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Tobacco Road GC – More Addicting Than Nicotine



This past weekend I played Tobacco Road Golf Course in Sanford, NC. Sanford is slightly north of the Pinehurst area. Tobacco Road was designed by the late Mike Strantz who has several highly regarded courses to his credit. It’s a shame he couldn’t stay with us longer to add more unique courses to his small course portfolio. Tobacco Road is target golf at its best and it is ranked as one of the most difficult courses in the USA.

It must be a 7300 yard behemoth of a course right? Absolutely not; it’s barely over 6500 yards from the tips. The slope from the championship tees tops out at 150. We dialed it back just a little (the second set of tees were pushed back pretty far that day, within a putt of the back set on most of the holes) to a slope of 141. The starter attempts to guide you to the "correct set of tees" based upon your handicap, but who pays attention to that?

Much to my surprise, many of the locals in the Pinehurst area did not speak so fondly of Tobacco Road. Many feel that the course is contrived, has too much sand and is too target oriented. Well, I have yet to play a round of golf anywhere that isn’t target oriented; it’s the name of the game. Contrived? Hmmmm, not really, maybe a few of the holes are, like number one, a 547 yard par five (Disc tees)  where you have to literally smash the perfect tee shot and thread a needle in order to drive through two huge, man made, fescue infested sandhills.

Could there be a little more grass around the par 3 greens? Absolutely, but I never felt "punished" on these holes, even when missing the green. For the most part, there was ample room to land on all of the par fours and fives. Too much sand? Sure, but local rules state that nothing on the course is designated as a sand trap, everything with sand is a waste area and practice swings anywhere in the sand are in fact, allowed. We abused that rule as if it was going out of style. Furthermore, if your ball comes to rest in a tire track, footprint or animal track you are allowed relief. The greens rolled quite nicely, especially for early December and one never felt they were tricked up. Strantz defintely did a nice job as far as the putting surfaces are concerned.

Additionally, there is no out of bounds here, not anywhere on the course. It just doesn’t get much better than that.  The layout, variety of holes and flow of this course was heavenly. By flow I mean the holes themselves, not the pace of play which can be a bit slow if the group in front of you is struggling.

In fact, I wish I had played the Talamore Resort Course prior to playing Tobacco Road because I felt that from a visual standpoint, Talamore just couldn’t compete after playing Tobacco Road. Please don’t misunderstand me, Talamore is a beautiful Rees Jones designed, classic Carolina Pines style of golf course, but it quite simply lacks the aesthetics that Strantz serves up to you in gobs at Tobacco Road.

According to Strantz on his Maverick Golf Design Website, "My goal is to give golfers the opportunity to experience such exhilaration on each and every hole by creating dramatic and imaginative designs. When a course does not force players to think, the game becomes dull and monotonous—a walk in a well-landscaped park." Tobacco Road is exactly just that, dramatic and imaginative. Tobacco Road could never be accused of being a monotonous walk in the park, that is a surety.

I know that the next time I visit North Carolina I’ll stop and play Tot Hill Farm (Asheboro, NC) on my way to Pinehurst. Strantz has two courses in Myrtle Beach, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club and True Blue, both are securely locked in at the top of my list for courses to play the next time I venture down to Myrtle Beach.

If you choose to play Tobacco Road during your next trip to the North Carolina Sandhills, schedule it as your last round and don’t forget your sand wedge!


Tobacco Road course ratings:


Ripper 73.2 150
Disc 70.8 141
Plow 68.6 131
Cultivator 66.1 115
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  1. andrew

    Aug 27, 2012 at 10:38 am

    When i first laid eyes on this magnificient layout I amazed I recommend it to anybody who is in the area. I have also had the previelage to play bandon and pacific dunes and i feel even though tobacco is on the ocean the unique terrain and no cart paths made this course a hidden jewel I will be back the first chance I get

  2. Pingback: – Tobacco Road GC – More Addicting Than Nicotine | Golf Products Reviews

  3. Frank N

    Mar 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    I have played Tobacco Road, True Blue, and Caledonia and loved all three. Caledonia was the quintessential SC course, far more traditional than the other two, in fact, it’s hard to believe that the same guy designed the other two. True Blue and Tobacco Road are extreme golf and they’re exciting and unique. I think they are far too difficult for anyone but a low handicapper. However, all three are truly great courses that are on my list of favourite courses, and I’ve played over 300 courses in North America including some very famous ones.

  4. Charlie

    Dec 25, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    I’ve played Tobacco Road many times over the past year. I agree with everything the author says above. I have played Tot Hill Farm and though once you would recognize it as a Mike Strantz design it is not a carbon copy of Tobacco Road. In fact, it is quite different in many ways. I have not been to the Myrtle Beach courses but they are on my list. Overall, I would rate Tobacco Road in my top 10 and that includes a lot of the classic old courses in Scotland (St Andrews, Troon, Carnoustie, and Turnburry). It’s number one on courses I would enjoy playing regularly.

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No. 12 at Augusta National: The Golden Bell tolls for Koepka, Molinari



On Sunday, Tiger Woods accomplished what many thought he could never do by winning another major championship, the 2019 Masters. In collecting his fifth green jacket, Tiger added a new luster to what was already a brilliant legacy. Woods overcame unusual start times, difficult conditions and a generation of young golf warriors that he helped to create. And like every champion before him, Woods had to contend with holes 11 through 13 on Sunday, the beautiful beast nicknamed Amen Corner by the great golf writer Herbert Warren Wind.

Of the three holes, it seems that 12 is the one that has drowned more hopes and dreams in the creek that winds through the terrible trio than either of the other two. Arnold Palmer made six on Sunday in 1959 on the way to losing to Art Wall by two. Tom Weiskopf made a mind-boggling 13 in 1980. Greg Norman had a double bogey during his Sunday collapse in 1986. And there’s Jordan Speith’s quadruple bogey in 2016, which some think he has still not recovered from. Through the generations, the hole named Golden Bell has sounded a death knell for many a would-be champion.

This week, I had the opportunity to walk the back nine at Augusta National with Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Jones is an acclaimed golf course designer in his own right but he is also the son of the legendary Robert Trent Jones, the man who designed the second nine at Augusta National as we know it today and therefore shaped history and the outcome of so many Sundays for so many players.

As we walked along the holes Jones described the changes both dramatic and subtle that his father had made in 1948 to shape the second nine, and I came to a greater understanding of why the stretch is so special. The second nine was deliberately crafted as the ultimate offer of risk/reward. It was designed to create heroes and tragic figures of epic proportions. As we got to the tee box at number 12, Mr. Jones’ well-known face (as well as the microphone I was holding in front of it) caused a crowd together around us as he described what his father had done with the most famous par three in golf.

Jones pointed out how the wide, narrow green on the 12th follows the path of Rae’s Creek which runs in front of it.

“It appears that the creek and the green are running almost perpendicular to the tee box at 12, but the right side of the green is actually significantly further away from the golfer than the left side. This is critical when it comes to playing the Sunday hole location on the right side of the green. Because of the way the hole is framed by water and bunkers, the golfer is deceived into either selecting the wrong club or taking a half swing, which often leads to a shot into the water.”

Jones’s words proved prophetic, as Brooks Koepka and Francisco Molinari made watery double bogeys that doomed their championship hopes. Woods, on the other hand, made par on 12, providing the spark that eventually led to his victory. How did Woods negotiate the 12th?

Again, RTJII shared his crystal ball. “Jack Nicklaus played the 12th better than anyone because he always played to the middle of the green,” noted Jones. “Jack felt that whether the pin was on the right or the left, a shot over the front bunker to the center of the green would take a big number out of play and maybe leave an opportunity for a birdie.”

Sure enough, on Sunday while pretenders to the throne went pin seeking with either the wrong club or ill-advised half swings, Woods channeled his inner Nicklaus, hitting a full-swing 9-iron with conviction to the middle of the green and safely two-putting. It was at once humble and heroic. It was the thing that heroes and champions do: survive demons in order to slay dragons. The moment his tee shot on 12 landed safely was the moment that I, and many others, knew in our hearts that Tiger Woods was, in fact, going to win again at Augusta. It is a singular accomplishment, made possible by his combination of wisdom and nerve at number 12 on Sunday. Amen, indeed.







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Exploring Ireland: Where to golf, drink and stay on the Emerald Isle. Pt. 6. Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale, Cork



In these series of articles, I will be taking you around the Emerald Isle providing you with great golf courses to visit in some of the loveliest spots in Ireland. I’ll also be highlighting the best and most authentic Irish bars in these spots, as well as places to stay, eat and how to get there. Whether you’re taking a golfing holiday to Ireland in 2019 or are interested in doing so sometime in the future, I’ll make sure to let you in on the best places to spend your time.

In Part Five of our Exploring Ireland Series, we travelled to Parknasilla Golf Club in Kerry. For Part Six, we’re staying down South and heading into County Cork.

Known as “The Rebel County” dating back to the days of Henry VII and also for its role in the Irish War of Independence, Cork is one of the biggest cities in Ireland, and its locals will tell you that it is indeed Cork and not Dublin which is the real capital of Ireland. Cork caters to everyone, full of history, natural beauty and ruggedness, and it also possesses one of the nicest city centers in Ireland, full of top restaurants and bars

Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale, Cork


While for the most part in this series we’ve been focusing on slightly lesser known courses in Ireland and keeping the purse strings a little tight, when you get to County Cork there’s one golf course that you just cannot ignore, no matter the price. Old Head Golf Links is the course in question, and in all honesty, if you haven’t heard of the course yet, then the photos will likely be enough for you to put this course on the bucket list.

Set upon 220-acres of sprawling land above the Atlantic Ocean, Old Head Golf Links offers unrivalled views of the south coast of Ireland. The rush you will feel when walking this golf course is like nothing else, and even the quickest of golfers will find themselves more than likely playing more deliberately in order to soak up every moment of their experience here! The famous Lighthouse watches over you as you make your away around the iconic grounds.


You’ll hear the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the giant cliffs as you play, and you’ll smell the salt in the air on every shot. While that sounds fantastic, you can also expect some brutal winds from time to time, so pack the appropriate clothes and also stock up on some golf balls, as even the straightest of hitters are bound to lose a few to the deep blue sea.

The course itself features six tees, which is not just great since it caters to golfers of different standards, but it also allows for adjustments should you find yourself here on a particularly rough weather day. Those tees range from 5,413 yards to over 7,100 yards, and the course plays as a par-72 with five par-5s, eight par-4s and five par-3’s. The inconsistent wind makes matters very tricky around here, but the club does attempt to help their visitors out as much as possible by setting up the course differently daily depending on the weather forecast.


Relatively new, work began on creating this special links course in 1993 when visionary John O’Connor together with his brother Patrick set their sights on building one of the most beautiful golf courses in Ireland. The course opened for play in 1997, and while some controversy lingers over a private golf course being situated on The Old Head of Kinsale, the links course continues to provide its visitors with a breathtaking experience.


A visit to Old Head Golf Links does however come at a price. The course closes in Winter, and during the off-peak period (April-May, October) the green fee is around $200, while during the summer months the rate rises to $350. The course also features a top-class restaurant and a spa. It may cost an arm and a leg, but for the golfing purists out there, it will undoubtedly be worth the money.

Food & Drink – The Spaniard/The White House


Despite going top-heavy on the golfing experience in this trip to Cork, there are some excellent bars in the village to enjoy a well-earned pint and chat about what you’ve just experienced on the course. Staying in the village of Kinsale, you have both The Spaniard Inn and The White House which provide two different, yet two equally excellent options for a fun night.


The Spaniard Inn looks more like a little house than a pub. The thatched-roofed cottage is an old-school atmospheric pub that puts an emphasis on conversation, music and good homely meals. The pub also has a restaurant if you want to dine more formally, but the pub grub is just as tasty, and being so close to the coast makes their fish dishes a must try.


The White House is a little different in that with its brighter look it doesn’t quite capture that homey feel, but it makes a big deal over its food, and it also provides live music. Should you visit here, then it’s well worth booking a table at their restaurant where they offer the freshest Lobsters, Oysters, Scallops etc. You name the fish, and they more than likely have it!

Where To Stay

From $275-375 a night, you can stay on-site at Old Head Golf Links in one of their suites. The price doesn’t just include the convenience of being able to sleep in before your tee-time, the suites offer impressive views of both the Ocean as well as the courses 18th green.

For a cheaper option, The White House provides rooms for around $140, and from there it’s just a 20-minute drive down to the spectacular Old Head Golf Links.


Blarney Castle and Stone is one the most popular tourist attractions in Cork. According to folklore, those who kiss the Blarney Stone are said to receive “the gift of the gab” (translated in English: Ability to chat well about all sorts of topics!).


I’d also highly recommend a visit to Cork City Gaol, which was open from 1824 until 1923. The prison was all-female from 1878 to 1920, and it’s well worth a trip if you find yourself in the Rebel County.

For history buffs, a visit to a Michael Collins attraction is a must while in Cork too. A museum for the Irish revolutionary soldier and politician who was instrumental in creating an independent Ireland lies in Clonakilty, which is a 40-minute drive west of Kinsale.

How To Get There

Kinsale is a 25-minute drive from Cork airport, and if you’re making your way here from Dublin City Center, then you can expect it to take at least three hours to get to the southern village.



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Hidden Gem of the Day: Sharp Park in Pacifica, California



These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member Zach Heusser who takes us to Sharp Park in Pacifica, California. The course has been around since 1932, and according to Zach Heusser, the supreme layout of the track justifies a visit, while cautioning that the maintenance budget appears to be minimal.

“Seaside MacKenzie track. Unbelievable layout.”

Fellow GolfWRX member pt73 is also one who champions the course as a hidden gem, stating

“I played there a few times when I lived in the Bay Area (San Mateo) back in the late 1990s and loved the course layout.”

According to Sharp Park’s website, 18 holes around the Californian course will cost you $49.




Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.



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