The course at Tot Hill Farm Golf Club is a tough-as-nails Mike Strantz creation that wends its way in thrilling style around and over creeks and rock formations.
Many Mike Strantz courses fall under the “love it or hate it” genre, and Tot Hill Farm is no exception. Located on a very hilly, rural property in Asheboro, North Carolina, Tot Hill Farm is a day trip for most anyone. BLUF: There are some wild features at Tot Hill Farm, and many of the holes probably have no equivalent on the planet; however, if pristine conditioning and traditional routings are priorities in your golf exploration, there is no need to make the trip.
Tot Hill Farm was the first Strantz course I experienced, and it was one of my first golf excursions after moving to North Carolina. A college friend suggested we make the trek, and I was curious whether or not the lengthy drive from the Triangle was worth it.
Over the last decade, I have seen conditioning improve significantly at Tot Hill Farm. I offer strong praise for the course superintendent and their staff for doing the best they can given a limited budget and the extremely rolling topography. This said, as mentioned below in other reviews and in my comments above, do not expecting perfect lies in the fairway and rough. Personally, I do not believe pristine conditions are necessary to get a feel for what the course was meant to be anyway.
There are countless “memorable” holes at Tot Hill Farm. Those which come to mind for this review include:
• #1: A severe downhill par four which sets the tone for your round. The semi-blind landing area feels like a postage stamp from the tee, but as with other Strantz designs, there is more than meets the eye.
• #3: This par three has one of the most bizarre, fascinating greens I have ever seen. It is some 40+ yards in depth and has almost a “C” shape. This set up well to my eye as a left handed player with a draw.
• #5: After climbing a mini-mountain, the player bumbles right back down on this riveting par five. The hourglass shaped green is definitely polarizing, and the massive boulders in the greenside bunkers almost entirely take going for the hole in two out of play for 99% of players. I am left to wonder if the ‘shock factor’ on this hole actually eliminates some strategy.
• #6: The first time I stepped onto this par three, I thought to myself, “Strantz must have built 17 holes and forgotten one, so he squeezed this in.” The tee box and green feel very pinched toward the edge of the property. Despite this awkwardness, the green complex, with a massive muffin top in the center, is a blast to play.
• #7: Yet another hole where a blind tee shot is used masterfully. Strantz also incorporated a lovely stream onto this hole making it one of my favorites on the course.
• #9: This par four, despite fitting my draw, just feels unfair. It is one thing to have no flat lies, but another entirely to only offer severely sloping lies to a tiny green with virtually no flat landing spot. A short one, but a brute.
• #10: Another fascinating tee shot incorporating a stone wall perpendicular to play.
• #15: This par three has yet another memorable green surrounded by a gigantic dune like mound at the front, and guarded by a brook on the right. A real stunner.
Tot Hill Farm is the kind of golf course where, especially on your first trip, you can be severely punished for excellent shots. Obviously, that is not everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I do not discriminate in my own architecture journey, and for that reason, I have returned to Tot Hill Farm a few times over the last decade to experience its one-of-a-kind holes. While I would encourage any architecture aficionado to check it out at least once to make their own opinion, I think it is safe to say that Tot Hill Farm, despite being truly unique, is probably not somewhere that anyone would want to play every single day. Again, I offer my strong praise to the course superintendent for doing the best job they can given limited resources.
For a fulfilling, yet contrasting 27 hole day, play Tot Hill Farm and then grab a quick nine at the Donald Ross designed Asheboro Municipal Club, a small gem with a diehard following of locals.
First off I have to say I am a big Mike Stranz fan. I have played Caledonia and True Blue multiple times through the years and I am a big fan of Tobacco Road. On a recent trip to North Carolina I decided to take a trip to Tot Hill Farm to play another of his designs. Unfortunately Tot Hill Farm was a huge disappointment. The course is quite out of the way in Asheboro, North Carolina and is really not convenient to take in during a trip to the Pinehurst area. I also think the land is just too severe to make a decent golf course out of. He slopes are so severe that the course is utterly unwalkable and the course has such severe slopes that some of the shots play 15 yards up or downhill or more. I get the feeling that this is Stranz’s Castle course. At the Castle course I think an excellent architect (David McLay Kidd) decided to see what he could get away with as a designer and he crossed over the line and built a difficult and unenjoyable course to play. Tot Hill Farm falls into this same category. There is one severe sloped hole after another with some greens bordering on the ridiculous ( the bizarre rock horseshoe shaped and rock protected green on the par 5 fifth comes to mind)
We ran into three groups from around he world (Japan, France and Germany) that cam to play Tot Hill because of the reputation of Mike Stranz but I came away very disappointed. In addition to the course the conditioning was very bad and I have concerns whether the course will be able to sustain itself financially in the future.