I kicked off my Southern Pines, NC golf adventure with an early morning 18 hole walk at Tobacco Road, what some call “that crazy ass Mike Stranze design.” OK, I made that quote up but that’s the word on the street, roughly speaking. I loved this course and it is easily in my top 5 all time and I can’t wait to return.
In the image above you the first hole going out, a shortish par 5 with a devilish opening drive through a slot between two giant sand dune cliffs. I wouldn’t call this course a target fest as it had plenty of wide landing spots for drives; but the visual intimidation can make you think otherwise.
There are no true sand bunkers on the course; all that sand you see is waste area. Local rule is that you can improve your lie with a “foot rake” if you end up in a footprint, tire track, divot, etc. when in these waste areas. I had to do this several times. My playing partners at times would hit three consecutive shots into the same bunker. Gotta get yourself outta jail efficiently on this course.
The 13th hole is a perfect example of why I loved this course. It is a par 5 and I hit a very solid drive that rolled just a bit too far through the fairway, settling at the left edge. I’m only about 175 yards out now for my second shot but trees occluded my approach. So I lay up with a pitching wedge for a subsequent 80 yard (or so) shot into the green. The image above shows what greeted me, though I was even further left for my shot. That giant sand cliff guards the green and makes it appear that you have a tiny sliver of landing area. Not really so; it helps a lot to have a GPS mapping app so you can check actual landing zone widths and depths. This helped keep my heart rate down and I actually played a very good round there.
I’m clearly leaning towards favoring courses with wackiness like Tobacco Road. I don’t know if I would want it to be my every day course, but I know I look forward to a return soon.