Tobacco Road

11th hole, 540 yards; A mirror image in many respects to the 4th hole, this gambling three shotter swings to the right but is even more daunting as it bends around a40 foot deep (!) sand pit. Unlike a water hazard such as the one foundon the famous 13th hole at The Dunes in Myrtle Beach, a sand pit can be recovered from. Thus, the better player seems lured into flirting with this natural hazard. Afterall, he can give the green a go in two and if he comes up short, he may still be able to get his par. Meanwhile, the hole remains equally thrilling for the weaker player as hetakes great satisfaction in navigating around such a fearsome hazard. Strantz struck the perfect risk/reward balance with this hole for all golfers to enjoy.

The shadow tells the story: this is one seriously deep bunker which protects the 11th green!

14th hole, 175 yards: The 14th confirms that Strantz as an artist who appreciates strategic play. The narrow, angled green pinched in at its middle, the bunkers flowing into the water, the lake itself and the shack behind the green all blend together wonderfully. However, the left to right slope of the green (i.e., toward the lake) is what makes the hole so darned difficult. Anything pulled safely to the left leaves an almost impossible up and down. This exacting hole requires the surest iron shot on the course.

The hard to find 14th green.

A 'safe' miss to the left of the green leaves a difficult recovery.

18th hole, 430 yards: An important and lengthy hole after a series of relatively short (though hardly easy) holes, the tee shot on the 18th immediately brings to mind the one of the 18th at Merion, with a carry of 200 yards needed to reach the fairway on the other side of the quarry. The approach is then through a cut in the hillside, where the bunkers dug into the hillside 30 yards short of the green hide from view the real trouble awaiting the second: the sharp eight-foot drop-off on each side of the green into closely-mown areas. With onlookers standing on the clubhouse porch nearby, the ticklish chip shot just became harder.

The formidable 18th tee shot must carry 200 yards from the back markers to clear the quarry.

As happens to all that take chances, sometimes those risks don’t come off. The 1st tee shot through a gap in two manufactured hills – either side of which is covered in tall grasses – hardly makes for a smooth start, no matter how thrilling it is to watch a well hit drive stay clear of the trouble. The golfer may elect to hit a lay up shot of 160 yards to avoid this mess all together but thatdoes not make for a satisfactory start. Also, the steeply pitched face of the bunker to the right of the 9th green is susceptible to continual erosion with a heavy rain.

You will either love or hate the 1st tee shot.

Of course, on other occasions, critics fault Starntz for creating blind shots unnecessarily, with their favorite example being the 13th green. However, in this case, the critics would be wrong as the hillock that obscures80% of the green was always there. All Strantz did was lay the green in the natural dell.

A view of the 13th green complex with the white flag flapping in the breeze beyond the hillock.

The 13th green as seen from behind. Traditionalists who argue with the placement of this green must not like Lahinch either.

While Strantz has quickly gained a reputation for offering such unconventional dramatics, the author sincerely hope that he willnever forsake appealing, conventional approach shots (ie the 2nd and 10th holes) for approach shots where dramais created for drama’s sake with little corresponding strategic merit.If Strantz does indeed cross that line, his work will lose its freshness ashe tries to out do himself at the expense of good golf.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of risks that Strantz took at Tobacco Road paid off handsomely as he madeexciting useof the natural attributes in this abandoned sand quarry.An original course was created on a budget less than half of some name architects and their ten million dollar projects.

Tobacco Road is Mike Strantz’s fifth course, and it combines several appealing aspects of his earlier work: the scale and drama of Royal New Kent and Stonehouse and the cunning and charm of Caledonia. At just over 6,500 yards from the back markers, Tobacco Road is not about length. Rather it is about fun and trying to think your way around some of the more intimidating hazards youwill find- a combination that any golfer should find irresistible.

The End