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Tobacco Road GC – More Addicting Than Nicotine

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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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4 Comments

4 Comments

  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: GolfWRX.com – 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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Courses

Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real

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We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.

Early morning at Kingston Heath C) Jacob Sjöman.

Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.

I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.

The bunker shapes are brilliant. (C) Jacob Sjöman.

Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.

Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!

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Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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