I am heading up to North Carolina to visit some family. I was looking to get away for a day to play Tobacco Road. The course fascinates me. It looks amazing. What is the course like this time of year? And what should I expect playing Tobacco Road?
I played it once a few years ago in April, but that was an exceptionally wet winter/spring. It was very moist with quite a lot of standing water. The earlier month may be a benefit if the ground is a bit firmer. It’s a really fun course that you might not understand entirely the first time you play it, so definitely be open to its weirdness.
If you’re into it, I would highly suggest a caddie. Half the time we didn’t know which way to hit the ball. It’s like no course you’ll ever play.
It’s a super fun course. I played it twice this past summer. A lot of people say it’s strange or whatever because of some blind shots but I thought it was pretty much in front of you. The blind shots are 2nd shot on 1…but the green is where you would think it is, just straight over the hill. Tee shot on 7 down the hill…don’t hit it more than 230 or you’ll end up in some crap that you can’t see. And 2nd shot on 13 (double dogleg par 5). That requires taking a cart up the hill to see where you need to go. Other than that the shots are straightforward. The dunes make it visually intimidating. They look further away than they actually are. It’s really fun.
I have no idea what the course is like this time of year but I’m guessing it’s wet.
I have my thoughts, which aren’t particularly popular, but as this is your first time playing it they mostly wouldn’t apply anyway. They apply to the second or third time you play the course onward.
No clue on condition, but the course is super fun. Played it last summer for the first time, we took a forecaddie for our group and it was well worth it. I would take a forecaddie at least if I played it again. It just added to the experience a lot. Like others have said, it’s a lot more visually intimidating than actually being super hard, you’ll get used to it pretty quick. It’s a ton of fun.
I’m a big fan of Tobacco Road. It is one of the most polarizing courses in the country, and I often recommend it for that reason. Regardless of your final opinion, you will not be bored playing it.
If you are visiting right now, I would expect pretty soggy conditions. The area has had record rainfall, particularly bad since September. Tobacco Road isn’t blessed with as much of a sand base as some of the other courses in the area (TR has lots of clay), so it is likely still pretty saturated. For sake of comparison, I played Mid Pines on Sunday, and it was still wet in spots, despite its sandy soil. It has just rained a ridiculous amount lately.
Have you played other courses in the area? If not, it’s a perfect time to check out Mid Pines or Pine Needles (lowest rates right now), Dormie Club (typically plays really well in winter dormancy), or even one of the Pinehurst resort courses. Of course, there are tons of options in the area.
Back on Tobacco Road, if you have the time, I would suggest trying to play 36 there. Even with an experienced guide, the first round there can be challenging (sight lines, aiming points, etc), but once you’ve played it you realize how much space is actually out there, despite it not seeming to be the case from the tee.
There is a lot of visual deception. For repeat players, it is actually a pretty good course on which to shoot a low score.
I’m a big fan of Tobacco Road and Mike Strantz in general. A lot has been said about the course on both sides. I know a lot of people don’t like the blind shots, but in general there is a ton of room in the landing area. The keys to enjoying Tobacco Road are 1) play the right set of tees (especially your first time) and move up one tee when in doubt, 2) trust the yardages in the yardage book even if it looks like it can’t be right (definitely get a yardage book), 3) try not to worry about your score too much and just enjoy the landscape and the opportunity to play shots you may not get to play all the time.
As @anon846171 said, it is a course you can go low on if you trust your yardages. First time I played it I shot 41 on my first 9 before I figured out to just trust the yardages in my book. Followed that with a 31, still my lowest 9 to date. It will beat you up if you hit bad shots though. Played it in July and struggled to shoot 86 from the tips…then followed it up with a 72 from the tips on a windy day.
It’s absolutely worth at least 1 play just to see it regardless of how you feel about it afterwards.
I played it in September 2017. I wouldn’t know about the conditions this time of year, but from what I gather on their Instagram, it looks good. It’s honestly my favorite course that I’ve played, even more than Pinehurst No. 2, as blasphemous as that maybe. I put it as a 10 on the Doak scale just because each hole is so cool in its own unique way that if you skip a hole, you’re missing out on something badass.
The reason why I have it ranked as my numero uno is because every hole looks absolutely terrifying, but it is actually extremely playable. I didn’t play it with a caddy as I was with a friend who had played it before and could give me the gist on what to do each hole. Without him, I might not have that opinion since I probably would have hit in all the wrong places, but whether it’s a caddy or a playing partner, someone who knows the place, as everyone else has said, is a must.
I played very well there for my first go-around and shot 77 with a 3-putt bogey on the last. I came close to an ace on #8, made birdie there, as well as one on #17.
As others have said its a very fun course that can be visually intimidating the first time you play it. Get a yardage book and just trust the numbers they give you in there. This time of year with the rain that they have had it will be a bit soggy but still worth playing. Also if you have time be sure to play the El Camino 9 hole par 3 routing as its a blast.
I second playing the El Camino par 3 routing if you get a chance. As @Craigstands said, it’s a lot of fun!
Got over and was able to play Tobacco this week. Despite it being in the low 40’s we had a great time.
As others have mentioned it was a bit wet but not crazy. The hard packed greenside bunkers were the only thing that really penalized you. Greens were rolling true and for $60 its a great deal.
Also a strong recommendation for playing the Cradle.
Tobacco Road is amazing. It’s so much fun and, ultimately, that’s near the top of the list in terms of what I value. To me it combines elements of target golf, with really good shot variety, along with visual distraction that makes it seem super hard but is actually very playable.
Top 5 for me ahead of places including Friars Head, Ocean Course, #2, Plantation, Streamsong (all of em), Balty…you get the point, I’m in love with TR.
I played it this Summer after a horrendous thunderstorm. The course was wet and the bunkers weren’t in great shape (rained A TON) but it didn’t detract from the enjoyment. Seeing it in pristine condition would just be even better.
The course gives you more options on most of your shots than the majority of courses I’ve played. Tons of variety. Thinking about what you really want to do, pulling that club, and then executing is so much fun.
#1: Fun par 5 with giant dunes guarding left and right side of fairway pinching it in, making it look like there is no short grass out there but the fairway is gigantic and if you play the right tees you don’t even need to pop in that far to get over these big hills.
#2: Massive bunker is all you can see from the tee, but similar to #1, if you go over it, lots of landing area. But if you’re too far left you’re blocked out by a tree. Off the tee you could play it uber safe and lay up over this bunker to the right but then would have a ridiculously hard shot to reach the green.
#4: dogleg left par 5 with another massive bunker that could come into play for something pulled, or that will come into action on the second if you go for the green. Easy hole if you play it safe away from the bunker but the allure of an eagle will take many away from that route.
#5: Drivable 4 that is similar to #4 in that there is a safe option of iron/iron if you play way out to the right.
#6: Really short part 3 with super narrow green.
#7: Can break your drive record here as it plays way downhill, blind.
#9: Bit of target golf off the tee and then really hard approach to a super narrow elevated green.
#10: Basically a cape hole; bunker running down the right side from tee all the way past green
#11: Another massive fairway, but the defining feature is this bunker you’ve probably seen in photos. Massively deep. Similar to #4, there is a safe route to this par 5, but there is also a fun route that could leave you in the abyss of that trap.
#13: Double dogleg par 5. Some more target golf with a really small green / blind approach that has a giant flagstick so you know sort of where to aim. Having a birdie putt on this hole is rewarding in that you worked your ball around successfully for 3 shots to get to this point.
#14: Pics of this one abound as well, elevated par 3 over a pond to another narrow green. Short-ish elevated par 3s are just fun as you get to see your ball in the air for an extended period of time.
#15: Similar to #1, blind-ish tee shot that seems scary but actually tons of room. Approach is semi-blind too from most spots in the fairway.
#16: dogleg left four, probably takes driver out of your hand unless you want to try to hit a big sweeping draw/hook.
I will say that without an Arccos like system where you can see the shots from overhead, or a caddie, it could be frustrating.
Agree with the polarizing comments. I played it last April. Had rained a ton the previous two days so it was cart-path-only. Probably the worst course I’ve ever played to be CPO – just a ton of long walks, unclear yardages, huge cavernous bunkers, etc. Was also maybe 35 degrees when we teed off.
That said, I loved it and am dying to play again. But 4 out of the 8 people in our group said they would never go back. Different strokes…
Can anyone explain El Camino? Is this a separate 9 hole par 3 course or is just different tees that play into the regular greens, but as par 3s?
Are tee times needed?
different tees to the regular greens, played there once late one day after a round, great to grab a few beers and hit a few wedges. I’m not 100% sure but i believe it is a late in the day thing once the course has slowed down.
How does the course rate in terms of walkability? Planning a trip in mid April and prefer to walk courses when my partners are game. Normally healthy guy in his late 20s but would like to maybe save some energy for another round afterwards.
I prefer to walk courses too, but if I played it again I’d take a cart again. It’s the hilliest course I’ve ever played. It’s not like you can’t walk it. I think they’ve had state qualifiers there where people walked, but I’m sure they had shuttles from 9-10 and 14-15, as those are a bit separated from each other.
You can definitely walk it. Most of the holes are close to the next tee, other than the walk from 14-15, but that’s not a crazy long walk. 9 to 10 isn’t too far either
Just walked it last week with a friend. Played in 3.5 hours, not a bad walk at all if you already walk a lot.
Edit: stop on the walk from 14-15 to take a great picture down the 16th fairway. one of the better pictures I got that day, other than the blown out bunker smothering the flag on 13 with the grain mill in the background.