What do you do with 15 million cubic yards of sand?
If you're Mosaic, one of the world's largest phosphate companies, you build two award-winning golf courses. And a spa. And an edgy, modern hotel.
In the middle of central Florida, far from any theme park or beach.
Streamsong Resort opened its golf courses and clubhouse in late 2012, and last month, it unveiled its 216-room lodge. It's located in the tiny community of Bowling Green, southeast of Tampa, which is closer in DNA to cattle ranches than Disney.
Visitors are greeted by grass-covered dunes and blue lakes, and instead of the flat landscape of central Florida, there are hills and dips and yes, some green of the golf courses. A modern-looking hotel, with its slightly curved exterior, nestles near a lake.
The whole landscape is nothing like anything in Florida, possibly because it's not groomed and plucked and patterned with palm trees. The property is oddly wild and rough, yet zenlike and tranquil.
The resort was built on what was once a phosphate mine. The mining, which was last done in the 1960s, left behind the sand and the dunes. About seven years ago, a Mosaic executive wondered what the company could do with the property.
"We needed to do something that was exceptional," said Rich Mack, the general counsel for and executive vice president at Mosaic. "You can go to a lot of great places in Florida. We needed to do exceptional, not just great."
Mack called in three of the world's pre-eminent golf course designers to evaluate the property (Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Doak, the people behind some of the courses at Bandan Dunes in Oregon, for you golfing aficionados). They designed two courses. Both are considered "minimalist" golf, where players generally walk while playing (although carts are available). Rates are $180 for walkers and $210 for a golf cart with a forecaddie during the winter season.
Tom Parke, Streamsong's director of marketing, said that the courses are not your "stereotypical" Florida golf course, with paved paths for carts. The Streamsong courses are more similar to European-style golf, featuring many elevation changes, wild grasses and bunkers.
There are 130 caddies during the high season, a clubhouse that serves lunch and drinks near the golf course, and 12 rooms for those who want to wake up each morning on the course. Players don't have to stay at the resort to use the course; Parke said some visitors come from the Tampa and Sarasota areas just for the day.
And while Streamsong is a golf-heavy resort and conference center (think high-level executives meeting in conference rooms, then hitting the links in the afternoon) there is more to the resort.
The hotel is something out of South Beach; there are four restaurants on the property. Visitors can go fishing in one of the many lakes, shoot sporting clays or lounge by the pool. Eventually, some may go to the resort just for the spa, which has a grottolike feel with marble, concrete and diffused natural light. It offers six thermal pools, a steam room, a sauna and treatment rooms, along with a more traditional beauty salon.
Looking out from a room, or the rooftop lounge, visitors might just forget they are in Florida.