Tobacco Road - North Carolina - USA

Tobacco Road Golf Club,
442 Tobacco Road,
Sanford,
North Carolina (NC) 27332,
USA


  • +1 877 284 3762

  • Golf Club Website

  • 30 minutes from the Village of Pinehurst

  • Welcome - conact in advance


Architect Mike Strantz started out as a member of Tom Fazio’s construction crew before setting up his own company at the end of the 1980s. Known for his daring and unconventional style, Strantz loved to push the design boundaries and the nine solo projects that he completed before his untimely death in 2005 bear testament to his adventurous golfing philosophies.

Pine Valley on steroids” is how Tobacco Road is billed. Cut through an old sand quarry on land once cultivated by tobacco farmers, it’s also been described as “golf’s rock and roll thrill ride,” where the architect moved a fair amount of earth to shape the roller coaster fairways and form the dramatic greensites. Due to all the risk taking by the architect, if ever there was a course built to put the fun back into the game then this is it.

Notable holes include the 525-yard 4th (where the fairway veers sharply left around a massive sandy waste area), the 531-yard 11th (which swings to the right, around a 40 foot deep sand pit), the 194-yard 14th (played to a kidney-shaped lakeside green that slopes down to the water) and the 432-yard closer, requiring a long, testing tee shot out of the quarry to a blind fairway landing area.

All eighteen greens at Tobacco Road were converted from bent grass to Bermuda during the summer of 2014, a process that took just over two months to complete.

The following article was written by lawyer and sports writer Jay Flemma and is an edited extract from Volume Four of Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective. Reproduced with kind permission. To obtain a copy of the book, email Paul Daley at [email protected]

In his book Grounds for Golf (2003), Geoff Shackleford compared great golf courses to epic films. The analogy has merit. For example, he called Pine Valley “The Godfather” and he called National Links of America “Citizen Kane”. To continue the exploration, it’s clear Mike Strantz’s tour de force at Tobacco Road is akin to Quentin Tarantino’s celebrated, polarising, avante garde neo-classic, “Pulp Fiction”.

Combining his profound gift for designing great strategic holes with his limitless palette for artistic flair, Strantz wove wide, yet elusive fairways and well-protected greens amid heaving, expansive waste areas and hurly-burly North Carolina sand hills. The results are awe-inspiring. Part Pine Valley for its vast sandy waste areas and part Prestwick for its numerous blind drives and approaches, the result is a dazzling and powerful synergy flawlessly executed to produce a course rich in risk-reward options on a breathtaking canvas.

Years of target golf on parkland-style layouts and the acceptance of ‘stick the pin’ designs as the norm has led some to opine that many of Tobacco Road’s ancient design concepts – blind shots and shots threaded through towering rough-covered dunes – were anachronistic or contrived. Moreover, the course consistently requires shaped shots, a smooth, trusty swing to deal with the intimidating green settings and, most of all, patience bordering on the robotic.

Far too often, blind shots are seen as a nuisance and unusual looking designs are quickly dismissed as gimmicky. Some unimaginative and disgruntled players unfairly brand “The Road” with such a stigma. As the design elements they dismiss so high-handedly are derived from some of the most storied courses in the world, these detractors are wrong. Nobody has a problem with the blind shots at Prestwick or Lahinch, but import them to the United States and a designer better have earplugs or a bulletproof ego.

The difficulty of the course is derived from three factors. Firstly, nobody was better than Strantz at creating optical illusion, and nowhere do his optical illusions invoke more trepidation, confusion, or frustration in golfers than at Tobacco Road. Some of the holes look claustrophobic from the tee (but) fears from the tee are misplaced: the fairways are actually quite wide. The optical illusions lead to uncertainty and uncertainty frequently becomes fear. The fear-factor is the second and overriding factor in the course’s difficulty. Nervous, uncertain swings lead to disastrous results. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, you must play the right set of tees for your skill level. Players who insist on playing a set of tees beyond their skill level will fail to reach doglegs or forced carries off the tee.

Sadly, we lost Mike Strantz (1955-2005) to oral cancer far too soon, in the height of his ascension. Like “Pulp Fiction” many knew “The Road” was destined for greatness right from its opening, even in the face of vocal opposition. Just as “Pulp Fiction” stirred bitter controversy at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so too did Tobacco Road stir controversy with its fearless courage in demanding blind or semi-blind shots to devilishly positioned greens. Strantz turned convention on its ear and seemingly said: look how much further we can reach when we suspend expectations and take some chances. Only now are we beginning to appreciate just how visionary he was.

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Reviews for Tobacco Road

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Description: "Pine Valley on steroids" is how Tobacco Road Golf Club is billed. Cut through an old sand quarry, it’s certainly a unique Mike Strantz creation. Rating: 8.3 out of 10 Reviews: 16
TaylorMade
David Davis
I’d heard great things about Tobacco Road and all the quirky holes there. This course is a great addition to the Pinehurst area and a visit to Pinehurst should in my opinion never be made without a round at Tobacco Road. It’s great fun and a must play. The contrast with the other Pinehurst courses is tremendous. It’s full of blind shots, canyons, bite off as much as you can chew carries, excellent greens sites and visually sense teasing hole set ups.

Even though I caught it during a major storm, one that saw me playing in the hardest rain I’ve ever experienced and the course being shut down by Tobacco Road Golf Course - Photo by reviewer10:00 am I managed to finish my round and even in spite of the horrible conditions what a joy it was. I will absolutely return.

Again this is another course with so many great and interesting holes. I’ll focus only on a couple. The 11th hole is a really tricky risk/reward par 5 that doglegs right up the hill to the green. All along the right side is a sizeable canyon that serves as quite the hazard. Flirting with the canyon on the drive allows a very risky go for broke shot to reach the green in two. There is plenty of space to play safe. To the left but it’s tough to ignore the temptation of taking the short cut.

The closing stretch is quite the wild ride. The 13th is another par 5 where the approach plays into a green that’s totally hidden in a near circle of a high built up mound. The flag pole might be 15 ft tall and most approaches are totally blind. It’s like having to fly the ball into a large bowl. It has to be one of the quirkier green surrounds I’ve run into but in the end it’s great fun, different and it works. Not to mention the fact that it leaves something of great interest to talk about.

The 14th is a also a spectacular hole. A 194 yd paTobacco Road Golf Course - Photo by reviewerr 3 that plays from high up on a ridge over water all the way to an excellent green complex that runs diagonal from left to right away from the target line. With the wind up and the rain pounding down this was as challenging a shot as you’ll find. The 15th is another very interesting medium length par 4 that plays down hill in stages, the first over intricately laid out waster area to a lay up that again plays over waste area to the green. Requiring two well placed shots to be on the dance floor.

The 16th a short par 4 that requires a solid drive over a raised waste area to a semi blind landing area. It’s kind of all or nothing shot if you go for it but there is an opportunity for shorter hitters to lay up and play it as a 3 shot hole. The approach is steep up a hill to a two tiered bowl shaped green. 17 is yet another great drop shot par 3 requiring only a short iron but is basically all carry over wasteland to the green. Very easy to misjudge this one. Finally the 18th is another cracker of a hole with a blind shot over a quarry that looks as if it’s a really long carry, however I’d be surprised if this actually exceeds 200 yds from the back tees. A nice drive will still leave a mid to long iron into a green that is tucked semi-blind behind a swale.

As far as I’m concerned, Tobacco Road is a must see course for any trip to the Pinehurst area.
March 31, 2016
8 / 10
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Fergal O'Leary
I give a lot of credit to Mike Strantz for building this mind-blowing course, and it’s a great shame that he is no longer with us. If golf had a roller-coaster, it would be called Tobacco Road Golf Course - Photo by reviewerTobacco Road. The extreme shaping and design of every hole just highlights Mike’s appetite to show the world how unique he is. He never cared if people thought his golf courses were too hard or unplayable.

This golf course doesn’t look or feel like any of the old classics. In fact, every shot feels like a trick-shot, which is a fantastic amount of fun. The anticipation to see the next hole, or hit the next shot is truly amazing. One thing is for sure, you won’t forget this place in a hurry! Good value for the Public, great fun and an easy drive up from the folly of Pinehurst.
May 21, 2015
8 / 10
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Ben Payne
Brilliant golf course. There are no bad or even average holes on this course, every hole is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also offers an individual golfing challenge. I enjoyed the course as much or more than I enjoyed Pine Valley, and it only cost around $50! If you are in the area it is also worth to try out Tot Hill Farm, another Mike Strantz course which has some equally spectacular holes.
August 13, 2013
10 / 10
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Mac Plumart
To me this course doesn't represent golf. It is goofy and gimmicky and that isn't how I like my golf. Now, it does have some really good holes on the front nine and the risk/reward decision are quite something. But the back nine gets to be too much for my taste. It is a must play to simply see and judge for yourself whether you like this type of golf. Plain and simply, it is just not my style.
May 05, 2010
2 / 10
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Cary
May 21, 2012
This is Mike Strantz’s best work… I love it.
Robert Warrington
I describe this course to friends as 'the most thrilling ride in Golf', it is a roller coaster ride experience, which isn't for everyone, but for those looking for a quality, well groomed track, fine Southern Hospitality and something to have memories of, that will last a life time, TR has it and is ready for all challengers. We loved Pinehurst and all its quality, history and glory, but we always reminisce about the round at Tobacco Road.
December 25, 2009
8 / 10
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John
Tobacco Road is the one to play when in the Pinehurst area. Strantz did a brilliant job creating a fun and memorable course. Some people consider the layout a bit gimmicky but put me down as a fan. TR is not the cheapest but it’s like nothing you have ever played with risk and reward shots everywhere. Make sure you take your camera and enjoy the wild ride from the first tee shot to the last putt. Spectacular course…… take enough balls too!
June 27, 2009
10 / 10
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