Gone to Florida: Warm Alternatives for Michigan Golfers

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Sick and tired of Michigan’s second snowiest winter on record? Planning to go south?

When the golfers in your family or group of friends next head to Florida, put Streamsong Resort and Southern Dunes on your list of courses to visit.

Streamsong, now in just its second year, is getting a ton of recognition in the national press as one of the hottest new courses in the country. This Bowling Green resort, roughly a 60 minute drive south of Lakeland, has two 18-hole courses: the Blue designed by Michigan’s Tom Doak, and the Red designed by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. The names simply came from the fact that when the trio looked at aerial plans of the property, Doak used a blue sharpie, while Coore and Crenshaw outlined their desired hole locations with a red one.

While most of the Florida landscape is flat, Streamsong is built on a former phosphate strip mine that left massive dunes and man-made water holes. While they’re weren’t naturally created, they do add a large measure of wow-factor for designers and players alike.

The ruggedness of the non-playing areas adds distinctive visuals that are not found at many golf courses. The two courses arguably offer the most elevation changes anywhere in the Sunshine State, but still don’t compare to northern Michigan’s natural vistas.

In my review of both Streamsong courses for GolfWeek, I concluded:

Doak did a nice job of making the fairways wide and favorable to many skill levels, while also building the best hole (No. 7) … as a par 3 carrying over water from highly elevated tees and a wrapped dune backdrop at the green. The hole is a tough test of length and accuracy, but also beautiful to look at.

Everyone agrees the Red course is a little tighter and a more challenging test than the Blue. From my vantage point, as a 16-handicap golfer, the Red seems to have too many bunkers placed in areas that penalize what are otherwise good shots.

Playing Streamsong at peak times will get pricy for the average golfer, especially if you take a recommended caddie. But even if price is your concern in choosing where to play, everyone should try the resort at least once; it’s that unique.

In Haines City, Southern Dunes, located about 40 minutes east of Lakeland, combines challenging holes for the better golfer, playability for those still learning, and natural beauty for all — despite weaving in and around a residential development most of the way.

Dunes is a key word in the property. Although it is located well inland, it has a nice gentle flow, with a combination of level holes and elevation changes, dotted with more than 150 sand bunkers. Those bunkers, ranging from massive to medium to smaller, are worked well into the design to provide both beauty and hazard. Almost all sand areas are highlighted with a nice variety of vegetation — trees, bushes, and tall grasses — inside and surrounding each bunker for an eye-catching look and feel to otherwise menacing traps.

Like many well-designed courses, Southern Dunes has a huge yardage range in tee boxes to fit anyone’s game. A consistent design pattern also appears to be wide landing areas off the tee followed by narrow or steep-sloped approaches to the greens, providing a good challenge without sucking all the fun out of golf.

Southern Dunes has been well maintained each time played. Every time I joined strangers at the course, they said Southern Dunes was the best course they played on their vacation. Villas on the property are available for rent.

Tom Lang is a freelance writer who has written for Detroit Free Press, Lansing State Journal, and GolfWeek. He is also a regular blogger for DBusiness magazine.

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