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Not sure if this is where I'm supposed to post pictures with the Newport Cup Trophy, but now that I've handed it off to @DaveP043 after having a couple of beers with him and his lovely wife Mary Anne at the Union Street Pub. Here is the after golf festivities at the Hickory Tavern enjoying a nice IPA. Getting ready to leave the condo and hit the road home. On my way to one of my favorite restaurant near my office, Sweetwater Tavern. And lastly on our back deck after the snow, end of the golf season. And now it has been passed to Dave. He has the picture of the passing of the torch, so to speak. Again, the Newport Cup was a blast, I can't reiterate enough at how great an event this was. Thanks again to @iacas and @mvmac for putting this together and to all my playing partners, @coachjimsc @DaveP043 @bkuehn1952 @cipher @NCGolfer, it couldn't have gone better and to all our playing opponents, @phillyk @Pretzel @Golfingdad @DeadMan @mchepp @kpaulhus it was a pleasure meeting you all and the golf was awesome. I look forward to getting to see you all in the future. Cheers Jerry
Before I even begin, I played the course one time and so my review should be taken with a bag full of salt grains. Courses should not really be reviewed after only one round. That said… here's my review of Streamsong Blue, a Tom Doak course at Streamsong Resort in the BFE, Florida. First, I say "Doak" because he's the guy credited, but some of the holes are almost a Coore/Crenshaw design, as the trio worked together to route 36 holes around the property. Some of Doak's designs form the backbone of a C&C hole, and vice versa. In fact, the "Red" and "Blue" names come from the color of the pens used to mark up the holes in the planning stages. Anyway… the Doak "Blue" routes around the inside, while the Red routes around the outside of the same property (the Black course is a mile away or so). @kpaulhus (he's played it a few times) and I played the Red course on January 15, the first day the rates went up , with a caddie shared between us. We were in a twosome, following several foursomes, so we had plenty of time to hit some extra putts or chips and to take in the landscape and surrounds. If you're interested, listen here: http://www.friedegg.co/podcasts/streamsong (some/most photos videos are from that page). Hole by hole: Warmup The practice facilities are not world class, but this is a resort: you're not here to practice. They're perfectly adequate. The practice green is relatively large and located behind the clubhouse, right near where the caddies congregate and near the first tees for both courses. It's got a reasonable amount of slope throughout it. No holes are cut into it - you putt to those sticks with a base that's about 2" wide - wide enough that if you hit it, your putt would have likely gone in with the right speed. The short game area is beside the 18th green on the Red, and we didn't spend much time there at all. Just drove by it. It looked adequate, with flagsticks and holes, and a bunker nearby, and some balls sitting out for use. The range is double-ended. We hit from the lower station. The balls were available, the lies were thin, and the range was wide open with a few flags stuck at various distances. There were no greens or other types of targets - just flags stuck in the ground in a field, essentially. Like I said, perfectly adequate, but not a world class practice facility (nor should it be.) When it's time to go, your caddie introduces himself if he hasn't already, and you make the short walk toward the #1 tee. Well, the base of the #1 tee, anyway… (oh, and the yardages are from the one-from-the-back tees, the Black tees, at 6698 yards, and a rating/slope of 71.8/130, which the scorecard mislabels (?) 72.0/127). #1 - Par 4, 330 yards I say the base because you walk up a massive hill/dune to the first tee. You leave your clubs at the bottom, and walk uphill a good 60 feet. This gives you a great view of the first hole and, on the rare day when you catch a downwind breeze, a chance to drive the green. The first is a 330-yard par four. I kinda like a "soft opening," and this hole provides one. It seems to me to be a strategic hole, and the proper angle is to the left, but left is where a bit more trouble lies. The bail-out area to the right leaves a mostly blind approach shot that plays over the corner of a bunker and, if you pull the shot at all, filters down into another bunker short-left of the green. As I found out. The approach shot isn't long, but the green is, like most at Blue, moderately contoured - you'll never have an "easy" long putt, but they're not ridiculous either. A good solid opening hole, that appears to be an easier hole than you'll come to discover it is. #2 - Par 5, 530 yards I played this hole poorly, so that makes it tougher to judge it. My one look, which isn't enough to say much, was from the wrong places entirely. There's a lot of room left and I didn't use it. The challenge, depending on the wind, is skirting the right bunker enough to shorten the hole, without much risk of going in. From there, the green can sometimes be reached in two. From left, you're probably laying up, and because of two front bunkers, the actual angle you choose to lay up to may not matter all that much - you'll have a short club in and just about any angle is about as good as any other. I might have liked to see the front right bunker removed to provide an incentive to approach from that angle, and to remove the requirement that the approach be aerial (a departure from the norm at Blue). That said, maybe Doak wanted a little variety there. #3 - Par 4, 370 yards The third is a cape-style, uphill hole that doesn't really seem to reward challenging the cape. It's bit confusing in that sense. Sure, you can shave 20 yards by hugging the left side as opposed to bailing out well right, but the shot is still a wedge from the right-hand side of the fairway (assuming no wind), and there are no bunkers right like there are left. I feel like this hole would benefit from flipping the green around so that the bunkers were right, favoring an approach from the left, bringing the incline/water more into play. There's a slope right of the green, but you shouldn't have a long club in here, and the bunkers left will stop a pull from finding the water. Not the strongest hole, and confusing from a strategy standpoint. It's pretty, though? #4 - Par 4, 417 yards This hole plays a lot more uphill than the prior so the yardage is a bit more than it says, particularly for your second shot. It also feels like a bigger dogleg than it looks aerially. That's mostly a function of staring straight ahead at some big washout bunkers that fade into scrub territory left, and playing safely out to the right. The second shot is one of the more dramatic on the property, rising uphill and having to cover some very steep, fall-away style bunkers both well short/right and the dastardly ones left of the green, which fall away to about 6-10' below the surface of the green. This is a strong hole, and one I enjoyed playing. There's a risk-reward of playing up the left-hand side, as you get a better look at the green and simply have to concern yourself with carrying the deep bunker, not avoiding a pull into it, though from any angle a right bail-out is available. I used the right bail-out (the wind was into and left to right, and I couldn't start the ball left enough with the bunker there) and managed to make par. As you can see below, there's just fairway cut grass all around 3/4 of the green. The green slopes front right to back left, so shots that find the green will funnel toward the hole, but shots missed right face a downhill putt or chip, so the bailout doesn't leave the easiest shot. #5 - Par 3, 121 yards A strong par three with one of the most interesting greens on the course, by far: it's about 75 yards long (consider that the hole can play 95 to 155 yards from the same tee, easily) and only about 15 yards wide, on average, down the axis of the green. You play from a slight angle to this, putting a premium on either shot shape or distance control. This hole played directly into the wind, and the dimensions of the green weren't apparent until we got there. I thought I'd controlled the distance of my flighted punch shot pretty well, only to get up to the green and find a 45-foot putt awaiting me, up a gentle but tall tier. One of the most interesting par threes I've played, with a bunch of options depending on the wind direction and speed, the tee location, the hole location, etc. Tremendous. P.S. There are two teeing grounds on the hole, but I can't speak to them both. Apparently one teeing ground plays more down the length of the green, and the other is about 90° to the side playing more to the width of the green. Somewhat like a par three at Tobacco Road. #6 - Par 4, 317 yards One of the best holes, in a stretch from 4-7 of great holes, at the Blue. You drive over a ridge in the fairway that renders the green blind from the tee. A single small bunker about 230 yards off the tee provides an aiming point (though I wish my caddie had not said "aim right of that, and if you want to bail out, aim at it, because I did exactly as he said and caught the last bunker on the right, with a 40-yard bunker shot to the green. ). If you hit an iron off the tee, your best bet is to lay up just short of the bunker, or if you hit a driver, to just aim at it - the ground slopes from that bunker down toward the green, which is a rare front-to-back slope that beguiles a lot of people and makes for a delicate wedge shot if you lay up or come up just short with a driver. This is perhaps the easiest hole on the Blue, as both @kpaulhus and I made relatively easy pars. Well, he should have, anyway, and my birdie putt (I chunked the bunker shot out and let the slope trickle it onto the green) came up just short, and one of the better looking tee shots on the course as well. I can imagine the wind playing a huge role in the decision-making better players face on the tee here. In the image to the right, behind the sixth green, you can see the first tee on the mound, and to the left of the sixth green, the edge of the 7th tee. #7 - Par 3, 188 yards Here are two looks at the seventh, which when we played was into a pretty good left-to-right wind. The seventh is one of the more photographed holes. Understandably so. The green site has to be one of those "natural green sites" architects will talk about. There's a sort of 2-1/2-sided bowl fronted by water. The green has a rather large tier going diagonally down the middle, front-right to back-left, that divides the green into two halves, neither of which is very large. A lot of shots will end up left, but if the pin is right, your best bet may be to actually miss the green right… except that there is not much room right, and you're hitting anything from a 7-iron to a hybrid into this bad boy depending on the wind. The green is a fairly typical size: 35 yards front-to-back, and about 20 yards wide, that in this exposed area and with the tier, plays much smaller. Honestly, a bit too small in my opinion. I understand that, if there wasn't much dirt moved here, this is the size of the green you could fit there, but it's perhaps a bit more difficult than it should be. There's very little strategy (not that par threes are known for their strategy) - just hit the green and try to two-putt. An edited photo, and then mine from the day we played: #8 - Par 4, 437 yards After walking back across the bridge from the 7th, you walk back up the dune 50 or 60 feet up to get to the eighth tee, a longer par four playing into a left-to-right wind again (the day we played). I like the eighth hole, though it's not included in some other people's favorites. This hole played almost directly into the wind, and as such, was long the day we played it. I didn't catch all of my tee shot and still had a 3-iron to the green, which plays uphill. It caught the left bunker greenside and I chunked it out (see my notes at the bottom; I'm not a fan of the bunkers here) to miss the 15-footer for par. Still, given the conditions, I felt I played the hole well. A small bunker divides the fairway into a left 1/3 and a right 2/3. The left 1/3 takes off yardage and has you playing your approach up the length of the green, while the right 2/3 is obviously easier to hit and opens up a bit of an angle to the green between two front bunkers. The second shot is a challenging, thrilling second shot, too, with the uphill slope enhancing the do-or-die nature of the carry over the front bunker and the severe slopes into the water and junk to the front and left of the green. You have to hit a pretty poor shot to find the water, but it serves to visually distract and add to the sense of accomplishment when you carry it and find the green. #9 - Par 5, 541 yards The mostly blind landing area of the ninth fairway is about 200 yards wide… literally. It shares the fairway for a bit with the par-4 11th, and the only place you can't miss it is right, but three fairway bunkers along the right side tell you that pretty plainly. There's a bit of strategy in challenging those bunkers, though, as the angle for your second shot is made easier by coming from the right side than the left; from the left, a trio of little bunkers about 115 yards short of the center of the green visually distract - upon a second or third trip around the course, they wouldn't even be a factor, as even a mid-iron should easily clear the bunkers. The visual distraction they offer, though, prompted me to push my third a bit too far to the right, where I was fortunate to stay just on the edge of the grass. This par five is well guarded so even if it's not a three-shot hole from the yardage, and even if LSW tells you to get as close as possible, this is one of the rare times you might be better off laying up 30 yards short than actually going for the center of the green if you have the distance to reach it. The bunkers are also visually distracting in the sense that the best angle to approach the green is from the right side of the fairway. Sometimes things aren't risk-reward… Below, the bunkers on the ninth (playing from well off screen left), with the par-3 tenth above it, as well as the little taco stand in the very top right corner of the photo. #10 - Par 3, 161 yards A solid par three. Honestly, I was distracted by the tacos, my Snickers, and my Coke, so I didn't play this hole particularly well, or pay a lot of attention. So, rather than make some stuff up, I'll simply point out that the bunkers have too much sand, and move on. #11 - Par 4, 454 yards @kpaulhus and I swapped drivers on this hole, as he was saying he couldn't hit his high enough… So I outdrove him by a few yards with a little pull down the left-hand side. The tee shot really has one bunker that you have to worry about in the middle of the fairway, but if you're playing the proper tees, you should carry it fairly easily. The bunkers you actually have to worry about are the left ones, but given that the green has no big overall slope and no greenside bunkers - I believe this is the only hole on the Blue where that's true - the angle likely doesn't matter too much. I will use this hole as an example of one of the things I didn't like about the golf course setup. I expected, given the look and nature and the things I've read, to be able to play a ground game. Doak's courses, I believe I've read, allow for a ground game, even encourage it. This isn't the case at Streamsong Blue. Despite no recent rainstorms, the greens were moderately firm (so balls would roll out a little), but the fairways and approaches were entirely too soft. I punched a 2/3 4-iron from 180 that hit a few yards short of the front of this green and the ball barely trickled five yards onto the green, leaving about a 70-footer to a back hole. Disappointing. I wanted to play a ground game, and instead had to play an all-too-aerial game at Streamsong Blue. The green falls away to the back, but as you're likely hitting a long iron or hybrid into the green, most won't ever have to deal with that. #12 - Par 4, 390 yards The fairway here is abundantly wide, though it appears significantly narrower than the 9th or the 11th. Large bunkers or collections of bunkers right and left frame and pinch the fairway slightly. The approach crosses a narrow inlet of water, a bunker that's about ten or fifteen yards short of the green, and finds a triangular green surrounded closely by three bunkers, with a fourth just off the back left a few yards. If you can - and you should - find the fairway, the daunting approach can trip up those who don't judge the wind or who simply aren't striking the ball well that day. The green is not only a bit narrower and longer than most, but features a left-to-right ridge, creating two shelves in the front and back. The greens, again, aren't quite firm enough to skip a ball back to the back pin, so that makes finding the back tier a tricky proposition. Most will be putting from the front level, which is great if the pin is there - the tier serves as a nice backstop. #13 - Par 4, 293 yards Another, depending on the wind, drivable par four. But, good luck, as there's not much room up there. Were I to play the hole every day, I'd hit a hybrid or long iron to the spot in the image below, and then play a simple pitch up the length of the green. On a rare downwind day, I'd likely hit a 3-wood and try to aim it at the right fringe. A pull would yield a tough bunker shot (albeit almost greenside and for your approach shot), and a push should have a little room. As it is, on this day, Kyle and I both succumbed to the short-right bunkers, and had some 50-yard bunker shots to the green. I managed a par, and Kyle… did not. I love short par fours, and this is no exception. The hole will yield a birdie as readily as any hole on the course, but it requires two well played shots, despite the sub-300 yard distance. The front left bunker is deep and not one to be messed with, but the fairway slopes left so a lot of approach shots, short as they are, must negotiate that bunker, particularly if the hole is cut up front. And don't overlook the views from the tee, not only of the hole ahead of you, but all around you. It's not the elevated tee of the first hole, or even some of the other holes, but the landscape is revealed in a nice way to you from the 13th tee. #14 - Par 5, 510 yards Playing uphill and across a large lake/pond with bunkers increasing the carry distance on the far shore, the 14th plays about 50 yards longer than the stated yardage. The tee shot looks about three times more difficult than it is, as there is plenty of room left. The better tee shots are played up the right-hand side, though, so carrying the bunkers at about 250 yards off the tee is ideal, so long as you don't miss too far right. At least, that's what you think playing the hole for the first time. Looking at the aerial photos, even a tee shot that finds the right-center of the fairway (below) still has a bunch of "stuff" to carry (this shot is 233 yards) on the uphill approach. Only a shot that finds the extreme right edge of the fairway has a partially clean look at the green, and since you're coming into an uphill green with a long iron or even a fairway metal, the obvious bail-out is to the right. Things aren't that simple, though, as a little bunker ten yards off the green prompts players to stay short of it. And, this fairway is huge… it's shared with the parallel 15th. There's a LOT of room left. But, venture too far left and your second shot is not fun. Just hit it up the left-center. This shot is one of the more interesting ones, to me, on the course, and combined with the tee shot, makes this hole one of the more interesting ones. Strategy and decision-making are tested for each of the first two shots, and likely vary considerably given how you're playing and the wind and conditions that day. How far right do you take the tee shot? How far left do you take the second shot? Can you fly it 220 uphill and stop it on the green? If you lay up to the right, can you control the distance to get past the "stuff" short but stop before your ball finds the little right bunker? So, despite the relatively short yardage, the uphill slant and the defenses the hole present make this a three-shot hole, albeit with a short pitch for the third for better players. I'd call it a half-par hole (4.5), but it's probably a bit tougher than that, particularly to first-timers. #15 - Par 4, 398 yards Playing parallel and slightly back downhill from near the 14th green, the 15th presents a pair of spectacle bunkers at which you can aim… and about 150 yards of fairway to the left of them for complete chickens (or people named Kyle) to find. (He would chip in from well off the green for birdie, so good for him.) The green is open in front and yet another example of a green onto which I would have loved to run a shot, particularly given the wind, but it wasn't to be, so I had to fly it there. The hole is not overly difficult, and it lacks strategy or thrill, but it's a solid par four that fits the landscape and doesn't stand out as "bad" in any way. #16 - Par 3, 215 yards This hole, meh. It feels like a perfectly adequate way to get from #15 to #17, and that's about it. It's a longer hole, plays uphill, with a bunker right and a slope off the green to the left. The best play may be to leave your ball just short and left, for an easy chip or putt. Moving on… #17 - Par 5, 573 yards Said to mimic the fourth at Bethpage Black (or a mirror image of it), the standout feature on this hole is the set of cross bunkers that affect your second shot. At 573 yards, and with the hole playing overall relatively level, but finishing on an upslope after driving down into a small valley, the hole asks a lot of both the tee shot and the second. Better players will want to hit a driver up the left-hand side, at what is almost an aiming bunker, to avoid the massive bunker to the right in the driving area. With their second they'll want to get over the cross bunkers (which are a farther carry to the right, where the green is), as laying up short of the bunkers leaves about 180 yards for your third - quite a ways for your approach to a par five. The green is relatively flat, open, and inviting, even short of the green, but many players will still have a 30+ footer for birdie, so good lag putting will get you out of here with a par. #18 - Par 4, 453 yards A great finishing hole - brutish, without being penal, the hole just asks you to hit two very good shots. The tee shot has to go left of a little bunker down the right-hand side, pretty much aimed toward a dune about 285 off the tee at the left edge of the fairway. It's a slightly uphill tee shot, so from there, it's a slightly downhill approach shot to a relatively unguarded green, with water and crap to the right. The clubhouse sits peacefully in the background, and can offer aiming points depending on where your tee shot wound up. It's a solid hole, but I have a slight nit-pick about the severity of a tier running along the left third of the green, as getting up and down from just left of the green is nearly impossible to some hole locations. I said it's a nit-pick, because people will bail out left, and punishing those who bail out is perfectly fair, too. On further playings, the better bail-out is short of the green, I think. My quick likes: The course is as dramatic, as beautiful, as interesting as it is touted to be. The scenery and landscape, though you could describe it as "bleak" with its brownish greens and sandy waste and brown scrubby brush, is at the same time foreign, authentic, rustic, ancient, and friendly. And more. The course makes you think, and I suspect plays quite differently depending on the wind. I've got no doubt you could play this course every day and not tire of the experience for a long, long time. The replayability is through the roof. The property, the space, the feel is grand, and yet intimate. Though you'll find yourself 150 yards away from some of your friends off the tee, the green sites are intimate, and the course is easily walked, with the next tee often 25 yards or so from the green. This means that the group ahead of you will often see you chipping in, three putting, or holing a long bomb from the wrong tier. Grantd, but intimate. My quick dislikes: The course requires, for my tastes, just a wee bit too much local knowledge. There are enough blind shots where, even upon following the advice of the caddie, I found myself in or near trouble (like on the sixth hole). There are times where width appears much wider than it is, or bunkers are not quite the distances they appear, and that can affect your decision-making, too. After six to eight rounds I think you'd have a good amount of the local knowledge, but with one round even with a good caddie, I think you're punished just a little too much - just a little - for not having that local knowledge. Two or three of the holes were meh, particularly two of the par threes. Maybe their charms would reveal themselves to me over multiple playings. The bunker sand was like beach sand: 6" deep and easily shifting. I'm almost reluctant to list this one, because bunkers should be hazards, but this is almost going a bit too far. I'd prefer unraked but firm bunkers. That would still make bunkers a challenge (think Kiawah Island Ocean Course). These felt like unkempt bunkers where they'd just dumped in way too much sand and hadn't done anything to compact it. Even raking it was bigger chore. You had to just play a chunk/run type shot; if you wanted any spin you almost had to a) get lucky with a clean lie and not a slightly plugged one, and b) pick the ball almost clean. For a resort? Meh. The practice green speed was about three feet slower than the on-course speeds. That's a pity, as it took five holes to get used to the green speeds, and neither @kpaulhus nor I putted particularly well on the first five holes. I can understand a little difference, particularly if one green was just aerated or something, but there was no apparent reason why the practice green should be significantly slower than the greens on the course. The fairway approach areas were soft, and the greens, though not rock-hard, were medium firm. This is my greatest dislike: I expected to be able to play the ground game, but couldn't. Balls would die out and almost all their speed would be scrubbed before the ball trundled onto the green. It was very disappointing to see what I was seeing, understand what I think I understand about Tom Doak's work, and have to play an almost typical American-style "fly it to the hole" type of golf. It made using the slopes on the greens less fun and effective, and rendered the slopes and contours fronting the greens completely irrelevant, as balls couldn't be counted upon to not plug. And no, there was no rain storm or any unusual weather before we played - the ground should have been reasonably firm. Perhaps there's just too much sand beneath it? (Though there's obviously plenty of sand beneath links courses in Scotland, and those are firm as firm gets.) Oh, and last thing… don't think that because my likes list appears shorter, that I disliked the course. I give it and 8/10. After obtaining more local knowledge, I could see it going to 8.5 or 9 out of 10. Also, beware what I said of giving too much weight to a review from a guy who has played the course one time, as I did.