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At Streamsong Blue, Beware the Bounces May 23, 2016 | Bowling Green, Fla. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

A cross bunker on the par-5 17th is one of many strategic obstacles architect Tom Doak implemented at Streamsong Blue. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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When Tom Doak designed Streamsong Blue, it was unlike any other project he had ever done – and that wasn’t just because of the dramatic dunescape that he was unexpectedly presented with in Florida.

It also had plenty to do with the fact that Doak and fellow architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were working on concurrent designs, dividing a rough 36-hole routing into their own distinctive Doak [Streamsong Blue] and Coore-Crenshaw [Streamsong Red] layouts.

“Bill and I spent time together out there, trading ideas back and forth without deciding who was going to build what,” said Doak, who also designed Pacific Dunes, a renowned course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon that hosted last year’s inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship. “A few of the holes that ended up on my course are ones that he came up with first, and vice versa. The interesting part was that neither one of us wanted to decide who built which course. [Streamsong owner] Rich Mack finally made Bill choose.”

Both courses opened to acclaim in 2013, and this week Streamsong Blue is playing to 6,216 yards and a par of 72. With stroke play complete and five rounds of matches looming, it’s a good time for Doak to review Streamsong Blue.

“The bad or unlucky bounce that leaves you with a difficult recovery shot, that’s a big part of the design of Streamsong,” said Doak. “The course has very wide fairways, and the players who are here this week are almost never going to miss a fairway or lose a ball.”

As a result, said Doak, “The main defense of the golf course is in the contours around the greens – there’s bad bounces and good bounces out there. I think the course rewards players who study it well, or have caddies who understand the different hole locations, as well as having a positive attitude. Because there will be bad bounces.”

One way to negate the effect of any bad bounces is to weigh the cost of challenging the contours.

“I might need to take an extra club, and risk being 20 feet deeper than I want to be,” said Doak. “The alternative is to flirt with just barely carrying a little knob at the front of the green and risk the ball taking a bounce and going anywhere.”

With all the contours around the greens, taking the safe route to the middle of the green doesn’t guarantee making par.

“Sometimes playing to the middle of the green leaves a 40-foot putt with a lot of break to it,” said Doak. “It’s important to understand as you stand out in the fairway and contemplate a shot, having your partner already on the green doesn’t mean they are necessarily in a good place. Sometimes it’s better to miss the green entirely than be in the middle of it.”

A few holes to watch, with Doak’s comments:

No. 1, 338 yards, par 4: There is trouble to the left off the tee, but if you can hit your drive over there, close to the trouble, you’ve got a better chance of stopping the ball quickly on the green. The green tilts from right to left, and from the right side of the fairway, most of the green’s contours are going to take the ball away from the hole. In a four-ball format, one player has to drive it left, and keep it out of the bunkers.

No. 8, 414 yards, par 4: There is a beeline down the left side off the tee to go straight at the green and shorten the hole. It’s a dangerous line to take, but if you play away from that, to the right, there is a 3-to-4-foot slope to the fairway that takes you farther away from the green. The more you aim right, the farther the ball goes right once it hits the ground. You end up much farther away from the hole than you thought you were going to be.

No. 16, 185 yards, par 3: This is a very difficult par 3 where it’s easy to hit your tee shot either in the bunkers, or play too safely out to the left, leaving yourself a tricky up and down. If you’re trying to hang onto a lead, it’s a nervy place to try to make a 3.

No. 17, 498 yards, par 5: If you haven’t driven it in the fairway, you might have to lay up short of the cross bunkers. Even if you don’t, you need to hit a solid second shot over them. If you lay up, the third shot from behind the bunkers is going to be a hybrid for most of the field.

No. 18, 364 yards, par 4: Players will drive it over the crest of the hill, and they will find a lot of room to the left. Players think they can hit their approach out to the left and be safe, but that’s always a bad play – you have to be to the right of the hole here.  

Doak added, “I don’t really put extra emphasis on the finishing holes on my courses the way some architects do. I’ll take the good holes wherever they fall; however, I do think the last three at Streamsong [Blue] make up one of my best finishes. If a match gets to No. 16, I think it will be pretty exciting from there.”

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at

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