Grandma’s Ashes, Geoff with a G and Streamsong ResortArticle by: Brandon Wilde
This trip starts before we even embark on our journey across the country. The night before departure, a mutual friend of the Gurus' arrived at Billy's house unannounced and says, "This is a weird request, and you can totally say no if you want to…but would you sprinkle my mother's ashes at Tropicana Field in Tampa?" He agreed, before actually understanding what he was agreeing to. Apparently grandma was a huge baseball fan and her final wishes were that she be laid to rest at as many MLB baseball parks as possible. Ultimately, a small bag of grandma’s ashes were packed into the suitcase that night. It was about this time that Billy realized that he had been driving around with an expired driver’s license. Fortunately, being the world traveler that he is he had a current passport and threw that in his carry-on bag.
This day couldn't come soon enough, Billy arrived to my place bright and early in the morning and we had an uneventful drive to the airport and flight to Tampa. Upon arrival to Florida, we both breathed in the heavy southern air and felt grateful that we had just left home with the temps in the mid-20s and were now enjoying 75 degrees in January. Due to Billy's lack of a valid driver's license I became the official Guru chauffeur and had the occasion to drive the Chevrolet Trax all week long. I'm just glad that Billy is a light packer because had he packed like my wife, we would have had to leave a set of clubs behind. Don't be fooled by the hatchback, the Trax's trunk space leaves much to be desired.
Upon leaving the airport, our first stop was Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. It wasn't far out of our way and we decided to see a little bit of the city. At Tropicana Field we found a beautiful palm tree in front of the stadium and sprinkled a bit of grandma at the base. Pictures of the ceremony were sent back home and we received the following response via text: "I bet she would have enjoyed her date there, if she’d been there in person. Two nice handsome guys on a date to a ball field.” I’m not sure about the handsome part, but I’m glad we could make grandma’s day.
We then loaded back up into the Trax and headed south to the Days Inn Fort Myers. Upon check-in we were surprised to receive 2 vouchers for free drinks at the Tiki Bar. The clerk informed us that the bar is open until 2 am. We took the vouchers and looked at each other a little confused…we didn't see a bar, and it was a Tuesday night. It must have been a mistake. Upon driving around the hotel to get to our room, we found the Tiki Bar. I have never seen a party like that at 11 pm on a Tuesday night in the middle of January, complete with music, dancing and Beer Bingo. The Tiki Bar was the place to be! Since neither Billy nor I drink (a theme of the trip), and we had an early tee time (another theme of the trip) we just found our room and tried to call it a night. However, due to the constant noise coming from the Tiki Bar we had to concentrate and fall asleep while the AC unit was on in order to drown out some of the party. I fell asleep rather quickly and am unsure how long the Tuesday night Tiki Bar Beer Bingo party lasted. All I know is that the partygoers weren’t up when we left in the morning.
The room was nice enough but interestingly each bed had three half-pillows. This is important, as we developed a hotel rating system based on how many pillows the room has. Therefore, the Days Inn Fort Myers earned a 3 pillow rating.
Our tee time at Old Corkscrew was scheduled for 6:40 am. We had about a 20 minute drive to the course so we awoke at 5:30 and left the room at 6:00 which is exactly what time the "Continental Breakfast" opened. We dropped by and were surprised to find that breakfast consisted of two yogurt cups and a plastic case full of sliced white bread. We took both cups of yogurt, leaving none for the other guests. I guess the motel plans on everyone staying out at the Tiki Bar and skipping breakfast.
It was about this time that we both realized that it was still pitch black outside with heavy fog. As we drove to the course we knew we wouldn’t be able to tee off at 6:40. The sun was nowhere to be seen. Upon arrival, a staffer with a mini flashlight greeted us warmly and asked when our tee time was. When we told him 6:40 he didn’t believe us. The earliest tee time is usually at 7:10. However, upon checking the book, he found a 6:40 tee time for two for the Golf Course Gurus. We all had a good laugh. We could have slept in for an extra half hour!. Soon, the assistant pro arrived and we had a nice chat with him about his disbelief that south Florida doesn’t have more Top 100 golf courses. Ultimately, there was enough sunlight to tee off at 7:05 am. As we started our round we got a warning alert on our cart to watch for alligators. Ironically, this was the one round of the trip where we didn’t see any gators. We dealt with fog throughout the entire round, which was unfortunate that we weren’t able to enjoy the vistas of a traditional Florida golf course.
After finishing Golf Magazine’s #1 rated public golf course in southwest Florida we embarked on finding a place for lunch. Anyone who road trips with the Gurus knows that we seek high quantities of food at affordable prices. We hit the motherload on this trip. On day one we found an all-you can-eat Chinese joint called Sakura Buffet. Located in a strip mall between Old Corkscrew and Calusa Pines, this place was fantastic! From hibachi, to traditional Chinese fare, to sushi, to American desserts, this place had it all for a great price. I recommend the coconut shrimp with the combination of red bean and pistachio ice cream for dessert. After eating more than we should between 18-hole rounds we headed back up the road to Calusa Pines.
As we arrived, we met our caddies, Sean and Randy. We were paired up with assistant pro, Chris (and his tight pants) who was recovering from a shoulder injury. After checking in at the pro shop, we were escorted to the locker room which was incredible. The bathroom was stocked with nearly everything a golfer could need, including mouthwash, shaving cream, talcum powder and aftershave. We did find one item lacking, however. Hand lotion. In its place, Billy ended up using sunscreen, which does the job of moisturizing your skin in a pinch. At least his hands didn’t get burnt! The round was full of traditional Florida golf, with large palm trees, water hazards, sun-bathing alligators, as well as vast, white sand hazards. Overall the round was relatively uneventful, highlighted by Chris’ tight pants, which must have some added distance benefit because he routinely flew our drives by 40+ yards. Both our caddies kept us entertained throughout the round. My favorite line came from Sean when I pushed my approach shot into some small, circular-shaped ornamental grasses near the green….pointing in the direction of my Titleist, “Your ball is over by those two Don Kings!” I couldn’t have described it better. It really did look like the heads of little Don Kings with his long grey hair standing on end perched on the ground. On the back nine, temperatures were getting pretty warm for two Idaho boys (upper 70s) and the golf gods must have known we were getting uncomfortable, because we got a Florida downpour for about 2 holes. It was just enough rain to cool us off, but not enough to get us off the course. Perfect. The round ended with the cloud cover clearing and an awesome photo op of hole 16, with the glassy reflection of the sunset in the water.
By the time we got packed up and into the Trax it was dark and we set off to find our next classy motel. We had a 100 mile drive and we were still feeling heavy from all the sushi and hibachi from earlier so we decided to hit the road and find some food near the hotel. We drove most of the way on small two-lane highways through orange tree groves and Florida farmland. I’m sure it was beautiful country, but its a little tough to appreciate in the dark. When you spend all your daylight hours playing golf it leaves little time for sightseeing. When we arrived to the bustling town of Wachulua, Florida we found a Sonic Drive-In that was running a special. Buy a footlong chili dog and get a small shake for free. Of course the Gurus took advantage of that deal! Just down the road we arrived to The Tropicana Motel
At check-in we met a nice Middle Eastern lady who we believe is the owner. As we checked in she handed us a TV remote and made sure we understood the importance of bringing it back upon check-out. We both thought this was quirky, that they were so worried about the $5 remote, but they must have had problems with missing remotes over the years. Anyway, the remote proved to be nearly useless as we had our choice of about 5 channels, all of which were old game shows from the 1970s. I kept hoping to catch an episode of “Press Your Luck” or that old license plate game show. In true Guru tradition, flip-flops were absolutely necessary when in the bathroom. I shared a shower with some pretty interesting insects that may be indigenous to the Tropicana Motel. This was the worst night’s sleep of the trip with a squeaky bed on 2 full pillows. The Tropicana Motel gets a 2 pillow rating.
The morning couldn’t come soon enough after a restless night. The remote was dropped off at the front desk and we took off to our ultimate destination, Streamsong Resort. We had a short 20 minute drive and arrived at the hotel and checked in early. The beds sure looked comfortable, but we had a tee time at the newest of the three courses, the Black Course. It was only recently opened, in October 2017, about 3 months prior to our arrival. Of all the golf to be played on this trip, we were most excited to play this course. We teed off from the tips by ourselves sandwiched between two foursomes. We knew no speed records would be broken this day so we enjoyed the course and took lots of pictures. On each of the three courses at Streamsong, players are rewarded at the turn by a hot food hut. Since our day started out with a single protein bar, we were ready for some nourishment. The Black Course boasted the best Buffalo Chicken empanadas for the reasonable price of $4. We made sure we stopped at every food hut for the rest of the trip.
On the 11th tee we had our first run-in with Geoff with a G, who appeared to be a glorified marshal. What he had in ambition he lacked in communication skills. As we approached the tee box Geoff with a G asked if we were doing OK and we answered happily that we were doing great. By the time we reached the 13th tee our friend, the over-ambitious marshal, had us pick up our balls and drop them in the fairway because we, the twosome sandwiched between two foursomes, were playing too slow. No warning, no friendly banter about the course, no polite petition to pick up the pace...we were so taken aback at this request that we did what he asked and moved on. Of course, we then waited on the 14th tee for the group in front to finish - the classic case of hurry up and wait. We did bump into Geoff with a G after finishing 14 and expressed our dissatisfaction with how he handled the non-situation. All he could tell us is that the orders came from the head pro and we could discuss it with him if we would like. After Billy let him know that we were writing an article on the resort and politely asked him to move his cart for the picture, we never heard from Geoff with a G again.
Our round on the Black Course finished uneventfully and now it was time to head over to the Red Course. There was no time for lunch, so another protein bar had to do the job. We were again able to play by ourselves. We followed a foursome with 2 caddies. One member of the group wore a salmon colored shirt and seemed to find himself in every sand trap on the course. We made sure we kept up with the group in front of us this time. At the turn we enjoyed BBQ brisket, pork and buffalo sausage. You couldn’t go wrong with any of the choices. As the sun began to set we began to spot countless alligators soaking up the sun on the banks of the water hazards. I’m pretty sure I saw the one that bit Chubb’s hand off. He was missing an eye.
According to my Apple Watch we logged over 31,000 steps and over 16 miles up and down rolling terrain so our bellies were definitely ready for some nourishment. We cruised into town and found Taco Express which had plenty of food at affordable prices. We recommend the tamales.
Upon returning to the resort for the evening we entered our room to find a bucket full of bottles of beer with a note from the resort thanking us for coming. As you know, we do not drink so we took the beer down to the restaurant to return them. The bartender looked at us like we were nuts, but he did swap us for a few Coke Zeros. After 72 holes in two days and with full bellies, we fell asleep rather quickly on our 4 pillow beds.
Another early morning and we began on the Blue Course. It was almost too early to make the hike up to the first tee. I would suggest a good long stretch before climbing that hill! But what a beautiful way to start the day, from one of the highest points on the property. We were the first group off the box and it felt great! At the turn we enjoyed an assortment of tacos; beef, pork and our favorite, the grouper tacos. Soon we finished the fastest round of the trip without much excitement.
Next was a quick drive over to the Black course while we ate our lunchtime protein bars. The weather was getting a little ugly with swirling winds that was blowing sand across the paths. We made the decision that we would play a box up from the tips. When we told the starter that we had played the tips the day before this was his reply, "I've only seen one person play from the tips, and he was the number five player in the world." Not sure what that means, but he was really trying to discourage us from playing back there. We were paired up with a twosome in their 70s, Jim and Lem. Both were decent golfers and very nice guys, but they were some of the slowest players either of us had ever seen. We ultimately split up and headed out in front of them because we were worried we may not finish before dark. Before long we caught up to a foursome who had had a few too many adult beverages. The group was led by a tall, lanky man we nicknamed Lurch. He was loud and constantly yelling about how he needed to win the next hole to get back to square. Fortunately, we were able to finish the round, but unfortunately we played the finishing hole in the dark and didn’t get to fully enjoy the best finishing hole of the three courses at Streamsong.
After the delicious BBQ on the Blue course, we decided to see if we could find some local BBQ nearby, and we did! Smokin' Joes BBQ in Bowling Green, FL is the real deal. As we approached the restaurant we could smell the sweet scent of smoked meat, then we saw the smoker which was visible from the highway, and finally we noticed the paintings of Porky Pig on the glass. This place had it all. Our favorites were the ribs, brisket, pulled pork, onion rings and candied yams...you can’t go wrong. There was no soap or paper towels in the restroom, and the place hadn’t been swept since Christmas, but the food was scrumtrulescent. And the portions were Guru-sized. To top off the meal we each enjoyed a scoop of ice cream while we perused the large selection of DVDs for rent.
The last day of golf came much too early for us. The final day had us scheduled to play the two original courses on the property; Red then Blue. For the Red round we were paired up with a couple in their 60s from Pennsylvania. Billy swears he knows them and traced it back to playing with them at Kiawah in South Carolina. It's a small world. They had a caddy named Chen. He was phenomenal! The Gurus are too cheap to pay for a caddy, and usually if you’re not paying for their services they don't feel the need to help you out much, but Chen was an anomaly. He read every one of our putts and was spot on. I had my best round of the week and I owe my improved play on the greens to Chen’s reads.
By the time we teed off on the elevated tee of the first hole on the Blue course the weather was starting to change. It was the coolest day of the week and we started to feel some increased winds picking up. That didn’t affect us. We forged on. The hot buffalo sausage at the turn was a much needed reprieve. Somewhere on the back nine a marshal approached us dressed in a winter coat, beanie and gloves. He was concerned that we were underdressed. We assured him that the weather was fantastic. After all, in Idaho we play golf when the temperature reaches 40 degrees! 60 degrees with a little breeze is something we are very comfortable playing in. I will admit that by the end of the round, the combination of humidity, wind and the falling temperatures made me grateful for a hot shower.
The resort was gracious enough to offer us a late checkout which we gladly took advantage of. We showered, packed up our luggage and headed to Smokin' Joes BBQ for the second time in as many days. Our second visit was every bit as good as the first. The floor still hadn’t been swept and the bathroom hadn’t been restocked. Once our appetites were satiated we hopped in the Trax and headed back to Tampa where we checked into the Ramada Inn near the Tampa Airport. The hotel lobby was infinitely nicer than the actual room we stayed in. The beds had three pillows which solidified our newly minted Golf Course Guru’s Hotel Rating System. It is a simple system, similar to a movie rating system, only we use pillows instead of stars and we base it solely on the number of pillows present on the bed. It doesn't matter how big the pillows are, for example the half-sized pillows at the Days Inn still count as full pillows. The more pillows the better the hotel. Final results:
- Tropicana - 2 pillows
- Days Inn- 3 pillows
- Ramada - 3 pillows
- Streamsong - 4 pillows
As per usual, we had an early morning and headed to the airport which was just a short drive away. All seemed to be going well until we boarded the plane. We sat on the runway for quite some time and then were asked to deboard the plane due to a mechanical problem. As soon as we got off the plane we started checking into switching our flight. We weren’t convinced that we would board that plane anytime in the near future. Thanks to Billy, our world traveler, and his ability to sweet talk the Delta Customer Service folks we moved a couple gates down and hopped on a plane about an hour later. This time flying through ATL instead of LAX, actually saving us some flying time. When we touched down in SLC we were impressed that the airline was able to get both sets of clubs on the right flight.
By the time we touched down we were both famished, and no golf trip is complete without some cheap tacos. So, Del Taco it is! With bellies full we embarked on the last leg of the trip, the drive from Salt Lake to Pocatello where we found our families anxiously awaiting our arrival.
Overall, the Streamsong Resort ranks right up there with Bandon Dunes in Oregon. The golf at both locations is second to none. It is links golf at its finest, without having to travel across the pond. The new addition of the Black Course at Streamsong is incredible. All courses are challenging, yet manageable. The uniqueness of the landscape and creativity of the track is what will catch your attention more than anything. It is difficult to find multiple top golf courses in one location like this. We rank the courses from favorite to least favorite as follows: Black, Red, Blue. However to say that the Blue course is our least favorite is deceiving, because it really is an amazing golf course. But we are comparing it to two other really, really good courses. The facilities, customer service and lodging are all top-notch. Don’t be surprised if you see the Black Course start making waves in the national rankings. It has definitely left its mark on the Golf Course Gurus.