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In a destination like the North Carolina Sandhills, you would think talk would center around three-time U.S. Open host Pinehurst No. 2. But when it comes to planning a Sandhills golf trip, Tobacco Road is the center of the discussion.

These days, the average traveling golfer isn’t reaching deep to spend $400 to $500 a night and pay a $195 surcharge to play The Deuce, even if it is of major championship fame and the best course in the Sandhills.

The course we all talk about is Tobacco Road, the Mike Strantz-design that 20 years ago put sand back into Sandhills golf. Strantz realized when he built Tobacco Road that the Sandhills terrain is similar to that of Pine Valley and golf should reflect that. It took another decade or so for others to catch on, but now the natural sandy scrubbyness that Strantz introduced to the area shows in courses like Pinehurst No. 2, Mid Pines, The Dormie Club and Longleaf – courses that were once wall-to-wall grass are now exposed and natural.
The uniqueness of Tobacco Road when it opened in 1998 made it the talk of the Sandhills. At that time, we were all used to courses with fairways, greens and rough. Strantz built fairways that rolled right up to the edge of massive, sandy waste areas overgrown with scrub grass and native vegetation.

Consequently, Tobacco Road developed a love-hate relationship with Sandhills golfers. The broad fairways (even if they didn’t look so big from the tee) and huge greens gave players plenty of room, but missing those playing areas even slightly left players facing shots they had never even seen before, much less tried to play.

“When we opened, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones and those guys were on the forefront. There was nothing on the landscape like Tobacco Road,” says Chris Brown, director of golf operations. “People came here and had no idea how to take it. There was nothing like it.”
The Road’s lack of traditional rough and fairways that fall off suddenly into sandy waste areas push the envelope of traditional golf design. Strantz’ flair for the artistic leaves a picture postcard setting around every dogleg, where the natural beauty disguises the difficulty of the task ahead.

So now the course that looks so pretty but plays so devilishly is at the top of the Sandhills golf trip discussion – not only because it is a challenge that may be difficult but is always fun, but because it is accessible to everyone at a more than reasonable price.
“We’re uniquely positioned where we fit a lot of people’s eye, both visually and from a golf perspective and from a budget standpoint,” says Brown. “Tobacco Road remains a great complement to any golf trip, no matter what courses you play.”
Either way, we’re all still talking about it. n [END]