Coore and Crenshaw

No tee markers, no par and 19 holes—Streamsong’s new short course embraces ‘alternative’ golf trend

September 23, 2023

One trend in recent golf course architecture is the rise of alternative courses—par-3 layouts, match-play courses and laid-back nine-holers. Streamsong Resort’s fourth course, The Chain, will incorporate aspects of all three when it opens for preview play beginning Dec. 1, 2023. The 19-hole short course at the popular central Florida resort was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, whose Red course at Streamsong is ranked 21st on Golf Digest’s latest ranking of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses.

It would be incorrect, however, to call The Chain a par-3 course. Par was intentionally omitted from the scorecard, not only as a symbolic rejection of convention, but more practically because it would be impossible to determine it. There are no tee markers on the course, and instead players hit from within the suggested teeing area, marked by large dragline chains that were used when the site was a phosphate mine.

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The Chain, which opens for preview play on Dec. 1, is situated in front of the Lodge at Streamsong Resort.

Matt Hahn

“The idea is for you to pick where you’d like to play each hole from,” says Craig Falanga, Streamsong’s director of sales and marketing. “Then in a match-play style, whoever wins that hole will pick where you tee off from on the next hole. Your imagination dials up the fun factor.”

The walking-only course winds around 36 acres directly in front of the Streamsong Lodge and will only be accessible to overnight resort guests. Resort guests staying at the Lodge will be able to walk to The Chain, compared to the resort's three existing courses, which require a short shuttle ride from the hotel. Streamsong is targeting April 1st as a tentative date for the full opening. A discounted rate of $99 will be offered during the limited preview play, and resort guests will be able to play The Chain for $129 when it fully opens in Spring 2024.

The course can be played in six- and 13-hole loops, as well as the full 19 holes. Some holes can play as short as 50 yards if you choose to play from the forward-most chain, while the longest hole—the eighth—stretches to nearly 300 yards.

Bisecting the loops will be “The Bucket,” a two-acre putting course marked by a 22,000-pound dragline bucket in the middle. The massive excavator and the chains that were once attached to it connect the newest additions at Streamsong to its mining roots.

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The 22,000-pound dragline bucket sits in the middle of the new two-acre putting course next to Streamsong's Lodge.

Courtesy of Streamsong Resort

“We are quite fond of these shorter courses,” Coore says. “When you take strength and length out of the equation, golf becomes much more fun for a vastly expanded group of players. And from an architectural perspective, we can do more interesting things, particularly on the greens and around the greens.”

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Streamsong Resort: Red
Bowling Green, FL, United States
Coore and Crenshaw’s Red Course is part of a resort triple-header that gives golfers a rare opportunity to compare and contrast the differences in styles and philosophies of arguably the three of top design firms in America, including Streamsong Blue, a Tom Doak design, and Streamsong Black, from Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner. The Red, like the Blue, was built from sand spoils created by a massive phosphate strip mine, with some piles forming dunes reaching 75 feet into the air. But there was only room for 31 holes, so Coore and Crenshaw had to take a section of less desirable, stripped-down land and create five holes that looked like the rest of the site, Red's holes one through five. The course has a wonderful mix of bump-and-run links holes and target-like water holes. Some greens are perched like those at Pinehurst, others are massive with multi-levels like those at St. Andrews. The turf is firm and bouncy, and while the routing is sprawling, it’s easily walkable. The Red has consistently comes out on top in this survey, but the Blue and Black are within just about a point.
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On most holes, the chains denoting the teeing area are more than 50 yards apart and set at different angles. Though Coore & Crenshaw created the course, players at The Chain will have a uniquely strong say in how the holes will play depending on where they choose to tee off.

One example of this is at the fourth hole (below), which from the back chain plays 140 yards over a pond and waste area. Move towards the front chain, however, and the water is not in play, the angle to the green is more inviting and the shot could be played with any club in the bag, including putter. Especially creative groups might opt to play closer to the tree, where the limbs would force a flighted or curving shot.

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The fourth hole at The Chain can play anywhere between 80 and 142 yards depending on where players tee off.

Drew Powell/Golf Digest

The Chain joins a group of acclaimed short courses designed by Coore & Crenshaw. Their creations at Bandon Preserve and The Sandbox at Sand Valley not only offer convenience for resort guests looking to cram in as much golf as possible, but they’re often as anticipated as their big course siblings given their thrilling contours and shot options.

Though The Chain is still in the grassing phase and is not fully grown in yet, Coore & Crenshaw believe that once the course plays firm and fast—perhaps in one year, Coore estimates—it may rival their designs at Bandon, Sand Valley and Barnbougle Dunes in Australia.

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The Chain has a few forced carries over natural areas, but players can choose where to tee off.

Matt Hahn

“Wherever we go, we scrutinize a landform and then try to seize upon that and make a hole out of it,” Crenshaw says. “That really comes from the British Isles. Many times in review of courses over there, they found a situation, and they made a hole out of it. That’s character.”

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That character is present throughout The Chain, including at the sixth, where a bunker sits in the middle of the green and makes the numerous shelves on the green play smaller, and at the 293-yard eighth, which weaves through sandy bluffs and low-hanging oaks, tricking players into thinking the area beyond is tighter than it is.

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Once The Chain grows in and plays firm and fast, Coore and Crenshaw believe the 11th, with a large punchbowl green, will be the most remembered hole on the short course.

Matt Hahn

When it opens for public play, Coore & Crenshaw believe the 11th (above), which plays over a pond to a large punchbowl green, will be the most discussed hole. Carry the required 150 yards over the water and the ball will be at the mercy of the ground and the many undulations on the most dramatic green on the course.

The Chain joins Coore & Crenshaw’s Red course at Streamsong, as well as Tom Doak’s Blue course and the Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner-designed Black course. Each of the three existing courses is ranked inside the top 30 on Golf Digest’s new America’s 100 Greatest Public list.

Public
Streamsong Resort: Blue
Bowling Green, FL, United States
Although congenial rivals, Tom Doak and Bill Coore actually collaborated on Streamsong’s original 36-hole routing, walking the site and mentally weaving holes around stunning mounds, lagoons, sand spits, savannahs and swamp, all elements left after a strip-mining operation. Coore then gave Doak first choice on which 18 he wanted to build, so Doak’s Blue Course includes a few holes routed by Coore. (Coore and Crenshaw’s Red, ranked No. 127, contains some holes originally envisioned by Doak.) The Blue starts a bit more dramatically, with the back tee on hole one atop a 75-foot sand dune. It has more water carries off the tee, and it’s also a bit more compact, since it sits in the center with the Red Course looping around its outside edges. The Blue definitely has the bolder set of greens, some with massive shelves and dips. The new addition of No. 178 Streamsong (Black) by Gil Hanse only adds to the spirited competition among designers. The theme song at Streamsong seems to be: “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.”
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