Mike Strantz was the Amedeo Modigliani of golf course architects. Like the famed painter and sculptor of early-twentieth-century Paris, Strantz created controversial, provocative works—in his case courses that by turns challenge, intimidate and excite serious players (see T+L GOLF, January/February 2005). And like Modigliani's, Strantz's genius was snuffed out too early. He died of cancer last year at the age of fifty, leaving just seven original designs and a couple of major renovations. Before he died, Strantz was trying to promote a golf trail linking his six daily-fee courses, which lie along a 360-mile route from Williamsburg, Virginia, to the Low Country of South Carolina. Playing them all in one trip might be biting off a bit much, but they are arrayed in pairs, any of which could be the basis for a buddy trip that demonstrates why Strantz proudly called his firm Maverick Golf Course Design.
MIKE STRANTZ COURSES
Tobacco Road Golf Club, Sanford
877-284-3762, tobaccoroadgolf.com; $69–$85 through November 16, then $59–$77.
Thirty miles north of Pinehurst, this is the most rococo Strantz design. His trademark fishhook-shaped par fives tempt players to try perilous carries, sandhills hide fairways and a green is tucked behind a ridge. With so many blind shots, marshals are needed to help first-timers figure out where to aim.
Tot Hill Farm Golf Club, Asheboro
800-868-4455, tothillfarm.com; $40–$50.
Working with rocky, steeply sloped land forty-five minutes west of Tobacco Road, Strantz fashioned a gorgeous layout here of dramatic angles and planes. But as with several of his courses, Tot Hill Farm's owners have softened the design in the name of playability, eliminating some of the adventure in the process.
Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, Durham; 800-443-3853, washingtondukeinn.com; from $189. This lovely country inn sits across the street from the Duke University campus and is roughly an hour's drive from either Tobacco Road or Tot Hill Farm. It offers access to the Duke course, with one of college golf's best practice areas.
Magnolia Grill (Southern), Durham; 919-286-3609. This inviting bistro serves sophisticated cuisine with a Southern slant.
Bullock's Barbecue, Durham; 919-383-3211. It's hard to beat this emporium of eastern North Carolina–style barbecue: pulled pork slathered in a tangy vinegar-based sauce. There's just one catch: They don't serve alcohol.
With the University of North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest located hereabouts, there's usually an ACC basketball game going on. Near Tot Hill Farm, in Randelman, race fans will enjoy the Richard Petty Museum (336-495-1143).