes on the scorecard but can wreck havoc on a scorecard if you aren’t careful. This fairway is also wide, but be careful of bunkers on the right at 190 yards and the left at 250 yards. This approach shot is a difficult one and the left side of the fairway gives you a far better angle. This green is elevated and runs diagonally from left-to-right. Distance precision is a must, as a deep bunker guards short and the green slopes off hard in the back. After hitting what I thought was a perfect approach shot to this tiny sliver of a green, I proceeded to play ping pong over the green for a swell triple bogey.

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The uphill approach on the 2nd

The 3rd hole is one of the better par fours on the course, and one I wish I could’ve actually seen. At 423 yards, this teeshot is blind to a wide fairway lined by waste bunkers. At about 240 yards, this fairway plateaus and then runs downhill. The most notable feature of this hole is a carry over a creek about 70 yards short of this green. Given the length of this hole, this creek will come into play for many golfers. This green is giant and slopes right-to-left, with a long bunker guarding left of the green.

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The approach to the par 4 3rd

The par 5 4th is a beast of a hole and the longest of the five par fives at 581 yards. This wasn’t evident the day we played, but golfers have two options off the tee on this split fairway. You can aim for the extremely wide right fairway or cut off distance and aim for the elevated left fairway which requires a forced carry of 275 yards over marshland. For most golfers, the choice is a no-brainer. From the right fairway, you need to cross marshes and hit the left fairway, which leads you to the green.

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There are two fairways on the par 5 4th

While it was hard to appreciate the massiveness of the Black Course in the fog, the par 3 5th did its best to try. At 177 yards straight uphill, this is one of the most intimidating holes you’ll ever play due to a gigantic bunker that guards short right. Further complicating matters is the green, which slopes extremely hard left-to-right, leaving only a few realistic possibilities for pin placement.  At only 321 yards, the 6th hole is the easiest hole on the course. With a wide open fairway sloped from left-to-right, golfers will have little to dissuade them from hitting driver as close to the green as they can. Like most holes at the Black, this giant back-to-front sloped kidney green is the great equalizer. Beware of the “Devil’s Asshole”-like bunker just short.

The par 3 7th is another rather benign hole at 158 yards, and sadly where I had my first par of the day. This hole plays slightly uphill to a large green surrounded by five bunkers. If you can hit a solid mid-iron, this becomes a scoring hole.

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The par 3 7th

The 8th is a strong 408 yard par 4 and undoubtedly one of my favorites on the course. This dogleg right is a bit more demanding off the tee, with a deep crossbunker on the right at 220 yards necessitating a lay-up. This hole features the largest green on the course, running a full 80 yards back to front. Thankfully, it’s also one of the flattest.

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The (foggy) view from the 8th teebox

Also at 408 yards, the straightaway par 4 9th is a bit uninteresting off the tee, but is probably the most discussed hole at Streamsong Black due to its huge punchbowl green. This circular punchbowl features a false front so you’ll never know where the pin is unless you look at the pin sign on the teebox. While most balls funnel towards the middle, there are enough undulations to make putting a nightmare here.

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Make sure to look at the pin placement!
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The blind uphill approach on the 9th
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The humungous punchbowl green on the 9th – just look at those humps

After having some delicious empanadas from the snack shack, you encounter another par 5 in the 524 yard 10th. This hole features another generous fairway that gets tighter on the lay-up. About 150 yards short of the green, the fairway shrinks to almost nothing with a huge series of waste bunkers on the right. Given how difficult it is to hit this sliver of fairway, most golfers should opt to go for the green in two if they have the distance.

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The lay-up/approach on the par 5 10th

Playing 395 yards uphill, the par 4 11th is a slight dogleg left that finishes at the clubhouse. This is a difficult driving hole, as waste bunkers squeeze the fairway about 200 yards off the tee. From here, the hole runs left towards a giant right-to-left sloped green guarded by two deep, beautiful bunkers on the left.

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The view from the par 4 11th tee
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My approach on the par 4 11th

While I’ve yet to play Tobacco Road, I imagine it looks and plays somewhat similar to the 12th at Streamsong Black. At 531 yards, this is a strong par 5 lined by mounds of sandy dunes. The most interesting feature of this hole is a green that lies flat on a plateau of bunkers. Golfers will have to lay-up short of this plateau to avoid a steep uphill bunker shot.

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The par 5 12th from the tee
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The uphill approach on the par 5 12th

The 13th is another fascinating hole that plays anywhere from 409 to 421 yards depending on which of the two greens they choose that day. This hole plays almost like a double fairway as well, with a giant 60-yard long bunker running down the middle at 240 yards. Each green requires you to hit the opposite side of the fairway for the optimal angle, and I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to hit the elevated right green from the right fairway. Both greens are guarded short by bunkers and are heavily undulating. I guess we were lucky to have the left green – According to my caddie, he’s never seen a par on the right green.

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The view from the double-fairway, double-green 13th teebox
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The approach to the elevated right green (421 yards)
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The approach to the easier left green (409 yards)

By the 14th, the sun had fully come out just in time for a drivable par 4. At only 286 yards, this is a legitimately reachable hole that plays slightly uphill with a wide fairway. The major danger here is going left, where you’ll find a large waste bunker and intermittent dunes full of snakes. The difficulty here comes with the extremely challenging volcano green complex that slopes off on all sides. Everyone in my group but me ended this “easy” hole with ball in pocket.

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The reachable par 4 14th

After a short par 4, you make your way to the shortest hole at Streamsong Black in the 131 yard 15th. Requiring only a smooth wedge, this hole features a carry the entire way to an island green surrounded by bunkers. If you look closely, there’s an “H” carved into the middle of this green that caddies say is Gil Hanse’s signature.

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The short par 3 15th

The closing stretch at Streamsong Black provides some of the best holes on the course starting with the number 1 handicap 442 yard par 4 16th. A stern dogleg left, this hole allows you to cut the corner if you can carry the bunkers at 230 yards on the left. From here, the hole runs slightly downhill to a large green that slopes hard left-to-right. Misses short or right will be lost either in the woods or waste bunker.

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The par 4 16th from the teebox

Although not as strong a hole as the 5th, the par 3 17th is as fun as it gets. Playing straight downhill at 189 yards, this hole features an infinity green, with behind and to the right dropping off into a deep valley. This green kicks balls hard left-to-right in an almost pinball-like fashion. This is undoubtedly one of the finest infinity greens I’ve ever played, with amazing vistas of the sandy mountains of the Red and Blue Course in the distance.

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The gorgeous downhill par 3 17th

Streamsong Black saves the best for last with the epic 530 yard par 5 closing hole. Offering similar views as the previous hole, this is a dramatic and beautiful downhill par 5 that tempts the player to go for the green in two. About 175 yards short of the green, the entire right side of the fairway drops off into a deep valley and pond, forcing the golfer to carry it to reach this green. About 50 small bunkers line this pond all the way to this giant back-to-front sloped green.

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Looking back on the epic par 5 closer

Best Par 3: 5th Hole, 177 yards, 6th handicap. While I personally enjoyed the infinity green 17th more, the 5th is the best par 3 at Streamsong Black and one of the most visually difficult par threes you’ll ever play given its uphill nature and cavernous bunker short right. This is the Black Course’s version of Red #16 and Blue #7.

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The fog only adds to the mystery on the par 3 5th

Best Par 4: 16th Hole, 442 yards, 1st handicap. This dogleg left is the most severe dogleg on the course, and also one of the more difficult holes. Almost surely requiring a lay-up for those who don’t cut the corner, this monster par 4 features another giant, sloping green.

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The approach on the par 4 16th

Best Par 5: 18th Hole, 530 yards, 5th handicap. I’m going to make a bold statement – the 18th here is not just the best par 5 at Streamsong Black, but the best par 5 at all of Streamsong. This hole is a mix of beauty and drama with its steep drop-off’s and risk/reward opportunities. What a fantastic hole to decide a match on.

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The approach just short of the water on 18

General Comments: Streamsong Black has its own clubhouse, a modern design, and its own restaurant (The Bone Valley Tavern). Also notably, the Black Course has a full 18-hole putting course called “The Gauntlet”, perfect for settling up bets or unwinding with a drink after a round.

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The Gauntlet is incredibly fun (and free!)

While the Red and Blue Course share practice facilities, the Black Course has its own, with a driving range full of NXT Tours, and a full short game practice area. Of all three courses, pace of play was slowest on the Black Course, and I expect this to continue given how challenging the greens are.

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Streamsong Black’s clubhouse, admittedly not my favorite

Verdict: While Streamsong Black’s name and hype will undoubtedly propel it onto some prestigious lists, the course itself is polarizing. Unlike anything else in the world, the Black Course features some incredible holes, but the overall experience is soured by greens that are too tricked out for my liking. Certainly give the Black a try, but I’d take the Red or Blue Course over this any day.


4 thoughts on “Review: Streamsong Resort – Black Course

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