Osprey Cove – A South Georgia Track That Shouldn’t Be Missed

Osprey Cove – A South Georgia Track That Shouldn’t Be Missed

Osprey CoveLocated literally minutes from the Florida/Georgia border, Osprey Cove has a lot to offer. This private, gated community features luxury homes in a resort atmosphere and the climate in St. Marys, GA although warmer, allows residents to experience all four seasons, even if the colder weather is brief – just the way I like it.

Residents at Osprey Cove will find their social calendars crammed with things to do, whether it involves the fitness center, tennis or swimming pool, bike riding, boating or gardening. If that doesn’t provide enough opportunities to keep oneself busy, there’s always the 18-hole championship Mark McCumber-designed golf course.

Osprey Cove Golf Club opened for play in 1990 and over the years has gone through some tumultuous times which saw the course deteriorate to almost unplayable levels. Over the last 10 years or so, Osprey Cove has undergone a tremendous rejuvenation and is considered to be the best golf course in the area. This past summer saw the installation of new TifEagle Bermuda greens and two of the industry’s top magazines – Golf Digest and GolfWeek have recognized Osprey Cove as a “Must play if you are within 100 miles’ as well as a “Top 5 Course in Georgia”.

From the back (Black) tees, Osprey Cove plays 6,778 yards with a course rating of 72.9 and a slope of 135. Mere mortal men will find that the Blue Tees (6,236/70.7/131) provide an ample challenge and take out a few long carries off the tees. Ladies have a couple of choices as well; most choose to play from the Red Tees (5,062/70.0/117). There are a total of six sets of tees that create a yardage and difficulty suitable for golfers of ages and abilities.

Osprey Cove is the epitome of a Southern coastal golf course. It sits at the edge of the expansive St. Marys River basin and is designed around a wild life preservation area among tidal inlets and pristine marshes along the river. Golfers are treated to magnificent views out across the marshes on many holes.

Memorable Holes (All Yardages are From the Blue Tees)

Number 3: Par 5, 441 yards. Although this is a short par 3, Number 3 can be a very challenging hole, especially for someone who is not familiar with the course. What you think could be a perfect drive could easily land in the wetlands, especially if you try and hug the right side. A tee shot just shy of 240 yards will land you just short of the water that bisects the fairway. The trio of pine trees on the left side of the fairway up near the green help to create a kind of double dogleg. An approach shot with a bit of a draw could find the green and set up an eagle opportunity. Miss the green to the left and the deep bunker will test your ability to get up and down. The green is shallow and can be tough to hold with a long approach shot. Par is a good score here.

Number 5: Par 4, 334 yards. A short par 4 with an interesting ending. By that I mean the pot bunker that sits directly in front of the green, taking away the bump-and-run and forcing players to fly it on the elevated green. There is a lot of roll and undulation in the fairway and your tee shot is somewhat blind. Front middle pin placements will make you earn a low score.

Osprey CoveNumber 9: Par 4, 342 yards. Trees right and the expansive marshlands on the left keep you honest off the tee. Middle of the fairway is an ideal place to come in from. There’s a large deep bunker on the left and another to the right of this double green that co-exists with Number 18. A fair and rewarding end to the outward nine.

Number 11: Par 3, 113 yards. If I were naming holes, this one would be called “Sand” because it’s everywhere. Carry the waste bunker off the tee, avoid the two pot bunkers that guard the front of this elevated green which slopes back to front and you’ve got it made!

Number 15: Par 4, 381 yards. Standing on the tee, you’ll notice a large oak tree in the middle of the fairway, just short of where you want your ball to land. If you’re like me, I take dead aim at it, that way I’m assured of not hitting it! Left of the tree with a little bit of a fade works well too and leaves a mid-iron into a green fronted on either side with bunkers.

Number 18: Par 5, 468 yards. Number 18 requires a fairly substantial carry over the marsh from any of the men’s tee boxes. McCumber has placed fairway bunkers in the landing area on the left side off the tee and a couple more in the landing area and middle of the fairway to penalize otherwise successful layup shots. The marsh creeps up to the green on the right side and more well-place bunkers can wreak havoc with short approach shots. To me, this was the most entertaining hole on the golf course. Any pars (or better) are well earned.

Last Word: Osprey Cove is a golf course that won’t beat you up, but at the same time, it won’t let you push it around either. To many, it’s a shot maker’s course that demands a high level of placement and execution if you want to score well. McCumber has given players many targets to aim at to keep them on course. If you can do that, you’ll find yourself writing down some favorable scores. Fail to do so and you’ll pay the price.

Osprey CoveOne memorable characteristic of Osprey Cove is the smallness of the greens, compared to other area courses. Many of them have significant slope and undulations or are tucked precariously behind bunkers.

All in all, McCumber did a great job of using the natural terrain and river to create an exciting golf course that can be enjoyed by everyone. Osprey Cove is private club caliber with access to the general public and should not be missed by golfers in the area. Golf Digest had it right when they called Osprey Cove a “Must Play if You’re Within 100 Miles”. Osprey Cove is easily accessible from Jacksonville and the Amelia Island area and is a great stopover for snowbirds who are looking to get in one more round as they are heading back home.

Unlike many residential developments of this caliber, Osprey Cove offers stay and play packages that include accommodations in one of their luxurious suites overlooking the 18th hole, an in-room continental breakfast greens fees, cart fees, range balls and access to club amenities.

For more information or to book a round or a stay and play package, visit their website at www.ospreycove.com.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

Arrowhead Pointe Golf Club

Arrowhead Pointe Golf Club

Arrowhead Pointe Golf Club

Few private or resort courses have the geographical characteristics golf course designer Bob Walker was given when he designed Arrowhead Pointe. In fact, Walker has said that basically the state handed him 400-acres of land within the Richard B. Russell State Park in Elberton, GA and said, “put the course wherever you need to.” And Walker did just that.

This 6,861-yard masterpiece sits on a peninsula on Richard B. Russell Lake and offers some of the best water views and scenic vistas anywhere in the South. Better yet, there are no lakefront homes or even private docks to spoil the view as you make your way around the course.

Arrowhead Pointe Golf Club is not without its share of accolades, having been named the 2nd Best New Affordable Public Course in America by Golf Digest in 2005. It has also been ranked #10 on Golf Advisor’s list of Top 25 courses under $50 and TravelGolf.com placed Arrowhead Pointe on its list of the Top 10 courses in the state of Georgia.

Arrowhead Pointe Golf ClubFrom the back tees, Arrowhead Pointe plays 6,861 yards with a course rating of 72.5 and a slope of 134. Most men will find that the white tees at 5,971 (68.9/119) will give them a challenge and let them enjoy the scenery. If they need more, there’s a fourth set of tees that play 6,458 (70.7/129). Ladies typically play from 5,221 yards (70.4/122). The bottom line is that there is a yardage that is suitable for everyone; just be sure to pick the one that best suits your game and you’re sure to have a good time.

The course was designed back in 2001, but for budgetary reasons, did not open until July 2004. The Georgia State Park system boasts eight high quality golf courses, and while Arrowhead Pointe may not be the most difficult, it has by far the most breathtaking views. Water does come into play on at least 8 holes and thankfully most of what you see does not come into play. When it does, there are no overly long carries over it; hit your ball in the water and odds are that it’s your fault.

Arrowhead Pointe Golf ClubIn addition to the water hazards, you’ll find some significant elevation changes, tree-lined fairways, a myriad of doglegs – both left and right – and strategically place bunkers, primarily on the peripheries of the fairways. Well-groomed fairways lead to TifEagle Bermuda greens with subtle undulations and very few straight putts. This is one course that seems to have it all.

In creating Arrowhead Pointe, Walker wanted to make the course playable for golfers of all levels of ability. Each hole tends to have a safe route for less experienced players and a more challenging route that provides certain risk/reward opportunities for seasoned golfers. During your round, you may find it necessary to play both routes. Not only will it benefit your scorecard, it will greatly enhance your enjoyment.

The front nine has several interesting holes, most notably the par 5’s. Number 1 is a fairly straightforward hole that plays uphill and considerably longer than the stated yardage. Only the longest of hitters will get on in two; for the rest of us, the landing area is very generous off the tee. A layup down the right side will take the fairway bunker on the left out of play and set up an easy approach. Three good shots and you can tame this hole.

Arrowhead Pointe Golf ClubEven Head Golf Professional Barry Johnston says that the par 5, 5th hole is best played as a three-shot par 5. The best way to make birdie is to hit your approach shot close. There’s bunkers in play on both your tee shot and layup shot and the green complex is fronted and flanked by sand as well. The green slopes gently from back to front. Played correctly, this hole can let you put up a low number.

Both par 3’s on the outward nine play uphill and require an extra club or two to compensate. Another similarity: both feature green complexes that are well guarded by bunkers. The toughest hole on the front side is the par 4 6th, a 412 yarder that plays slightly uphill. Favoring the left side off the tee gives the best angle into a long, multi-tiered green. Number 6 provides the first view of the lake and gives you a taste of what’s to come.

The back nine features not only a number of challenging holes, it has some of the most incredible views in all of the state. It all starts on Number 12, a 368-yard par 4 (White Tees) which offers a great view of Lake Richard B. Russell and continues on Number 13, where a finger of the lake juts out and must be carried on this medium length par 3. The lake really steals the show on number 14 (361 yards from the White Tees), where it frames both sides of the fairway, giving the illusion that the hole plays a lot narrower than it really is. Carry the fairway bunker on the left and you’ll have a clear shot uphill to a long, narrow multi-tiered green well protected by bunkers. A front/back pin placement can be a 3 or 4 club difference.

Arrowhead Pointe Golf ClubAfter your round, be sure to visit Arrowhead Pointe’s café, where you’ll find a good selection of traditional clubhouse grub as well as all of your favorite libations. The pro shop is stocked with great looking logoed apparel from a lot of the industry’s top names including Titleist, Antigua and Adidas. There’s also a full-length driving range where you can hit every club in the bag and trust me, you’ll use every one of them during your round. The practice putting green will give you a pretty good idea of what you will face over the next few hours.

In addition to being a great day trip for golfers in the area, Arrowhead Pointe and the Richard B. Russell State Park makes a great golf buddy destination. The park has 20 cottages that can be rented at a very reasonable rate, especially when split 4 ways. Each cottage has 2 bedrooms, each with two double beds, fireplaces, screened porches, a private dock, patios with barbecue grills and, of course, beautiful views of the lake. In case roughing it is more your style, the park also has 28 camp sites. For more information or to book a tee time or one of the cottages at Richard B. Russell State Park, visit their website at www.arrowheadpointegc.com. For lodging information, click on the Georgia State Parks link on the homepage (www.gastateparks.org). Arrowhead Pointe is a proud member of the Georgia Golf Trail, a collection of some of the finest golf courses in the state. Check them out at www.georgiagolftrail.com.

 

Harbor Club on Lake Oconee

Harbor Club on Lake Oconee

Harbor ClubHarbor Club on Lake Oconee opened over 25 years ago and is still receiving high praise from golfers, writers and magazines alike. In fact, Harbor Club has been given 4½ out of 5 stars by Golf Digest as a “Best Places to Play” for the past 3 years running. Earlier this year, Golfweek Magazine rated Harbor Club #3 on its State-by-State list of Best Courses You Can Play in the State of Georgia.

With six sets of tees, Harbor Club offers a suitable distance for every caliber of golfer. The course measures 7,048 yards from the tips with a course rating of 73.6 and a slope of 138. Most guys will find the Green Tees (6,223 yards, 70.0/129) to be a challenge that still leaves them with a little bit of dignity intact. The Ladies Tees play 5,169 yards (66.6/111). Remember to choose the set of tees that best suit your game and you’re sure to have a good time.

This Tom Weiskopf – Jay Morrish designed golf course is nestled along the coastline of Lake Oconee and is fun to play for players of all skill levels. From the tees, you’ll find undulating fairways with generous landing areas, although fairway bunkers have been strategically placed to catch some errant tee shots. Almost every hole is tree lined, and, although the trees are not densely packed, if you’re in them, you’ll find yourself having to punch out, thus wasting a shot. For the most part, Lake Oconee provides visual aesthetics and really only comes into play on four holes.

In addition to a fabulous golf course, Harbor Club has some great practice facilities including a full length driving range with targets, where you can hit every club in the bag, along with a short game area and large practice putting green. The pro shop is home to some of the latest golf fashions and logoed apparel.

Memorable Holes (All Yardages are from the Blue Tees)

Number 3: Par 4, 345 yards. Leave driver in the bag on number 3. “Stone Bridge” plays 345 yards and features water all down the right side and out of bounds left of the cart path. An accurate second shot is needed with the water guarding the right side, almost to the edge of the green.

Number 4: Par 4: 430 yards. The par 4 5th hole has an interesting moniker – “Horses Won’t Cross the Creek”. The hole brings into focus Lake Oconee for the first time and creates a wonderful backdrop behind the green on this lengthy par 4. Your second shot plays downhill, giving back some of the overall length, but be sure to hit the right club on approach. The long, narrow green creates a three-club difference between front and back pins. Number 4 is what I would consider to be a true test of golf.

Number 11: Par 5, 553 yards. The dogleg left 11th is nicknamed “The Chimney” and is just flat out long. It’s tree-lined to keep you honest off the tee and the fairway bunkers that flank both sides of the landing area have seen their fair share of action. The green is well protected in the front by bunkers on both sides. A front pin placement can make for an interesting approach shot.

Harbor ClubNumber 14: Par 5, 523 yards. Perhaps the most intriguing risk/reward hole at Harbor Club is the #1 handicap par 5, 14th nicknamed “Wildflower”. For the average player, the hole plays as a dogleg left, around a large oak tree and treed marsh area. However, for the thrill seeker, you can play your drive left of the giant oak off the tee, taking the dogleg out of play and giving yourself a clear, albeit lengthy, shot to the green. A great drive from the Blue Tees will still leave a shot of over 230 yards to the middle of the green, of which about 200 is carry over the marsh. Two good shots back to back and this feat is easily accomplished. Even if you just clear the marsh area, you’ll be looking at a makeable up and down. This has to be one of the most challenging risk/reward opportunities in the state.

Number 15: Par 4, 281 yards. After the thrill of conquering the course’s toughest hole, it’s on to the shortest par 4 on the course. “Hidden Springs” plays 281 yards from the Blue Tees and from an elevated tee box, you get the idea that driving the green shouldn’t be a problem. Many will try, most will come up short, which isn’t a bad thing (unless your buddies succeed); you’ll have a manageable up and down with a good drive. If you decide to play it as a two-shot hole, be sure to avoid the fairway bunkers on either side off the tee. The water behind the right side of the green shouldn’t come into play.

Number 17: Par 3, 174 yards. If the bunker between the water and the green on “The Marsh” par 3 17th were longer, it would be a carbon copy of number 17 at Bay Hill. From the Blue Tees, it plays about the same length as Bay Hill’s Gold Tees, with the same carry over water to an angular green. It’s a great par 3.

Harbor ClubNumber 18: Par 4, 415 yards. “Double Cross” is a very challenging finishing hole that requires a well-executed tee shot over a creek, which runs parallel to the fairway the entire length of the hole. You’ll need to carry the water a second time in order to reach the green. The green is large and features some significant undulations, making for some interesting pin placements. Take a par and run.

Last Word: After your round, be sure to stop by the clubhouse for your favorite post round libations or a bite to eat. Lunch is served Tuesday – Saturday from 11 am – 5 pm and you can grab dinner Thursday – Saturday from 5 pm – 9 pm.

The lunch menu features some amazing sandwiches and burgers, including a “Build Your Own Burger” where you select from a number of toppings. The French Dip, Reuben and Chicken Sandwiches are also great choices.

The Culinary Team at Harbor Club pulls out all the stops for dinner. Start off with a basket of eggplant French fries and then indulge in entrees such as Salmon Paillard, Shrimp Angel Hair Pasta or Rack of Lamb. After dinner, treat yourself to a Chocolate Martini, made with brownie cubes, chocolate mousse, whipped cream and candied nuts. After all, you deserve it!

If you’re looking to relocate to the Lake Oconee area, look no further than Harbor Club. There’s a lot more here than just an outstanding golf course. There’s a junior Olympic size pool, tennis and pickleball courts, and the 12-acre Grove – a complex that includes a state-of-the-art fitness center, hiking and Fit-Trails, a quarter-mile running track and an event/sports field.

Boat enthusiasts will feel right at home at Harbor Club. The award-winning Lake Oconee Marina (Best Recreational Facility in the Southeast) provides easy access to the lake as well as boat storage and a wide variety of services to help you enjoy life on the lake. This includes a 72-slip dry stack boat (soon to be 300 slip) storage facility, boat ramps, fueling, watercraft rentals and a convenience store. If that’s not enough, there’s always Harbor Club’s Boathouse Restaurant, where you can motor in by boat or by car and enjoy burgers, BBQ, ribs and fried catfish all tastefully presented and served piping hot. During the summer, there’s live music at the Boathouse on Friday and Saturday nights from 11am to 9pm, and Sundays from 11am to 7pm, May through September. It’s also available to host private events.

Harbor Club is also a great venue for weddings. The Stables provide a beautiful, pastoral setting for weddings, receptions and other special events.

As you can see, Harbor Club has a lot to offer. The golf course is one of the few courses on Lake Oconee that the public has access to and I suspect at some time it too will go private. Until then, if you’re in the area and are looking for a great place to play and be treated like you belong, give Harbor Club a try. You can call them at (706) 453-9690 or visit them online at www.harborclub.com. The site also has all kinds of information on the community and surrounding area.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

Forest Lake Golf Club – Just You, Nature and That Little White Ball

Forest Lake Golf Club – Just You, Nature and That Little White Ball

Forest Lake GCAs Florida golf courses go, Forest Lake golf club is an anomaly. Oh sure, it has all the trappings of your typical Florida daily fee golf facility: pristine, natural lakes, a wide variety of Florida flora and fauna, gently rolling fairways and large undulating greens. But what sets Forest Lake apart from other courses in the Orlando area is the homes – or in this case, the lack thereof. It is a true Parkland golf experience.

Forest Lake is located in Ocoee, FL, and sits on over 218 acres of Central Florida’s ridge area, which provided the golf course design firm of Clifton, Ezell and Clifton tons of superb sandy loam. The course also sits atop the City’s effluent disposal field, giving them adequate access to water for irrigation, a precious commodity in the Florida golf industry. Also, the course drains very well, so you just might find yourself being able to get out and play a round of golf here, while other courses remain closed after inclement weather.

The course opened in 1994 and has been rated 4-Stars by Golf Digest in their Places to Play. Forest Lake features five sets of tees, setting up a playable yardage for all golfers, from seasoned professionals to beginners. From the back tees, the course measures 7,221 yards with a slope of 133. Most golfers will find that the Blue Tees (6387 yards/126 slope) will provide all the golf course they can handle and still leave with a little dignity. Ladies will be challenged from the Red Tees which measure 5065 yards with a slope rating of 117.

Forest Lake boasts a pretty impressive practice facility. There’s a full length driving range where you can hit every club in the bag, a chipping area with “blast” bunker and a large practice putting green. On our visit, the range was packed with players of all ages and abilities.

Lush, rolling fairways are generous off the tees and give way to large, undulating greens that can be hard to read for a first-time player, as I experienced. They may not be the quickest in the area, but they roll true and are consistent from hole to hole. The more you play them, the better you’re going to do.

The front side has some modest roll to it and the first hole demands an accurate tee shot between a couple of lakes, but from there the hole opens up. For most players it’s a three-shot par 5, however with a great tee shot, the green is reachable. Sand guards the front left side of the green with large mounding protecting the right front.

Forest Lake Golf ClubThe par 3 holes out here are very challenging; from the back tees: you won’t find one less than 210 yards. The second hole is the only one without water and features a very long and deceptive tiered green. Anyone who feels that par 3s are the easiest holes on a golf course needs to book a round on Forest Lake!

Holes 3-7 are situated on the western side of the 429 Expressway; you get there by taking the tunnel underneath the road. Like most of the holes they are tree lined; you better have control of your irons if you’re going to score well over here. The seventh hole is the shortest par 4 and, depending on the tee placement could be in reach for big hitters. The green is protected by a deep greenside bunker.

If your tendency is to hit the ball left, number 9 could prove to be a bit of a problem. It’s a 405-yard (Blue Tees) par 4, with a large fairway bunker on the left side in the landing area and another large bunker that guards the entire left side. Keep it right and your problems will be limited.

For me, the back nine had a lot of character and featured more subtle elevation changes from hole to hole. The final six holes were all memorable, especially the par 3 holes. Number 13 is a long double dogleg par 5 that demands an accurate tee shot to avoid the massive waste bunker on the right and fairway bunker on the left, and then an accurate layup shot that makes it to the second dogleg, yet avoids the fairway bunker in the landing area. Success to this point will leave a short pitch shot to a small, softly undulating green. Three well executed shots from tee to green can result in a low number.

Number 14 is a par 3 and is undoubtedly the course’s signature hole. From the Blue Tees, it plays 170 yards and is not only the most photographed on the course, it’s one of the toughest par 3s in the area. It’s all carry over water with expansive bunkers front left and back right. The green features some deceptive undulations.

The 15th hole plays 342 yards (Blue Tees) and is very photogenic, with a creek crossing the middle of the fairway. If you’re playing either of the back two sets of tees, the creek can easily come into play, however from all other tee boxes it’s easy to carry and the hole becomes a relatively short dogleg right. If you want to cut the corner of the dogleg, go for it. Just be wary of the trees that can impair your approach shot to a long but narrow green that’s well protected by bunkers. Believe it or not, this hole is handicapped the toughest on the back side. From the back tees, I can see why.

If the first par 3 on the back side didn’t get your attention, Number 16 certainly will. It plays about the same length – 163 yards from the Blue Tees – but offers a little bit of relief with a bailout area left of the green. Anything right will find the water or foliage and anything long will find the sand. This is another par 3 where par is good.

Number 17 is a dogleg left par 4 that plays 342 yards and, if you haven’t played the course before, you might think it goes right. The landing area is framed by bunkers and there is a fair amount of sand to the right of the green. Two well struck shots can set up a makeable birdie opportunity.

Forest Lake finishes strong with a 425 yard, par 4 dogleg left that requires an accurate tee shot between two bunkers. This leaves a long to mid iron slightly uphill into a small green surrounded by sand. A challenging end to a challenging golf course.

Forest Lake Golf ClubLast Word: Forest Lake is a Take-Your-Clubs-Out-Of-The-Trunk-Throw-Them-on-A-Cart-And -Head-To-The-First-Tee kind of place. The bag drop is easily accessible and the carts are right there. Greens fees are some of the lowest in the area, year-round! The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and leaves you feeling welcome and wanting to return. The beverage cart runs every day! In fact, the guys who designed the course years ago – George Clifton and Ken Ezell – still own and operate it; that’s how much they think of Forest Lake.

All carts are equipped with the Pro Shot GPS system which provides accurate yardage to the front, center and middle of the green as well as distance to and over hazards. No maps, everything is displayed in text format. Simple is definitely better.

Water comes into play on about 8 holes and with the exception of the two par 3s on the back, there are no unmanageable forced caries. For the most part, the wet stuff can be found on the peripheries of the fairways, forcing you to hit it straight or pay the price.

The day we played, the pace of play was fantastic. We played as a twosome and had a threesome in front of us. I felt like we were constantly being held up, yet we finished the round in a little more than 4 hours including a short brake at their Rusty Niblick Grill. And, in case you’re wondering, they did end up letting us play through!

Forest Lakes offers an annual membership that includes year-round discounts on greens and cart fees, 8-day advanced tee times, USGA handicap service, discounted range balls and a 10% discount on pro shop merchandise. You’ll also be eligible for Forest Lake’s annual tournaments including the Club Championship.

For more information or directions to the course, visit www.forestlakegolf.com.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

The Grand Opening Experience of Streamsong Black

The Grand Opening Experience of Streamsong Black

Streamsong Black

The magnificent par 3 – fifth hole at Streamsong Black

 

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 an celebration of this magnitude, you know it’ll be a day to remember.

In the coming days we’ll give a detailed hole by hole description of Gil Hanse’s new creation in it’s entirety, but in this post it’s all about giving you the experience of being on hand for the Grand Opening.

Streamsong BlackThis was the official itinerary for the day. I was fortunate to be in group 1b with Streamsong Director of Golf Scott Wilson, Golfweek’s resident course architecture expert 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.

For me personally, it was 8 months of anticipation since I bumped into Mosaic’s Vice President of Land Development and 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.

Streamsong BlackGil 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.

Streamsong Black

Tom Sunnarborg, Gil Hanse and Rich Mack at the Grand Opening ceremony.

Streamsong Black

Rich Mack, Mosaic’s visionary behind what we now know as Streamsong Resort, and Black Course designer Gil Hanse cut the ribbon at the Grand Opening of ceremony.

 

 

 

 

Streamsong BlackThe new clubhouse 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. Sleek, elegant and simple in both it’s style and function, the clubhouse at the Black is unlike any I’ve seen at a golf facility. As you play the course, it’s low profile and streamlined profile look so brilliant on the horizon.

Streamsong BlackAfterwards enjoy watching the sunset or gazing at the stars (below) with a drink beside the fire pit.

Streamsong Black

The par 4 second hole.

As group of nearly 100 or so golf media and other dignitaries within the industry, we teed of at 1:30 pm after a warm welcome of food, drinks and the opening ceremony. As I stated earlier, being in group 1(b) was a fortunate draw that also may have allowed me to have 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 my experience. We had absolute chamber of commerce conditions for an event in central Florida in late September – mid 80’s and sunny with a enough of breeze to make the walk enjoyable and club selection a bit of a challenge at times.

Is there anything better than walking a brand new (sure to be top 100) golf course with really great people and having your sticks looped by an upbeat and skilled caddie? The course was everything Hanse said it was, big, bold and fun. I’ll get into more specifics and details in the upcoming course review. The group did all they could to help me triumph in my beverage wager with Matt Ginella who said “Game On” walking off the eleventh tee at +1 when he heard I was even par. But nobody could keep me from faltering coming in, including three putts at the 13th and 17th.

Then after the best knock of the day on the 530 yard finale, all we had left was 208 (and the only thought was about trying to make 3 and getting back to level par) but the 4 iron approach got a little too much of the big ball before the dimpled one and plunged into the ravine that fronts the most dramatic finisher at the resort. The only double of the day was the result. As I caught up with Matty G in the Bone Valley Tavern afterwards he confessed that he also misplayed the 18th and finished at same score (+4) for the round. A rematch will have to be in order for sure – perhaps a home and home with Winter Park 9/ Palm Beach Par3 . . .

Some images from the new Black Course:

Streamsong Black

Resort Course in Central Florida

Streamsong Black

Fairway view on the Thirteenth

 

 

 

 

 

Streamsong Black

Short par 3 fifteenth

Streamsong Black

Just outside the clubhouse is Gil Hanse’s “Gauntlet” putting course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Streamsong Black

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 like the “Punchbowl” at Bandon Dunes for drinks and casual competition before or after dinner with friends.

Streamsong Black

Some of the really cool grand opening keepsakes from the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Streamsong Black

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.

Oh and wait until you see the uber Punchbowl ninth green! It’s Raynor on steroids . . .

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Black is destined to be an instant Top 100 ranked course.

The gun metal gray Streamsong logo (pictured right) is affixed to the clubhouse wall that faces The Gauntlet putting course.

As we enjoyed the delicious gourmet tavern selections after the round in the clubhouse at Bone Valley, Scott Wilson being the class act he is, 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. Just remarkable.

With a long winding road ahead, there was nothing left but to hit the road, so . . .

I rolled on as the sky drew dark
I put the pedal down to make some time
There’s something good waitin’ down this road
I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine
Yeah, runnin down a dream . . .

R.I.P Tom Petty

For more information on Streamsong Black: http://www.streamsongresort.com/

 

Picture
Jason  Bruno
LinksNation.com & GolfLife.com
University Park Country Club

University Park Country Club

University Park Country Club

Within the gates of University Park Country Club in Sarasota FL sits 27 holes of championship golf that will test even the best of players. Each layout was designed by Ron Garl and can be played in 3 different combinations, offering members a wide variety of golf holes.

University Park opened in 1996 and has been rated 4-stars by Golf Digest in their Places to Play. This semi-private facility offers both memberships and daily fee rates, so it is accessible to anyone who wants to accept the challenge.

A community that was once referred to by the Association of Home Builders as the “Best Community Design in America” deserves a great golf course and Garl certainly delivers. Garl used whatever the topography of the land gave him and carved a beautiful golf course from the woodlands and natural habitat. Many of the holes feature fairways lined with trees and natural Florida vegetation and only a couple do not offer wide, ample landing areas off the tee. Although water is visible on a number of holes, it really only comes into play on 12 or so. Some holes require an easy forced carry over water or wetlands that shouldn’t pose a problem to any golfer – provided you’re playing the right set of tees.

Rather than having catchy or symbolic names, the holes are simply numbered 1–9, 10-18 and 19-27. Each nine presents its own unique set of challenges.

University Park Country Club

Holes 1-9

From the back (Diamond) tees, Holes 1-9 play 3,548 yards. Most golfers will be amply challenged from the Platinum tees (3,023 yards), while the ladies’ yardage is 2,394 yards. Number 2 is a par 5 that will be reachable in two for many players and can help get a good round off to a quick start. It requires a precise approach shot to a narrow green protected on the left by water, and with the green set on an angle, you may need one extra club to reach a back pin placement.

It’s not often that bogey can be considered a good score, but it is on Number 3, the layout’s #1 handicapped hole. It’s a dogleg right that slopes to the right, so unless you know you have the length, cutting the dogleg is not a good idea; that is unless you enjoy hunting for golf balls. A good line off the tee is the fairway bunker on the left with a little bit of a fade. Almost 93% of the players out here do not hit number 2 green on their second shot, so be prepared to go for an up and down to save par.

The par 3, number 5 is University Park’s signature hole and at only 140 yards from the Platinum tees, it provides many with a fitting challenge. You may want to consider hitting one extra club off the tee in an effort to clear the front bunker that sees a lot of play. Long is better than short!

University Park Country Club

Holes 10-18

Holes 10-18 are roughly the same length as 1-9 (3,456 from the Diamond, 3,072 from the Platinum and 2,481 for then ladies), with water factoring into the equation on all but two holes (13 and 14). This side starts out with a somewhat short par 4 – 342 yards from the Platinum tees – but don’t let that fool you. Although the fairway opens up to the right just past the trees, there’s a pond lurking over there. If you can favor the left side off the tee, you’ll be left with a medium to short iron into a wide green. With the green sloping form back to front, try to keep your approach shot below the pin to have the best shot at birdie.

The two finishing holes on this side really set this nine apart. Number 17 is the #1 handicapped hole and, at only 359 yards from the Platinum tees, requires an extremely accurate tee shot to a very narrow landing area with water on the right. An extra club might be the right call on your approach shot; it plays slightly uphill and is fronted by a beautiful – yet treacherous – bunker.

University Park Country Club

Number 18 (379 yards, Platinum Tees) has always been one of my favorites out here and I have yet to master it. There’s water on the right side off the tee and trust me, it is reachable. Shorter right off the tee and you’re in the fairway bunker. From here you’ll need to carry not only the water but also navigate around or over a couple of trees, all from the sand. Good luck! The left side is no bargain either as a cluster of bunkers await errantly hit shots. Find the fairway off the tee and your chances to score well here increase dramatically. There’s a large trap that guards the right side of the green, which is open in the front left. A word of warning on your approach shot: long and left Is death!

Holes 19-27

Holes 19-27 play slightly longer than the other two nines (3,151 yards from the Platinum Tees, 2,468 for the ladies). Number 21 (384 yards from the Platinum Tees) is yet another hole at University Park that requires accuracy off the tee. Even a good drive is going to leave a long second shot that needs to be struck crisply. When in doubt, aim for the left side of the green; if you come up short, you’ll still have a good chance at up and down to salvage par.

Hole Number 26 is a challenging par 5. Although water doesn’t – or at least shouldn’t -come into play, what it lacks in water, it makes up for in sand. You’ll need to avoid the fairway bunkers on the right off the tee; longball hitters may have an opportunity to go for the green in two. If you find yourself having to layup, there’s a series of three bunkers about 100 yards short of the green in the middle of the fairway. The green is best approached from the left side. For those trying to reach in two, take dead aim straight over the fairway bunkers.

The final hole is the shortest par 4 on the course. Playing a mere 330 yards from the Platinum Tees, a well struck tee shot over the first fairway bunker on the left will leave a short iron or wedge into one of the course’s smallest greens. It’s a great opportunity to end your round on a positive note.

University Park Country Club

Last Word: University Park Country Club offer six sets of tees, so that anyone – regardless of their skill level – can enjoy the course. There’s a large, full-length driving range where players can hit every club in their bag, a great short game area and a large practice green where you can groove your putting stroke before heading out on the course. Inside the clubhouse, University Park’s pro shop is stocked with all of your favorite logoed golf apparel from designers such as Fairway & Green, Tehama, Cutter and Buck and Jamie Sadock, as well as equipment from some of the biggest brands in the game. You’ll find them competitively priced with the big box retailers.

Another thing that sets University Park apart is their culinary staff. Executive Chef Roger Turtch has plenty of experience at high end private country clubs and his highly trained team uses only the freshest ingredients, prime meats, fish and poultry to create dining experiences unlike anything you’ve had before. Club members and visitors to the facility are invited to enjoy lunch at The Park Grille & Café, Monday – Saturday between 11:30 am and 2:30 pm. Their vast menu includes mouthwatering burgers and sandwiches, homemade soups and gourmet salads that are anything but typical. Dinner is reserved for members and their guests.

It’s often been said that membership has its privileges and University Park Country Club is no exception. They offer 30, 60 and 90 Day Trial memberships for those who are interested in giving the country club lifestyle at University Park Country Club a try. These memberships are available for full memberships, Tennis & Fitness and dining. You are limited to one time, kind of a try before you buy.

Another popular membership is the Summer Golf Membership which starts at just $500 for the entire summer. Just pay cart fee and you’re on your way. It’s another great way to introduce yourself to the club and at the same time meet some new friends.

If everything goes as it should, either of these programs will lead to an Annual Membership, which gives unlimited access to all University Park has to offer. Annual memberships are available in seven classes, just call Ann Backus, Membership Director for more information at 941-355-3888 ext.234. You can also visit them online at www.universitypark-fl.com.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

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