THE MACK STORY —
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of The Mosaic Company. At Mosaic, Mr. Mack serves on the Company’s senior leadership team and was the founder of Streamsong Resort, and continues to provide executive oversight of this investment today.
STREAMSONG RESORT —
In 2013, Streamsong opened 36-holes with the Blue (Tom Doak) and Red Courses (Bill Coore – Ben Crenshaw). The 216-room lodge followed a year later. Along with significant accolades from golf publications, the resort has earned recognition putting it on the map as a must play destination. Fast forward to 2017 and the addition of Streamsong Black designed by Gil Hanse, which won its first accolade as Best New Golf Course of 2017 by GOLF Magazine. Streamsong is the only facility with three 18-hole facilities designed by the likes of Doak, Coore & Crenshaw and Hanse.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion for you?
I am one of the most fortunate people in the world to have had the opportunity to create Streamsong. What once was a vision is now reality, and my driving passion is to make this resort nothing short of exceptional and to share the success and vision with our incredibly dedicated and motivated team members.
You were the point person within Mosaic pushing for a golf course development project. What was the genesis for that?
First, I played collegiate golf and have great respect and passion for the game. It’s a game that anybody can play, and enjoy with friends and family for their entire life. Mosaic has been in the phosphate mining business in Central Florida for more than a century. Once we complete mining in an area, we typically reclaim it back to its original form. Rather than doing that, I felt that we could do something unique and innovative with our land – use the dramatic landscapes to create a bucket list golf destination. I was influenced by the incredible topography of the land – dunes, native grasses, elevation and sweep. Our sand features are amazing, and sand is a common denominator of the world’s best courses. I wanted people from all parts of the world to travel to Streamsong and thoroughly enjoy a memorable experience, and I wanted to create some economic vitality in an area that could use the boost. So, that was the inspiration behind how Streamsong originated, and it snowballed from there.
What was the timeline between the time you originated your idea — to the time when ground was broken to get the project started? Were there any second thoughts or trepidations?
The idea started in 2007, about the same time the global financial and credit crisis was unfolding, so it was an interesting time to be advancing the notion of a new golf resort, in Florida nonetheless. I started building out what I was envisioning – scouring our property for the best potential locations and building out the concept. We wanted to combine a world-glass golf experience with other remarkable experiences, and that’s why we situated our Lodge on a lake system that provides one of the best bass fishing experiences in the country. My daughter has already caught two 10-pound bass. At that time, there was a dearth of new golf construction, so everybody in the industry was salivating at the possibility of working on this project. The selection of architects was critical, and obviously we partnered with Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Doak – amazing people.
Did you ever fear Streamsong’s isolated location might be a cause for concern in attracting a wider audience beyond core golfers?
I received a lot of flak when advancing the business strategy that Streamsong was too remote – who would travel to southwestern Polk County? As it turns out, we are actually closer to metropolitan airports — Tampa and Orlando — than most destination resorts. We also view remoteness as a key benefit. Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska and the coastal areas of Oregon have proven it. We are first and foremost a golf centric destination. But, we also want to be attractive to other guests by offering other compelling features and amenities, such as our building architecture, spa, culinary and beverage offerings and, of course, our world-class fishing and sporting clay activities. The last component for success is service. We have so many dedicated and passionate team members who embrace our vision of being one of the best golf resorts in the world.
What was your role in determining the designers for the first two courses and what was process that ultimately followed?
Selecting the architects for golf was probably the single most important decision that I had to make. If we didn’t get the golf “right,” the vision of Streamsong would simply not come to fruition and the investment Mosaic made would be in serious jeopardy. Once word got out about what we were contemplating, we were contacted by nearly everyone in the industry who was interested in designing our courses. Developing two courses in Florida needed to be unique, and it needed to be good, I mean really good. I ultimately chose Bill, Ben and Tom for number of reasons. They are modern day minimalists that respect and honor the values of the game – firm and fast playing conditions, the bounce of the ball and the ground game, which are things that you don’t see in Florida golf. They create courses that are uniquely compelling mostly on sand based sites. They didn’t have a body of work in the Southeastern part of the United States. And maybe most importantly, I really hit it off with them and knew that we would have great chemistry working together. So, in the end, it really wasn’t a hard decision. But, it was hard to turn other architects down because I have so much respect for their work and contributions to the game as well.
Was Tom Doak and Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore always on the short list?
Yes, they were. I was heavily influenced by previous visits to Sand Hills Golf Club in the early 1990s. Struck by some of the keenly similar land forms and vibes I saw there and compared it to what Streamsong could be. It wasn’t that easy to get these guys to our property in the first place – my pitch on what we could do in Florida cut against conventional wisdom and I think even they doubted it until they actually visited the site. They were blown away when they arrived. This land was in the wheelhouse for Bill, Ben and Tom – sand, grasses and a philosophy of uncovering the courses rather than building them. From a marketing perspective, to do something new, unique and different in Florida – they fit the bill perfectly. To have the only site in the world today with a Coore / Crenshaw, Doak and Hanse course, is obviously rarified air and something that is really special to me.
How did the conversation get started in bringing Gil Hanse on board to design the Black Course?
I first contacted Gil in late March 2014 and he took his first site visit in mid-to-late April. He made a subsequent visit in December 2014 and came out for a couple more visits. Gil is probably the hottest golf course architect on Earth, with his amazing work at Castle Stuart, Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, Boston Golf Club and Mossy Oak. He is also the person who perhaps is most entrusted with restoration and renovation work at some of the nation’s most significant private golf clubs. Gil and I are more contemporaries from an age perspective and it was like hiring your great friend. We hit it off immediately and really focused on what would compliment Red and Blue, versus compete against these incredible courses. Today, we would couldn’t be happier with the result. Gil and Jim Wagner are amazing talents.
Fair to say a fourth course at Streamsong happens at some point?
That will be determined by the market. For the time being, we are really focused on celebrating the opening of Streamsong Black, its new clubhouse, our two acre putting course called The Gauntlet and our free-flowing short course called The Roundabout. We have the room and capability of adding more courses and these are decisions that we will make in due course. For now, we are laser focused on providing an exceptional experience for our guests – golf, food, activities and service.
You can change one thing in golf unilaterally – what would it be and why?
Pace of play because that’s probably the single biggest deterrent to the game today.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from? Also — looking back now — what advice would you give to those just now getting started in the business / golf world?
Follow your passion, work hard, and you’ll be successful. For those who think about getting into the golf business, you can never lose your passion for the game, otherwise you will regret coming into this profession and lose a part of your life that should be very special to you. It’s like the feeling of hitting a pure 5-iron from 200 yards out and have it nestle next to the pin. You never forget that feeling.
Photos: Streamsong evening, courtesy Al Hurley; Black #17, courtesy Larry Lembrecht; Red #6, courtesy larry Lambrecht