The Takeaway: Often regarded as Mike Strantz' most extreme design, Tot Hill Farm's huge elevation changes and rock outcroppings are visually stimulating. While not a course I'd want to play everyday, Tot is highly memorable, uniquely fun, and certainly worth adding to a Pinehurst area itinerary. Grade A-
Designer: Mike Strantz in 2000
Cost: $35.00 - $100.00 (includes cart) Click for current rates
Phone Number: (336) 857-4455
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Tot Hill Farm Golf 's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 3185 Tot Hill Farm Rd, Asheboro, North Carolina 27205 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: Mike Strantz was one of the polarizing designers in golf; you either loved his work or couldn’t wrap your head around it. As opposed to the more subtle and more universally appreciated layout Mike did at Caledonia near Myrtle Beach, Tot Hill Farm is one of Strantz’s most extreme designs which results in a wild, fun ride. The terrain features some extreme elevation changes which leads to dramatic tee shots and testing approaches. Never is that more apparent than with the opening hole that plummets to the fairway below and drops so far, so quickly that you can’t see much of the fairway from the back tee box. There was a brief period where Tot Hill flipped the nines, but that was short lived since ownership believed that the original 1st hole provided a more impressive start than the scenic 10th hole. One of the features that players will instantly notice is how much rock is found throughout the routing with outcroppings framing tee boxes and greens and are quick to ricochet balls that sail off their intended lines. In reality though, Tot Hill Farm is much more intimidating visually than it actually plays given the generous widths the fairways offer and large putting surfaces on the greens. The course tips out just over 6500 yards so the scratch golfer can go low, but it is the high handicapper that can get intimidated by Stantz’s extreme design features and artistic character. The par threes don’t play long which helps keep the total yardage down and the par fives are all reachable if you are willing to take the risky line off the tee where big rewards await. Artistry truly is apparent at Strantz courses more so than virtually any other designer in golf’s history which results in more than a golf game; it is an experience. While I wouldn’t want Tot Hill Farm as my home course to play everyday, it is without question a course you should make a priority of experiencing when making a golf trip to North Carolina and the Pinehurst area.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 5th Hole – 535 Yard Par 5 – The greensite on the 5th epitomizes everything Tot Hill Farm is about; wild and crazy fun that you've never seen anywhere else. Before approaching the green, players face a tee shot over a gorge where a lone tree on the left side of the fairway rests 250 yards from the tee. The safe play is to the right of the tree while tee balls sailing left of it better have enough oomph to carry the ravine far enough to have an angle to attack the putting surface. The hole plays well downhill so reaching the green in two is certainly in the cards, but this is one of the most penal greensites you'll ever see. A stream front the putting surface before carving left around it and leaving the right side to be protected by a 100 foot wide bunker that is surrounded by rocks and a trio of pot bunkers. The green features a thin tongue in front that tiers up sharply to a heart shaped rear portion including a section tucked behind the rocks and sand. It is a diabolical setup where the slightest miss can yield a heinous result.
Best Par 3: 3rd Hole – 180 Yards – Peppered with rock formations from tee to green, the 3rd is a visually intimidating hole. Beyond the boulders to contend with, the boomerang shaped green hooks around a bunker on the inside and is surrounded by a creek on the other three sides. A pin in back right, as was the location on our visit, is a brute to get a tee shot close to it. But the large green is generous enough to hit even from the back tees. In fact, you'll notice that Strantz makes a habit of creating shorter par 3s and reachable par 5s; two features that crank up the enjoyment.
Best Par 4: 12th Hole – 392 Yards – The 12th is a beauty from start to finish. The tee ball plays from an elevated box to a fairway that doglegs left around a pond to a peninsula green. Flirting with the left side brings the water and thick foliage into play, which is especially dangerous considering the fairway tilts from right to left. The conservative play to the right leaves a forced carry over the water with the only bailout being on the right side where the fairway continues and turns into the putting surface. It is an exciting hole with each swing and par being a rewarding score.
Best Par 5: 4th Hole – 493 Yards – Named "Fairway to Heaven," this reachable dogleg right par five plays uphill from start to finish. Challenging the dogleg can result in an iron into the green although the uphill climb may call for a fairway wood. A stream cuts through the fairway just under 100 yards from the green and calls for players to layup short of it or get all the way to the green since the hillside fronting the putting surface can be quick to send balls tumbling back downhill towards the water. The engaging part of this hole is all about the approach shot and whether you can gauge the hill and elevation change enough to find the putting surface.
Birdie Time: 18th Hole – 469 Yard Par 5 – The shortest par five on the course, Mike Strantz looks to send players off with a smile on their face with a great birdie opportunity. With a tree marking the center of the fairway options, players can take the safe line to the right or challenge it up the left side to leave the shortest length into the green. Straight from something you'd see in Scotland, a stone wall encroaches in from the right side of the fairway 200 yards out while a creek comes in from the left. On the approach, the fairway tilts from left-to-right and begs for a fade into this green which is protected by a deep bunker on the right. Avoid the o.b. up the left side and a birdie is waiting to be taken home on this reachable closer.
Bogey Beware: 17th Hole – 411 Yard Par 4 – This hole is MUCH more difficult than appears to the eye. On the surface it appears to be a mid-length par four that bends to the left without much going on. But when you account for the o.b. on the right, marsh area on the left, the right-to-left sloping fairway, and one of the nastiest greens you'll ever encounter; you'll discover rather quickly than bogey is a great score here. The putting surface has a false front ready to repel shots that come up wanting and those that land on the green may only have a 50/50 chance of staying on given all of the undulations that send balls towards the sloping edges. Trust me, there isn't a single green at Pinehurst No.2 that has anything on this bad boy.