Coore & Crenshaw’s The Chain breaks with convention

When the Mosaic Company first opened central Florida’s Streamsong Resort in 2012, management had an idea for a short course. The timing wasn’t right, so the concept got stuffed in the back of a drawer as something to revisit.

Around the same time, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw had an interest in developing a short course on similar mined land. For a variety of reasons that concept, too, got filed away. 

Located in Bowling Green — an hour southeast of Tampa and about two hours from Orlando — Streamsong Resort and its three top-100 courses (Red, Blue and Black) were constructed on old phosphate grounds, amid 75-foot dunes that were the result of the mining process. 

The Chain, Hole No. 4 :: Photo: Hornstein Creative

Coore and Crenshaw went on to design Streamsong’s Red trek, ranked 21st on Golf Digest‘s latest list of top 100 courses, before KemperSports gave the design firm the green light to fully conceptualize a short layout. (KemperSports managed Streamsong from its inception and bought the resort and land from Mosaic in January 2023.) 

In December, the Coore & Crenshaw 19-hole short-course vision, The Chain, became a reality. And, no, that’s not a misprint. 

“They asked, ‘How many holes do you want?'” says Keith Hanley, KemperSports’ senior vice president of operations, on Coore’s and Crenshaw’s request. “And we said, ‘We have no idea. Give us the best experience.’ It went anywhere from 13 to 20 and finally settled on 19 holes. They never went out there thinking just 13 or 18 holes. ‘Let’s keep looking for the best holes we can create based on the size of the land.'”

Thirteen of the 19 holes opened to the public as a preview in December. The remaining holes are targeted to open April 1. Streamsong opted to err on the side of caution to allow the final six holes to fully grow in.

So what makes The Chain unique? Here’s the rub: there is no par, no tee markers and the 36-acre, walking-only course can be played in six- or 13-hole loops. Participants can also opt to play the full 19 holes. A foursome could conceivably get through 19 holes in about two-and-a-half hours, or even an hour or less playing six holes. 

Having no par might bring agita to purists, but it was done intentionally. First, according to Streamsong general manager Kevin Kennedy, it was impossible to determine par. Additionally, practicality went into the decision because another unique nuance complements the experience. Players are allowed to hit anywhere within long and wide teeing grounds, each marked by dragline chains that were en vogue during the long-ago mining days. That means some holes can be played in as little as 50 yards or stretched to 300 yards. 

Overall, the experience provides verisimilitude. With fun at the core, it sets the stage for entertaining match-play games with buddies or a place to sharpen skills. The Chain also serves as an appetizer to Streamsong’s main fare before taking on one of its three full courses, designed by Coore & Crenshaw (Red), Tom Doak (Blue) and Gil Hanse/Jim Wagner (Black). 

Don’t be confused, though. The Chain leverages strategy and forces players to become tacticians. Being able to drop a ball anywhere on generous teeing grounds invites each hole to play differently, the type of challenges Coore and Crenshaw intended. 

“As Crenshaw said it best, ‘This isn’t a pitch and putt; this is real golf,'” says Kennedy. 

The design process supports this. Each hole follows the Coore and Crenshaw principles: Scrutinize the landform, carve out the best hole, and from that derive character. Kennedy says during visits Coore would often be wading out into tall weeds 50 yards off a beaten path as Kennedy was in mid-sentence. Coore would be off sizing up potential holes, creating visual snapshots in his head. 

In short, Coore and Crenshaw have never subscribed to the signature hole theory. Mainly because it evolved as a marketing gimmick and, equally important, it subtracts from the value of other demanding holes. 

Instead, they instituted their high standards for every hole. They built The Chain with the reasoning that someone could philosophically take the 13-hole loop and drop any of those holes onto any of the other Streamsong courses. 

With each teeing ground set at different angles, there are myriad options on how to approach each flagstick. 

Streaming Resort’s The Chain a six- and 12-hole loop with a total of 19 holes and a 2 1/2 acre putting green called “The Bucket.” :: Photo: Hornstein Creative

“You’re thinking on every single tee,” says Hanley. “Where is the pin, what’s the wind doing, where do Coore and Crenshaw want me to miss it so it gets a little bit difficult?”

It’s all in the mind’s eye. On the fourth hole, a player who chooses to hit from the back chain must contend with a waste area and pond, about a 140-yard carry. Hanley says the strategy changes entirely if a golfer decides to hit from the front chain. The water is no longer in play; the angle to get to the green is much different. 

The green complexes employ the Crenshaw touch, where they’re undulating and varied in size. Golfers need to be savvy enough to interpret the contours and how the ball will roll. The greens are not tiny tabletops by any means. Coore and Crenshaw identified ace opportunities on several holes. Of course, going for a hole-in-one does not come without risk.

For instance, a bunker was built into the green on No. 6 at The Chain, reminiscent of the sixth hole at The Riveria Country Club (Los Angeles). Depending on the location, participants might be enticed to go for the flag but could suffer repercussions if the bunker comes into play.

On the first six holes, Coore adhered to a park-like atmosphere with lots of turf that would challenge even a professional. If need be, a novice golfer could putt from the forward chain link to the greens. No hole plays longer than 155 yards. 

If a hole could be called signature, it might be No. 11, which features a punchbowl green. Coore and Crenshaw moved dirt to create the punchbowl effect. It requires a 150- to 189-yard carry over a pond to reach the extremely undulated green. 

“I do think Ben mentioned he thinks the 11th hole will have a lot of people talking, namely because of the punchbowl aspect,” says Kennedy. “If you ask Bill, he’ll say this hole is great and this hole is great and that hole is great.” 

Interestingly enough, Nos. 17, 18 and 19 are encapsulated. The remnant area from the mining work resembles fingers when viewed on Google Earth. The dredging created the peninsula effect but worked splendidly to Coore’s vision. 

As an added benefit, the two loops are divided by a putting course aptly named The Bucket for its 22,000-pound dragline bucket in the middle. 

“It’s really fun,” Kennedy says. “There are two different 18-hole courses on The Bucket. 

With “alternative” courses becoming a trendy buzzword in golf circles, they’ve actually been around since golf’s beginnings. Yet in an era when consumers are looking for quicker ways to play that don’t require so much rigidity, short courses provide that happy medium. 

Hanley cautions The Chain shouldn’t be misconstrued as a competitor to Pinehurst Golf Resort’s The Cradle. Both have different purposes and business models.

As a golf destination, The Chain rounds out Streamsong’s course suite. The Chain’s accessibility is only offered to guests staying at Streamsong Resort and just a short walk from the lodge. When all 19 holes become fully available in April, guests can expect to pay $129 for a round. 

“We wanted to provide something to keep the itch for the game scratched for our guests and I think that’s the course we have built across the street with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw,” Kennedy says. “It definitely scratches that itch and more.”