Welcome to Pinehurst No. 2

[photopress:tobacco_rd2.jpg,full,alignleft]I guess from the headline you might have a sense of where I am. Flew into Raleigh, N.C. today and though it had dropped 15 degrees overnight and there was rain in the air, we drove a half hour to the Mike Strantz-designed Tobacco Road, a golf course with as many supporters as detractors. Those who hate the course say it is tricked up, and, well, downright strange in places. Those who love it find Strantz’s vision and visual appeal quite remarkable.

I found it a little of both. Largely the course was tremendous, especially on the front nine, where visual tricks, like large faux dunes and mounding make it look like a much more difficult driving course than it actually is. The greens are often astounding. Within a Canadian context, I can only think of the 6th at Devil’s Paintbrush, with its huge raised slope in the middle as being comparable. It certainly makes one carefully consider their approach distances, though I also wondered if it slows play some.

The back nine had some of the most fascinating elements — like the unusual blind green on the 13th — and a number of short par fours that didn’t quite catch my attention. They were surely strategic, and some of the green rolls were stunning in their audacity, but I also thought it ended up nearing target golf a little too much.

Strantz died two years ago — leaving a handful of his designs dotting areas like Myrtle Beach (Caledonia, True Blue), Virginia (Royal New Kent) and California. He’s surely missed.

Tomorrow I’m out at Pinehurst No. 2. Several people who I very much respect have said [photopress:no.2.jpg,full,alignright]it is one of the most stunningly good examples of use of a flat piece of property. Others, like the guy on the plane with me today, said, “No. 2 is the worst course there. But you’ve got to play it.” I suspect he doesn’t have a clue — but I’ll see for sure tomorrow and report back.

In the meantime, I can surely say the resort is stunning, even though we came in after dark. The places oozes atmosphere and history. The service is terrific, and it all feels genuinely historic, not contrived.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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