Owned and operated by Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department, the 36-hole Tanglewood Park golf facility was designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior in the late 1950s. The Championship course is the longer and tougher of the two 18-hole layouts here, hosting the PGA Championship in 1974, the 1986 US Amateur Public Links Championship in 1986 and fifteen editions of the Vantage Championship on the Champions Tour, ending in 2002.
A five-month restoration was carried out by Robert Trent Jones Junior in 2018, with lead architect Bruce Charlton and Pinehurst-based designer Richard Mandell closely co-operating on the implementation of a master plan which involved refinements to many elements of the golf course such as bunkers, tees, tree management, and resurfacing of the greens.
It’s a large-scale layout and the bunkers were originally built to match the size of the property so they’ve been reconstructed using the Better Billy Bunker system with dramatic, flash-faced styling. The number of sand hazards was also reduced from ninety-nine to seventy-seven and greens were enlarged back to the 1974 design standard with new Champion bermuda putting surfaces.
Richard Mandell told us about his involvement in the project:
“I secured a 1974 aerial of the course and sold everyone on a restoration, with some adjustments for playability regarding the locals which was much different from the original partially-completed master plan. After course walk-throughs with members, we finalized our new plan and secured permits. The RTJ II people signed off on our plan with some input.”
There is very little I can add to M. James Ward’s thorough commentary on the recently renovated Tanglewood Park Championship Course. Undoubtedly among North Carolina’s finest public tracks, this routing is full of bold, unrelenting features. The course is peppered with massive bunkers, most of which are surrounded by thick rough. Adding to the difficulty of challenging these traps on risk-reward shots are their high, flashing faces. The player’s depth perception is completely thrown off when these types of sand pits are placed consecutively in the line of sight, which is the case at the 8th and 14th holes. Exacting drives and approach shots over the rolling terrain are demanded from the first tee to the final green.
The Championship Course is a stern test that is best suited for advanced players. After all, it did host the 1974 PGA Championship. However, Tanglewood Park is a consummate golf playground. It is welcome to players of any ability. The property offers another 18-hole layout in its Reynolds Course, family tees, and a spacious practice range. Its rates are affordable throughout the year, placing the facility among the best values in the state. It is absolutely worth a stop in the golf-rich city of Winston-Salem.
My first time playing the course came a number of years after the playing of the 1974 PGA Championship. I really liked the course -- it epitomized the RTJ, Sr. motif -- with large bunkers and even larger putting surfaces. The course back then was in need of an updating and the combination of RTJ, Jr and his on-site team in concert with Richard Mandell have done a first-rate effort in bringing back to full life the majesty of the layout.
Certainly, it helps to have a site in which the ebb and flow of the terrain clearly is front and center. For many who come here for the first time the opening hole is merely one to stretch the muscles and many will wonder what all the fuss layout. The key is getting out of the box in good form because the intensity meter ramps up considerably.
Solid driving is a central feature and heaven help those who are wayward because the rough can completely envelop one's ball.
Hole 2-5 are stern tests and the par-4 5th is most notable for the intersection of land and water -- truly engaging. The par-4 9th brings the outward side to a fine conclusion.
The inward half follows the same formula as the front nine with the 10th being quite benign. Once you get past that hole it's akin to handling a bucky bronco -- hold on dearly and be sure to think carefully on what each shot entails. The ending par-4 is the ultimate summary hole. The tee shot must the fairway before you face a daunting approach to an elevated green that only accepts the finest of plays.
The Championship Course was smartly updated. Overall turf quality has clearly improved and while the Trent Jones style may seem out of place to those enamored with the classical period of architecture -- the test of golf encountered is very direct, fair and, most of all, thorough.
There are no shortcuts when playing the layout. You are fairly tested and nothing short of well-executed shots suffice.. For those seeking such a frank examination you'll find out if your game is up to the task.
Without question, among the best public courses in the Tar Heel State.
M. James Ward
PGA Championship venue at an affordable price? Yes, please! Make it a 36 hole day. A good test of all your clubs in the bag.
The late 2018 refresh of new Champion Bermuda greens, tree management/removal and a full bunker update have brought this RTJ Sr. design back to relevance in NC public golf.This is certainly a top 20 public facility in NC.