Tot Hill Farm is another Mike Strantz creation. Given that it is part of a housing development, it would seem as though this course was intended to be more of a member's course opposed to Tobacco Road being a resort course. As such, the course lacks some of the extreme features seen at Tobacco Road. It also lacks some of the quality architecture that Tobacco Road has. But this course is certainly above average and has enough design quality to keep even the snobbiest of golfers entertained.
Variety of Design: Fair. Among the par 3's, the course lacks a very short hole and also lacks more than a mid-iron hole. The par 4's are all approached with short irons and the par 5's are all reachable in two shots, though in at least one case that is highly dangerous (to the golfer's scorecard). Directional variety is very good with 6 holes going left, 5 holes going straight, and 8 holes playing straight (18 can be played as dogleg left or a straight hole). 6 1/2 out of 10
Flow of the Course: Given the lack of variety, the course lacks the ability to really build to a climax. The 5th, 12th and possibly 18th holes provide high points to the round, but overall, the flow is closer to a flat line rather than a roller coaster. 6 out of 10
Conditioning: This course is among the mid to high level of courses in the Pinehurst area (though geographically it is on the far reaches, it shares a strong partnership with Tobacco Road) and conditioning is fitting. 7 out of 10
Ease of Walking: The hilly nature of the course make walking difficult and some long green to tee transitions make it more difficult still. 3 1/2 out of 10
Atmosphere: Being designed by Mike Strantz likely adds some thrill and anticipation to the course but beyond that, nothing more than the "course up the street." 3 out of 10
Holes to Note
Hole #1: Par 4, 448 yards
This is no easy opening hole...a Strantz feature. The playable portion of the fairway is blind from the tee, indeed the player may want to walk forward 50 yards or so in order to get a good view of the fairway. The hole is a hard dogleg left and the best play will be close down the tree line. Once in the fairway, the player can play directly over a depression short of the green or run the ball up from the right side. Solid, but potentially difficult, opening hole.
The best play hugs the tree line. The fairway on the hill in the distance is about 375 yards from the tee.
This is the view from around 180 yards. The player can either go directly over the depression and risk a pulled shot going in the creek or play a shot out to the right with a draw and roll it up on the green.
Hole #5: Par 5, 535 yards
This is a fantastic and very scenic par 5. This one fits the Macdonald template of a Cape hole. The player can play out to the left and take the safe route or aim out towards the hill/mountain in the distance and possibly left with a much shorter shot to the green. Given the yardage, the player might be within his range to go for the green in two shots, but that is very difficult. The green is surrounded with rocks and has two very distinct tiers. While being within range of long irons, the hole is clearly better approached with a very short iron.
From the tee, the scrubby depression is visible. Players can play out to the left or towards the mountain.
This is the view from the left side of the fairway after a play out to the left. The longest players can play over the larger trees to the left of the fairway from the tee.
This view of the green shows the disaster waiting on all sides. The tier is around 6 feet high. The green is surrounded with rocks and there is a sharp fall off behind the green. Approach this green with a long iron at your own risk.
Hole #9: Par 4, 371 yards
This hole is very difficult from the tee if the player uses a driver. Driver from the tee would require the player to play up the far right side and hit a fade around the corner in order to find the fairway (for the longer players). The best play is a fairway wood out to the wide part of the fairway where the signs are visible. From there, the player should be left with a short iron to a highly elevated green.
From the tee, the player can see the fairway and is able to make his choice from there.
From position up near the forward tees, the uphill nature of the hole is clear. Players choosing to hit a driver off the tee will be left with a shot off the severe upslope. The best play from the tee is a fairway wood to position near the signs. That will give the player a mostly flat lie to the skyline green in the distance. The false front of the green is also visible.
This is the view from the fairway. The bottom of the flagstick is not visible to the player. As seen in the previous image, being long enough is critical as shots left short will roll back a significant distance off the green.
Hole #12: Par 4, 392 yards
This hole fits the Strantz template of the Fishhook (my term), but this is the only one that is a par 4. The best play is down the left near the water. From there, the player is left with a simple shot to the green.
This hole has a lot of built up rocks near the water. The best play is down the left near the water.
The green is located out on a peninsula and again surrounded by rocks. This hole is very scenic, if a bit overdone.
Hole #15: Par 3, 143 yards
This short hole is played sharply downhill to a green located in a bowl. There is also a creek fronting the green. Again, this hole is rather scenic, though a bit "busy" and perhaps a little overdone.
Hole #17: Par 4, 411 yards
As described before, this is the Template Road hole. The hole plays mid-length from the tee, likely approached with a wedge. The green butts up tight against the road in the background and has a fronting hazard. Very solid hole to bring the round to the final hole.
From the tee, the player will have the best angle to the green from the right side of the fairway. The utility pole in the distance, centered on the fairway, provides the best aiming point.
The green is shaped to deflect shots in all directions. Short shots will roll back, shots too far left will be deflected farther left, possibly down into the hazard. This is one of the best greens on the course.
Overall, this course is good, but not excellent. As seen in the images, the course gets a bit busy with rocks and other features in certain spots. 5 out of 10