Tobacco Road Golf Club in Sanford: The must-play course in the Pinehurst area
The second course that has achieved a five-pirate ranking is located in Sanford, North Carolina, and is different than any other course that will make this list.
Tobacco Road Golf Club, a Mike Stranz design, has absolutely nothing that could be considered commonplace or traditional, and as a result players tend to have either a very deep appreciation for the genius of the design or a very passionate hatred for the “quirkiness” of the blind-shot infested track. Anything that can evoke such emotion is obviously worth trying at least once; at the very least it can spark a great conversation.
From the tips, appropriately named the ripper tees as a tribute to the tobacco farming heritage of the area, the course only plays 6500 yards, but owns one of the highest slope ratings in the Carolinas. Nearly every tee shot requires a carry -but never one that is unmanageable- over a wasteland of sand, grass, and garbage of which you want no part, and every shot found on the course will require a lot of imagination and even more nerve as you stand over the ball. The putting greens are in great shape and roll with good speed and consistency as they stand out amongst the rugged landscape that was once a rock quarry. Some of them are so large (numbers 3, 8, 15, 17) that different pin placement options create entirely different holes, adding even more character and variety to a course that is already overflowing with originality.
In addition to the quality of the layout, the overall scenery is beautiful, as the cart path(which is not paved, but is created from the sandy soil of the area)weaves through the terrain like the intricate design of tunnels in an ant colony. As there are no homes anywhere in site, there is no OB at the course; consequently, Tobacco Road has escaped the hideous cluster-home developments that plague so many great golf courses throughout the South (and I assume throughout America). Finally, after a player has been abused by the 18th hole, the clubhouse offers a wonderful porch with rocking chairs that afford a view of the impending bloodbath as other players attempt to get up and down around the 18th green.
The demand that this course makes of a player is what makes it so great, because being forced to approach different situations with imagination and then actually hitting the intended shot is really the only thing that makes golf worth playing, and Tobacco Road affords more opportunities to do this than any course I have ever played, seen, or read about. It stands out amongst the abundance of courses in the Pinehurst area; for any golfer more interested in the fun a course offers than the history a course offers, Tobacco Road is the must-play in central North Carolina.
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This course is extremely challenging for the average player because of the visual intimidation. While there is always more room off the tee than it appears, the shots into the greens are demanding. And what is even more demanding than that is recovery shots from some of the wild places that the average golfer will find himself in. TR is tough, unique and a "must-try", but any course that draws such intense responses that are diametrically opposed shouldn't be classified as "fun". That 151 slope rating from the tips isn't because of the fun factor.
I'm not a very good player; have quite a way to go before I even see average; so there's no question that it's intimidating, but every hole looks really cool, as does the welcome relief of the clubhouse. It's a great place to practice club choice and targeting. But don't play for money unless you've all got the same amount of Tobacco Road experience.
One thing I forgot to mention is that the Road is great drinking course- great scenery, long rides in the cart, and a lot of shots that get more fun the more daring you become.
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