Travelogue: Streamsong Resort, Saddlebrook Resort

By |  May 9, 2017 0 Comments

Well, I’m back from another arduous trip to Florida.

I always feign ignorance when my friends ask me where it is exactly I’m going on business trips. Mostly I don’t want to catch shade for telling them my business trips require me traveling from one golf resort… to another.

Most people don’t consider that work, they call that “vacation.”

But I was in the Sunshine State for the annual Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association meeting, which was being held at Saddlebrook Resort (more on that meeting in the coming days, but let’s just say for now that it was good to your favorite magazine). On occasion (but rarely), I’ll plan ahead and look at a map, check the calendar and see if it makes sense to pop in somewhere else while I’m in town. On this trip it worked out, and I spent my first 24 hours at Streamsong Resort, a short 90 minutes from the Tampa airport.

The last time I was at Streamsong was almost four years to the day (missed it by a day), back in May of 2013. Hard to believe it’s been four years. Back then I bragged that I’d build in extra time to future trips to visit Streamsong… and yet, this was my first trip back to the resort since I was there to do my July 2013 cover story.

Golfdom Publisher and superb golf partner Pat Roberts joined me for the trek. Destination: the Blue Course, and a round with course superintendent Kyle Harris.

Streamsong has changed a lot in just four years. Mainly the infrastructure. Where there was a construction site (say, the hotel) is now a fully operational building/restaurant/golf course, etc.

Oh, and there’s another 18 holes there now, too. (Yes, I did get a glimpse of Gil Hanse’s Black Course, but as it doesn’t open for another few months, I’m sworn to secrecy.)

It was fun to retrace my steps with Harris, from when I was there a few years ago. It was easier for him, as he’s familiar with the property, while I’ll always be a disoriented guest trying to find his bearings. But I quickly recalled standing on No. 1 tee with Rusty Mercer, Streamsong’s director of agronomy (who happened to be out of town playing golf during my visit — sorry to miss you Rusty but I understand… that’s a major opportunity!)

We played the Blue Course, by Renaissance Golf Design’s Tom Doak. (We were invited to play Coore/Crenshaw’s Red Course the next morning, but unfortunately the TOCA meeting called and we had to hustle back in time to make the meeting.) We were fortunate to have Harris with us — he’s a superintendent with a passion for architecture, but he’s also a caddie, a poet and maybe even a philosopher.

If that sounds a little much, consider these things:

  • He expertly navigated every drive, every putt and every lay-up we needed;
  • While I use words like “dollop” for sour cream, he uses them for golf (when challenged, he explained that a dollop of landing area is ‘a little more than a smidge’);
  • Unaided by alcohol, and in-between golf shots, he dropped thoughts like, “You can’t two-putt a birdie on a par three unless you putt from the tee,” “I love it when two sounds don’t go together,” and “you should never ask a girl with wingtip eyeliner why she’s late.”

So, in brief: if you ever have an opportunity to play golf with Harris, you should do it, even if you’re not at Streamsong. (But you should definitely play a round with him at Streamsong, too. See if you can hit into the dollop.)

My experience at Streamsong was nothing short of first-class. The Blue Course was challenging but fun, a course you need to learn before you can play it well. I can’t tell you how many times I walked off a green knowing where and why my hole went wrong. And yet I didn’t care; I was in the middle of Nowhere, Fla., yet it felt like I was bashing golf balls somewhere much different than what the drive to the course indicated.

I knew the golf course was going to be fun. The resort itself was also first-class. Dinner, drinks, the room! The room made me feel smarter than I am, with a sleek design and a bookshelf full of classics. My only regret was that I was only there for one night.

And from there… on to Saddlebrook Resort!


It was tough, I’m telling you, to be invited to play the Red Course but to have to leave it behind to attend a meeting… but that’s what Pat and I did.

And I’m thankful that this is what I consider adversity. I realize how spoiled I am.

We arrived at Saddlebrook Resort a little before lunch the next day. The TOCA meeting was already in progress, but no one would notice if I wasn’t in the room before that day’s golf tournament, right?

Well, almost. There were two moments when your pal Seth was thanked during that morning’s meeting, only to be met with a “where’s Seth?” blank look from people scanning the room for my gray head, expecting me to give a wave of thanks. Whoops.

I’m flattered to be acknowledged by the two men who thanked me during the meeting — one a competitor, the other an advertiser. And trust me, I was there… in spirit… and this is me waving thanks/you’re welcome, right now.

I got to the meeting in time to see Chip Lewison, CGCS at Saddlebrook, give an interesting presentation. He talked about his unusual career path — which included a stop in Hong Kong and a foray into agriculture. Lewison thanked the media in the room, saying that before the internet, turf magazines were what he used to stay on top of the current technologies of the day.

(Lewison still uses turf magazines today… especially Golfdom, he told me… it’s just that the internet makes it so much easier now! And I’m cool with that.)

Chip talked about the water woes he’s experienced in Florida, but said he’d rather have a course ravaged by drought than ravaged by water… which I get. He forewarned us that the Saddlebrook course was a little wet in places (it’s in a swamp) while the Palmer course was a little dry in places.

I got back out on the golf course again with my preferred golf partner, Pat Roberts. Open fairways, warm-but-not-too-hot weather and a beautiful course. I was looking at a 6,641 yard par 71 with a lot of sun, a little wind and a speedy beer cart and I was just as happy as the day before with a bump-and-run shot at Streamsong. Yes, it helped that I started figuring out my driver (thanks Pat, for waiting seven years to give me that swing tip). And there was no one around — so the Bose blue tooth speaker was pumping out the tunes.

We played the Palmer course, which meanders through the Saddlebrook property. But never did I feel like I was jammed between residences, or at a great risk of ruining some Florida widower’s window.

Some of the greens were small, but all of them were true. No. 16 offered only a dollop of a landing area, and despite a precision tee shot, I still walked away with a double. It’s the editor’s equivalent of a run-on sentence with a misspelled last name: not only did you screw up, you also made someone mad.

My round at Saddlebrook ended, and while I was sad to get back to the boardroom, I can’t complain. If I get another back-to-back business trip like Streamsong and Saddlebrook in my career, I’ll consider myself lucky.

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About the Author: Seth Jones

Seth Jones, a 25-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at

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