North Carolina golfing
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Tobacco Road Golf Club, North Carolina

From the seventh hole, the greens undulate into the distance at Tobacco Road Golf Club, a dazzling course that occupies an abandoned quarry in Sanford, N.C. The Carolinas are one of the world’s great golf meccas, with more than 700 courses from bargain local layouts to ultra-pricey manicured trophy tracks. (Robbie Wooten / Impact Golf Market)
Tobacco Road is designer Mike Strantz’s masterpiece. Many courses have one especially dramatic signature hole, but here, every hole is spectacular, with blind carries, improbable angles and unexpected hazards. (Robbie Wooten / Impact Golf Market)
A golfer pauses atop a hill to watch the play below him on the first hole at Tobacco Road. Strantz was a master illusionist. Take the tee shot here. It looks intimidating, but it really isn’t. (Karen Tam / For The Times)
The 13th hole at Tobacco Road is a sharp contrast in colors -- the bright green of the turf juxtaposed with the tans of the earth. Playing Tobacco Road, one gains a feel for the sprawling hill country between the Atlantic coast and the Appalachians. (Glenn Dickerson)
From the air, Strantz’s characteristic elongated greens are on full display at Tobacco Road. Many have the odd, elliptical shapes of those iconic Salvador Dali clocks. (Glenn Dickerson)
A golfer walks along the fairway of the first hole at Tobacco Road. The trick to the tee off here? Get your ball by a couple of jagged mounds, and the fairway opens into a generously accommodating bowl-shaped expanse. (Karen Tam / For The Times)
Two golfers head back to their cart at Tobacco Road, where the course is short, just 6,554 yards from the back tees, and not impossibly tough. “The average golfer can’t handle a Pinehurst No. 2 or an Oakland Hills,” says Joe Gay, head pro at Tobacco Road. “Everyone has a chance here.” (Karen Tam / For The Times)
Players walk up to the 15th green at another Strantz gem, Tot Hill Farm in Asheboro, N.C., which offers a more Appalachian flavor. Here, Strantz worked with a palette of deep green forest, gray stone cliffs and glinting brooks. (Karen Tam / For The Times)
Golfers wait to hit down the 16th hole fairway at Tot Hill Farm, where the woods are never very far away -- in fact, many of the greens back against the forest. (Karen Tam / For The Times)
Golfers finish play on the 13th hole, which is known as the Strantz green, after the course’s designer. At Tot Hill Farm, rock extrudes everywhere, sometimes even on tee boxes or near the greens. (Karen Tam / For The Times)
Roger Kimball hits the ball over a stream at the bottom of the 16th hole at Tot Hill Farm. A golf course lies in that murky zone between organic and man-made, wild and engineered, natural and artificial. Strantz embraced the unexpected possibilities at all these intersections. (Karen Tam / For The Times)
Jesse Williams of Wentworth, N.C., left, and Larry Leonard of Reidsville, N.C., take a break while waiting to play through at Tot Hill Farm. (Karen Tam / For The Times)
Strantz makes a detailed sketch of a hole. When he was designing a course, his method was always the same. After days walking the land, he would create a cartoon -- as the Italian Renaissance masters termed their miniature plans -- for the fresco the course would soon become. (Mike Strantz Studios)
Mike Strantz was a maverick in his looks and his courses. He designed only nine before his death two years ago at age 50. Five of the nine are in the Carolinas; four are open to the public. Serious golfers come from all over to play these creations. (Mike Strantz Studios)