If you’ve been anywhere on social media the past year, then you know there has been a special hype around Tobacco Road Golf Club. I’ve seen a countless number of photos of the incredible landscape and architecture, so I knew I had to get down there and check things out for myself. It was worth the trip.
Tobacco Road sits in a hot bed of great golf courses in the greater Pinehurst area of North Carolina. Not only great golf, but some world class architecture too. Tobacco Road opened in 1998 and is a Mike Stranz design, that is carved through sand, old tobacco farms, and even a former mining operation. Tobacco Road comes from the great imagination of Mike Stranz. I really have never played a course that moved dirt and carved out its shape like Tobacco Road, and can really only compare it to the Pete Dye Course at French Lick, from what I’ve seen. It really is an impressive place.
Staring down the first hole, you see the two huge mounds on both side of the fairways. It looks incredibly tight, and intimidating at that. But that’s only the start. Not only is the shape at Tobacco Road incredible from tee to green, but the greens at Tobacco Road are some of the most sloped and undulating greens I have ever seen. That place would be a heaven (or hell) for a “superintendent’s revenge” tournament. Even with rangers out on the course guiding us through different tee balls and where to hit second shots, I still can’t believe some of the positions I was put in. Hole 8 for example, is a mid-length par 3. The ranger told us to go long of the middle pin if anything. I went right at the pin and came up just short, only to watch my ball come back down a hill about 50 feet. I never so easily 4-putted in my entire life, and unfortunately that was just one of a couple in our group that day.
Tobacco Road has so many blind shots, and not only from the tee, but coming in for second shots as well. I’ve never seen so many 10-12 foot flagsticks in my entire life. Ball placement is a must for all shots. As I said, the greens are gnarly, and it’s important to be able to come in from the proper sides of the hole to get your ball on the right levels.
One thing that really stood out to me is how natural the bunker shaping looked. I don’t mean natural as in “the course and bunkers flowed together”, but I mean, it literally looks like in some places they got down there with a shovel and carved it right out, or that some of the bunkers maybe even sat below natural valleys or ledges that had come from the previous land operations. As an example, Hole 18 the bunker before the fairway looks like it was a previous cliff of some sort. I may be wrong, but the imagination it took to put together the bunkering at Tobacco really stood out to me in a unique way.
Tobacco Road has a lot of personality, and seems like a great environment to play a round with the boys, and have some fun. I get why some people may give TBGC a negative response, because of the blind shots and movement of land to find their shape, but I feel the architecture is truly one of a kind and not overly tricked out. The hype was real and I’m glad it got to experience what it had to offer. Excited to go back and give it another run, now that I know what’s in front of me.