This doesn’t count as a “new” course for me, but it is one of my favorites in the Mid-Atlantic and certainly worth a return trip! This summer a few friends and I purchased some vouchers for $25 to play Tot Hill Farm. We had to use them before the end of October and got to do just that this weekend! This was my second time playing the course, but Mike Strantz (the designer) is one of my favorites so I was anxious to return and update my review.
Tot Hill Farm is in Asheboro which is convenient to a lot of the state and ~30 minutes south of Greensboro, where my friend lives. It is close to the interstate and on the way to Pinehurst! The course typically gets ranked as one of the toughest courses in America and it can show up on the list of top public courses to play in the state. The high ranking in North Carolina is especially interesting because of the budget green fee compared many of the other $100+ courses on the list!
We had a 12:30pm tee time and got going a few minutes after that. The 1st hole gives you an idea of what to expect the rest of the day! It features an elevated tee, a blind fairway, a blind approach, and plenty of mounds and slopes around the green to use to your advantage. Those things are common throughout the rest of the course along with greens in crazy shapes (like letters from the alphabet!) and hazards that can come into play all too easily. The hazards are especially in play if someone doesn’t try to use the slopes on the approaches. All this, plus odd shaped bunkers and rock formations make it very eye catching. There’s no question, Tot Hill Farm is both a visually intimidating and an ascetically stunning golf course, especially with just a few homes sprinkled around it. I’ll mention that the routing is a bit cramped so make sure to keep watch for wayward shots from other groups.
I’ve played three other Strantz designs (Tobacco Road, Royal New Kent, and Stonehouse) and like those, I think someone will either love or hate Tot Hill Farm. There doesn’t seem to be many middle of the road opinions about his designs. If you’ve played any of his other courses that I’ve mentioned, I’ll say that I think Tot Hill Farm has the most elevation change. That makes it a bit unique and all the uneven lies add an extra challenge!
I’ve played the black tees both times I’ve been which play 72.1/144/6543. There are five par 3’s and 5’s which is something I personally enjoy. Some might disagree, but I don’t think Tot Hill Farm is as difficult as it gets rated. I played terrible this time around, but there is a chance to score if you do a couple things. First, you have to control the distance off the tee in order to get to the wide part of the fairway. If that can be done, then the reward is plenty of short irons into the greens. At certain distances off the tee, there is ample room available right and left. Second, you have to use the slopes around the greens to get the ball close to the hole, both when playing from the fairway and when chipping. The nice thing is that many of the high points are located away from the hazards which guard the greens. I love being able to get creative with an extra club or chipping 20 feet away from the hole, just to watch the ball feed towards it. There is no shortage of options here once you get the tee shots out of the way!
Both times that I’ve played Tot Hill Farm it has been in good shape. This most recent time I’d say that it was in very nice shape! I was able to clip the ball in the fairways and the greens were receptive, smooth, and fast. Plus, the leaves were kept out of play. I noticed a couple thin spots in the rough, but nothing too concerning. The only trouble spot with the maintenance would be the tee boxes which had some sanded sections.
If you haven’t played a Mike Strantz course, I’d highly suggest it! I find his courses, including Tot Hill Farm, so much fun to play and always look forward to my round on one.
#1 (448 yard par 4):
The 1st is the longest par 4 on the course and even though it isn’t a low handicap, I think it is one of the hardest holes! The hole plays downhill with a blind tee shot and a hidden green, even if playing from the fairway. This is classic Strantz when it comes to controlling the distance off the tee because there is a tongue of hillside that needs to be carried (~210 yards). The fairway is large if someone can get the distance right, but narrow if playing out to the right of the tongue. There is trouble to the left off the tee. I’d suggest hitting driver and maybe a provisional! Missing right of the green is best as there is some slope that should kick the ball left.
#2 (402 yard par 4):
The 2nd is the #2 handicap and probably for good reason. The tee shot is tough and the approach is even tougher! The tee shot is one of the more demanding ones on the course because of the narrow, sloping fairway. The fairway slopes from left to right and there are hazards on each side. The second shot could be completely blind and it plays into a green hidden in the trees, with a hazard off to the left. I’d try to play to the front right section of the green every time and the ball could get a nice kick.
#3 (180 yard par 3):
The 3rd is my favorite hole on the course. I like it because of the scenery and the crazy green! It is ranked as the easiest hole on the course, but that ranking is probably dependent on the pin location. It plays about a club downhill to a green that is shaped like a “C”. The green curls around the tongue of the bunker and I have no idea how someone would get a shot close to a back right pin with the slope going left. There could be some crazy putts, or maybe even chips, on this green! Be careful walking up to the green as play from the 4th tee goes directly over the green.
#4 (493 yard par 5):
The 4th is the first of the five par 5’s and I think it is one of the weakest holes on the course. I’m not sure what was going on when picking the location for the tee boxes, but a couple tees require shots over the 3rd green! The fairway is wide and there is some room over the rocks to the left. The layup should be played to a narrow section of fairway short of (or over) a hazard. The landing area on the layup can be blind and my short iron ended up in the creek to the right. I’d play farther left on the layup than you’d initially think. The third shot is severely uphill into a bunkerless green complex with a green that slopes from back to front. If the layup area was wider then I’d like the hole better.
#5 (535 yard par 5):
The 5th hole is another par 5 and it has more Strantz craziness to it! The tee shot is brilliant as there is plenty of risk/reward to it. A more aggressive line to the left needs to carry more trouble. There is lots of fairway to the right! From there the second shot, from a downhill lie, will most likely be a layup. The green is hard enough to hit from 20 yards that I wouldn’t want to give it a try from long distance. The layup should be short of a creek and there is more fairway right than left. Someone could carry the creek and leave a short pitch into the green which I don’t think would be a bad play. The green is in the shape of a “T” with a huge rise to the back level. Trouble surrounds the green!
#6 (155 yard par 3):
The 6th is a short par 3 that offers a chance to knock one close. The best play is out to the right to use the natural slope. Anything to the left of the green is going to end up as a lost ball. Be careful of play from the 5th hole while standing on this tee!
#7 (382 yard par 4):
The 7th is a mid-length par 4 and one that I think is a blast to play! The green is straight ahead, but there are a number of obstacles to navigate on the way. The tee shot is blind and there is a collection of bunkers that could be in play. It is ~180 yards to carry them and if someone can, then the ball should land in a downsloping fairway with sides that feed shots towards the center. It could be a short iron approach into a green that angles from front right to back left along a creek. The creek doesn’t have to be in play as someone can use the slope on the higher right side of the green.
#8 (514 yard par 5):
The 8th plays severely uphill and because of that, I see only the longest hitters getting there in two. The hole moves slightly right and fairway bunkers pinch the tee shot. There are some big bowls in the fairway so the layup will probably be from an uneven lie. The layup is blind, but should be played out to the left for the best view of the green. The green has multiple tiers and there are two backstops which can be used to get the ball close.
#9 (371 yard par 4):
The 9th is the shortest par 4 on the scorecard, but it is one of the more difficult holes on the course. It moves from left to right and plays uphill at least a couple clubs. The second shot is blind into a green with a false front. My second shot clipped some trees short left of the green and I had to hit it over that false front from 30 yards. Depending on the pin location there is some slope that can be used to feed the ball back towards the pin in the picture. I’d make sure to get the ball deep into the green.
#10 (397 yard par 4):
The tees were up when we played which made the 10th a more interesting hole, because of options off the tee. One option is to hit a driver and carry the big mound in the fairway that is lined with a rock wall. I’d say it was ~225 yards to carry on the day we played. If someone can challenge the right tree line (towards that house in the picture) then that will leave the best angle into the green. The other option is to play out to the left of the mound, possibly with a layup club. That will leave a poorer angle into the elevated green which falls off on all sides. The iron shots needs to be struck solid and have some spin to hold the green. The back of the green is a depression and I have no idea how to get a shot back there.
#11 (186 yard par 3):
The 11th is the longest par 3 on the course, but it plays about a club downhill. The green, even though guarded by a creek on all sides, is large enough to receive a long iron. The green has a small tongue at the front which would be a tiny target! I think this is a fair, long par 3.
#12 (392 yard par 4):
The 12th is one of my favorite holes at Tot Hill Farm! It is demanding, but someone can get creative which is why I like it so much. The green is off to the left, surrounded by water which can come into play on the tee shot. Challenging the left side of the fairway leaves a shorter shot for the second. The second shot (from a harsh angle) plays to a green which sits on a peninsula shaped piece of land. I don’t think anyone has to go right at the flag, unless they want to. The back of the green is higher than the front and a second shot landing in the dried out, brown patch of grass should roll all the way back to the middle of the green! Personally, I love multiple ways to get it close!
#13 (162 yard par 3):
The 13th is one of the course’s signature holes. I wish the shadows weren’t so long so my camera could have captured how interesting this par 3 really is! It plays maybe half a club uphill to a green cut into the hillside. To the left of the green is some slope which could yield a big bounce right and to the right is a creek with plenty or rocks. When we played, the pin was on a small left tier. The front right section of the green is lower and could be a chance at a hole-in-one flag with shots having a couple ways to drop!
#14 (376 yard par 4):
The 14th is one of the shorter par 4’s on the course. It is a dogleg right and the fairway narrows (~150 yards in) so that makes a cut the preferred shape off the tee. For those who like a left to right shape hitting driver isn’t a bad play as the fairway does start to widen again towards the green. Make sure to land the approach at least a third of the way into the green because there is a false front. My shot caught that false front and rolled back into the rough. The green slopes from back to front so it might be a challenge to leave an uphill putt.
#15 (143 yard par 3):
The 15th, the shortest par 3, is ranked as one of the easiest holes at the course. It plays downhill so it should just be a short iron. Like the 13th, the green is cut out of a hillside and if the ball lands there it could get a crazy bounce. Missing left won’t be good, but it will probably be better than off to the right. The green curls left around a tongue of hillside so that pin could barely be seen from the tee! I’ve had a blast playing this hole the couple times that I’ve been to Tot Hill Farm.
#16 (527 yard par 5):
The 16th looks tough, and it is rated that way, but I think it is one of the easiest holes on the course. There is no doubt that local knowledge is helpful here. The hole slides right and is guarded by a creek on the left that runs the length of the hole up to the green where it then cuts across short. Because of that probably only the longest hitters will be able to get on the green in two. On the tee shot, there is plenty of fairway and the sides feed shots towards the center so it isn’t the most intimidating, even with the creek in play. The layup is tough because it is completely blind and plays over a rock wall and bunkers. The reward for the blind layup is a wide fairway from which to play a third. The green could be the easiest to play into because someone can play to the back of the green and let all the slope and gravity get the ball close.
#17 (411 yard par 4):
The 17th is the #1 handicap and it is almost one of those holes where someone has to play it to understand its difficultly. The fairway is massive so finding it shouldn’t be too tough. The green sits off to the left so the left side of the fairway leaves the shorter approach, but from a poorer angle. The second shot plays into a green that falls off short and left. My ball landed into the false front and rolled back down to the fairway. Plus, a rock wall (out of bounds) sits a couple steps from the right edge of the green. All that makes getting the distance and direction on the second very important. Chipping from short of the green didn’t bother me considering the alternatives!
#18 (469 yard par 5):
The 18th is a quirky, uphill par 5 to close. The sun was harsh for a picture, but there is a tree that can block shots from the fairway. To the left of the tree the fairway runs out ~240 yards but to the right someone can hit it farther. However, playing out to the right doesn’t really help since the green is straight ahead. There are a couple rock walls and some slope which can influence layup shots. The third most likely will be blind into a green with some sideboards long and to the left. Make sure to check out the zigzagging fairway on the satellite before playing this one!