When you go to the Tobacco Road website, you see a beautiful, sunrise picture of the par 3 8th green, the fairway of the par 4 9th hole in the background, and the following quote:
When talking about my favorite golf courses, I always tell people that the only feature that I need to see to be a fan of the course is that I have to be able to remember every hole individually after playing the course once. I need novelty, distinction, uniqueness, some other synonym of those words, and I don’t care at all if the course follows the rules of other courses.
Tobacco Road nails all of my requirements, and if I had to choose one course I’d play the rest of my short life, it would be Tobacco Road.
“It’s a beautiful course and even though I haven’t seen all 18 holes of many courses I could tell it was unique. I also liked ringing the bells when you left the fairway”
– My sister Sara, when asked her initial thought of Tobacco Road
“I figured you were writing a review but did not plan to be quoted ha”
– My sister Sara, when asked if she knew I was going to use her quote in the review.
“i REALLY did not expect you to use my second gchat hahah”
– My sister Sara, messaging me on gchat, after looking over the post and seeing her quotes.
I’m not sure when I heard of Tobacco Road for the first time, either way, when my sister and brother-in-law flew down to NC for a 3 day weekend to play golf back in February, I told them to head to Tobacco Road to check it out, and frankly knew how much they’d like it (and by they I mean both of them because my sister wasn’t playing, but she rode along in the cart). I also made sure to have them post a pic from the course, and obviously they went with the approach to the 13th green.
Fast forward a few months to the end of May when Mike and I (and couple caddie friends) were down in Pinehurst for the US Four Ball. Mike and I missed the match play cut, so we had an extra half a day before our flight back home, which meant that all four of us got a tee time at Tobacco Road mid morning, starting on the first tee.
I mentioned just above how an Instagram picture of the 13th hole approach shot is a frequently posted picture from the course. Another of the three main pictures is the view from the first tee to the fairway. Hills with shrubs for lost balls on both sides just before the landing area make it slightly intimidating, but they are also something that you’ll rarely see. Now, I’m lucky that I can hit drivers pretty far, far enough that from the back tees I can get so far over the hills that the fairway widens up enough. For those who don’t hit it as far, don’t worry, the fairway is still decently wide.
You’ll find this view nowhere else. On to descriptions of course features!
Semi Bucket Greens
Moving about 300 yards from the first tee to a 220 yard approach shot, the first green is a great example of the semi-bowl greens that are common to Tobacco Road. From the pic below, you can see the slope from the left side of the green over to the right. Looking at the bunkers on the right, you can see the slope to the back left of the green, and the slope from the back left to front right. A green that’s a valley.
It’s a very common feature of Tobacco Road (and exactly opposite of Pinehurst numero dos), and slopey greens make you need to know where to land the ball if you’re looking for a tap in birdie.
In my case, after a well hit driver off the tee and over the left hill (which is where to aim since the opening of the semi-bucket green is the left side), I hit a cutter 4 iron that fed down to the hole a decent amount from where it landed to 30 feet away, and I ended up 2 putting for a birdie.
These semi-bucket greens do make the course easier, but difficulty is not at all what I’m looking for when picking a course to play over and over and over, and neither is a feature that can help lower your score. The thought of landing areas and the excitement of seeing the ball roll to the hole, combined with the uncommonality of this feature, is the experience I want.
Doglegs where you choose how much to cut off, aka Loop Holes
If people start talking about this type of architecture as a Loop Hole, I’m getting credit for inventing the term.
When playing Tobacco Road, one of the main things you’ll see here are holes with giant, waste-area-bunkers between the tees and the greens, and a giant fairway that wraps around the entire thing.
The Phoenix area has plenty of 36 hole resort courses — Troon North, Greyhawk, Talking Stick, and in this case We-Ko-Pa. And if you’re in the area looking to pick one to spend a 36 hole day at, I can’t totally suggest which one to make tee times at, but playing a full day at We-Ko-Pa will never be a bad choice.
Story time From the Morning
From the AirBnb we were staying at in this baller little community in Phoenix with sweet looking one-story houses and tons of palm trees, we had about a 40 minute drive to the course. Now here’s some advice when you’re deciding which tee time to make. If you have the option of 7:40 or 8:50 tee time, you gotta pick 7:40. Biggest help of the day is that we didn’t have any traffic to the course which definitely would have been an issue for the 8:50. And if you’re playing 36 holes in one day, early tee times give you more time between rounds and also make sure that your first rounds cruises since you won’t have too many groups in front of you. (Also, if you’re playing golf in the morning, make sure to stop at a Dunkin and get a sausage-egg-and-cheese-on-a-sesame-bagel and medium iced coffee with cream and sugar. Perfect breakfast in my opinion.)
I got to the clubhouse at 7, paid, looked at all the apparel they have there with the We-Ko-Pa logo, and walked out to my cart to find my bag already loaded. Time to note one of the best things about We-Ko-Pa: they have so many carts that they don’t care if a group is using three carts by themselves. Granted, golfers are usually so nice that getting paired with randos isn’t a big deal if you have to share a cart, but it usually takes a little while to become friends with playing partners, which means sitting quiet and awkwardly at 7:30 in the morning isn’t completely ideal. Oh also, you’re not required to bring the cart back after your first round, which worked out perfectly because the We-Ko-Pa carts are charged enough so they won’t run out of energy when playing the entire 36 holes.
At 7:10 I drove up to the driving range which is a giant field with two levels of tee areas, really good grass, and pyramids of golf balls. Grass was in excellent condition and the range has a great feeling not only for warming up, but it also an ideal practice range. Considering I’d been hitting the ball like trash the past week (and past month really), I decided to just hit as many balls as I could before the round rather than hit a few putts to figure out the speed. This was the best decision ever for me considering I finally, finally figured out some swing thoughts and was hitting the ball way better than before. Remember people… keep your head down with your eyes looking straight at the ball, and stay in posture as much as you can, then you’ll hit it great. With that said, hitting putts beforehand is probably something I also needed to do considering I had four 3-putts that first round and thought of a GOTM Tip of the Day.
While I was striping the range balls for 10 minutes, a ranger called my name and asked if I wanted to tee off at the 7:20 tee time with the players who were already on the first tee of the Saguaro course. Since I didn’t know who I was supposed to play with for either tee time, I said screw it and was off to the first tee.
One thing to mention here is the length of time I take before I write these course reviews. In this case, I played at We-Ko-Pa about 3 weeks ago and I definitely wasn’t willing to write this review right away, even though I did have opinions about the course on the drive back to the AirBnB. When you do anything, such as playing a new course, going to a store to buy new clothes, thinking about changing to a new job, listening to new music artists, you’ll right away have a first impression either positive or negative. Over time, your reactions can change and there’s nothing wrong with that. Stop here before you keep reading and try to think of something that you’ve started in the past and initially loved doing, but you began to view more negatively over time. Now think of something you weren’t a fan of initially, but then became a favorite of yours. Talking about your early opinions happens so much that you need to label those as initial opinions so people know those can change.
A great example of this type of modeling for reviews is YouTube user BIGQUINT who has tons of entertaining videos about his opinions of rap / hip hop albums with over two hundred thousand subscribers. If you want some examples, check out his review of Frank Ocean’s Blond(e) (I’m a huge fan of the album). The first three quarters of that video is his initial reaction to all the songs on the album with him dancing and talking about the difference between songs. During the last quarter of that video, he talks about his full reaction after listening to the album “25 to 50 times.” Another one of his great reaction videos that’s a few days old is about Kendrick’s new album DAMN. (I’m a big fan of that album too). Considering Kendrick’s album had so much hype that BIGQUINT felt the need to post a video about his initial reaction right away, he’s splitting up his initial reaction video with another one coming for his full reaction. First reactions exist, but those can change over time. Another example of the mindset is from this New Yorker article about the NYT restaurant critic, who mentions how he goes to all the places at least three times before being able to write the review.
On my end, these reviews that I’m writing here are somewhere in the middle — I’ve only been able to play the courses once, (they’re in different parts of the US, somewhat expensive, and need to make sure to make tee times in multiple days), but I also take my time before writing about them so I have full thoughts and am not just talking about an initial reaction. Sometimes when I’m writing, I even imagine I’m out there on the same holes again, this time hitting perfect shots. My initial reactions count, but these articles are my full reaction.
Allll that being said, my opinions of the Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa are exactly the same as I had the day I played out there. So sometimes opinions don’t change. Time for the full reaction on Saguaro!
Saguaro is a tournament style course, full of mini-doglegs that require thoughts about what to hit and where to aim off the tee, and full of changes in fairway and green style depending on how long the hole is. These types of designs constantly require correct planning and shot selection, which is ideal for tournaments and adds thought to a round of golf that you won’t usually find on other courses.
As I mentioned just above, one of the first things you’ll find on tournament courses are something I’ll call mini-doglegs. Overall, doglegs come in two styles. The first is the ‘standard’ dogleg which you’ll often find on tree lined courses, especially up north. Hit your drive dead straight with whatever club makes you stay just short of the end of the fairway, and then hit your second shot something like 60 to 80 or even 90 degrees to the right or left. Famous examples of holes like that are number 11 at Augusta National (drivers straight since it takes a lot of driving distance to fade it around the corner), 18 at Augusta National as well, number 1 at Brown Deer (course I play all the time), 15 at TPC Sawgrass, 8 at Erin Hills (check out the US Open there this year, though there is a slight possibility for hitting drives over the hill, but keeping it in the fairway that direction is very tough).
Part two of the Pocahontas themed review of Streamsong Golf Resort! If you’re just seeing this for the first time, I suggest you go back to part 1 and read that first so you can read about the Red course and how we spent the morning at Streamsong. With that being said, I’m going to just jump right into talking about the Blue course, the differences between Blue and Red, and then a bunch of pictures and descriptions of the holes out there!
Part two of the review of Streamsong, this time Blue. Yes that sentence was meant to rhyme, and yes the course costs more than twenty thousand dimes, but when you have time, climb the hill to the Blue’s first tee, hit your drive and hit your approach shots carefully.
the Blue Course
We weren’t sure if we’d be able to play the Blue course in the afternoon after the Red due to the early sunset in March and how many groups had been teeing off that whole day. We checked with the guys at the pro shop who said we were pretty much free to hit the course when we were ready, but weren’t able to confirm we’d be able to finish before dark. After thinking about it, Mike and I headed out to the Blue course around 2:15 that afternoon.
There are two main differences between the Red course and the Blue course.
First, where the Red course had obstacles on the “safe” side of doglegs, the Blue course has wide open fairways. Thinking back, there are so few holes I can remember that literally don’t have fairways wide enough to catch every drive no matter how off center you hit it.
I’d like to expand a little on this type of design. There’s actually a reason for this style of course – it forces golfers to strategize about where to hit each tee shot, as opposed to holes that are straightforward (pun intended). Furthermore, the wide open nature of this style gives poor players a chance to keep the ball in play. This applies to both fairways and greens. There were plenty of times where I drove the ball too far to the wrong spot on the fairway that I wasn’t going to be able to get the ball close to the pins.
This whole explanation is summarized more succinctly by a quote from the famous Alister MacKenzie, most likely about Augusta National (MacKenzie designed, Jones owned).
We wanted the fairways to be wide so that every class of player could find a way to navigate each hole. The good player should be able to create an attractive angle for his approach with a drive into the correct spot. And the lesser player should be able to easily achieve a bogey without any undue stress.
This is exactly what I saw going on at the Blue course in terms of fairways — tons of holes with giant fairways that I was able to hit with crappy drives, but often made it incredibly tough to get the second shot close to the pin even if I was striking the ball perfectly. The Red had some holes like that as well, but the fairways were never close to as big as Blue’s.
Second difference between the courses is how the Blue course’s greens differ from the Red’s. Blue greens were much more of a classic, somewhat circular look, but with slopes and dropoff areas that make it tough to get the ball close, bringing three putts into play, while I mentioned in part 1 that the Red course had a bunch of giant and multi part greens.
Also speaking of MacKenzie quotes, here’s one about how long it takes to play golf.
Golf courses are becoming far too long. Twenty years ago we played three rounds of golf a day and considered we had taken an interminably long time if we took more than two hours to play a round. Today it not infrequently takes over three hours.
I have no issues with course length cause I like them being longer since I’m lucky enough to hit it pretty long, but give me those two hour rounds!
Time for course description and pictures. Again, if you want more pictures only slightly more pretty, look at the hole by hole tour on Streamsong’s website.
The first hole is a drivable par 4. From the tee box, you had a great view of a bunch of different holes on each course as well as the clubhouse.
Hole 2 is a par 5 with a mini fairway that requires careful consideration. Due to how downwind it was when we played, I hit two 3 irons to get it near the green. Both holes 1 and 2 had plenty of safe room near the green, but it was difficult to get up and down which left me with pars on both.
Holes 3 and 4 are both similar, uphill dogleg lefts with water to the left side of the fairways. Here’s the tee shot on 4, with bunkers on the safe side of the fairway that are ridiculously far to the right making the fairway really large, as discussed earlier.
And here’s what the approach to that green looks like. Being uphill and having a hidden view of the green are two things that make close approaches difficult.
Moving onto the 6th hole, another another drivable par 4 with the widest open fairway I’ve ever seen on a drivable par 4. This hole basically becomes a par 3.5 in a tournament setting. On the tee, you’re excited for a chance to make birdie, and should retire from golf permanently if you don’t. (Joke.) Having that mindset is key if you’re looking to score well.
In general, all Florida courses are the same — they’re flat, have mini lakes everywhere with cattails everywhere, and they have houses on all sides of every hole. World Woods is not like that.
The club is based an hour north of Tampa, meaning that the land is as hilly as a course in North Carolina. There are a few lakes, but definitely not a main part of the course. And luckily, you’re not able to see any houses to the side of any hole (incidentally, they do have stay and play villas, but they’re 6 miles from the courses). Oh, and Tom Fazio knows how to build unique and tournament-esque courses, both of which you’ll find at World Woods.
Despite the name of the club, I was a huge fan of playing out there. Being a single player, I got paired with a father and son in the first round who were really friendly. We were one of the first groups off in the day and we cruised around so quickly, never had to wait, and we never cause the group behind us to wait either. We got along so well that we even decided to flip tee times for the second round of the day so we could play together again. Unlike the first round however, the afternoon round was packed and slow. However, this was not a big deal because the weather was (somewhat) warm, and we were in carts which makes 36 holes super easy.
I’ll admit, I’d never heard of World Woods at all before I got a suggestion to play there from the guy I played with earlier in the week that Palm Beach par 3 course, the first full day in Florida. I hadn’t heard of the club before, and wasn’t exactly sure about the quality considering how unique, and frankly odd, the name of the club is. Which is funny because there’s another famous club in Florida with an odd name, but more on that in a later post.
Now, if you ever talk to someone who’s played the courses there, expect the following quote where the player tries to make it obvious that they’ve played there, and that they know what the designs of the courses are.
Oh yeah, World Woods, I’ve played there before. Really cool courses. One of them is designed like Augusta National, and the other like Pine Valley. I could totally tell that was the case on my own when I was playing the courses, because I know a lot about what those top courses are designed like. And I’m definitely not claiming that because I was told about the comparisons before I played. I figured that out on my own.
This quote is a lie. If anyone ever talks about playing World Woods, the first thing they’re going to say is that Rolling Oaks looks like Augusta National, and Pine Barrens is designed to look semi like Pine Valley. Which means that 1) they’re only saying it to try to seem smart, and 2) make you think that they know course designs better than you. Incidentally, this is also the first thing that I’m writing about the courses here, so I guess I fall into that bucket of “being smart about course design” as well. My bad.
Though these differences are actually the case, Rolling Oaks does look like Augusta National does on TV cause I haven’t actually played there unfortunately. They both have wide and beautiful sloping fairways, wavy greens the way that basically every MacKenzie course is designed like, and bunkers that have the same edges that you’ll see at the Masters. Pine Barrens on the other hand has slightly tighter fairways, surrounded by more pine trees along with smaller greens, and more wide and semi-waste area bunkers, which I assume Pine Valley is like because I’ve never played there either.
- Two courses
- both different enough to be distinct
- slightly far away from main areas in Florida
- cheap enough to be a great deal compared to other courses in Florida, ~$170 for playing 36 in one day
- and if you go, plan on playing 36 holes in one day. You get a cheaper replay rate and can bolt afterwards.
Considering I hadn’t heard of World Woods before, and also wasn’t exactly sure when I’d be close enough to that area, I just called them a few days before my round and was given a tee time on both courses within less than a minute of talking to a guy behind the desk. I rolled up early in the morning, went in and paid for the first round. Like I mentioned above, the courses themselves are really cool and in great condition, but damn did that clubhouse look like one at a not-too-expensive municipal course. Or maybe a clubhouse that courses build cheaply while constructing their fancy / giant clubhouse that most courses of this nature have. I’ll take great courses over a great clubhouse however, so I didn’t mind that at all.
I hit some balls, went over to Pine Barrens course before the starter realized they told me I was playing Rolling Oaks for the first round, so I drove over to Rolling Oaks…
… aka Augusta National. We started on the 10th hole and I instantly I agreed that the course very much has a look like Augusta. 10th hole is a long par 5 with giant fairway, which is good for an opening drive, that slopes down and to the right, all the way until you have a 100 yard uphill third shot to a green that has two bunkers on both sides of the front part of the green which make it look very much like the 2nd hole at Augusta National. Check out the green in this instagram post.
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First hole of the day on Rolling Oaks here at World Woods. Started on number 10 here, and definitely looks like some holes could be a part of Augusta. Doesn't look like Florida necessarily, but really awesome. Weather report: little cold, really windy, but no clouds so that counts for something.
I also took a picture from the back of the 10th green that shows what the fairway was looking like from.
Not only did the first hole look like something that could be at Augusta, but pretty much every other hole did too. For example, here’s the 15th hole with another bunker and green combo that shouts “you’re not in Florida, you’re at Augusta”.
The signature hole of Rolling Oaks here is frankly a little odd in my opinion. It’s the 8th hole, our second to last of the morning, a downhill par 3 with a mini lake that looks added into the hole for funsies. The rest of the holes looked natural and similar, and this hole green was just thrown in there because why not.
Couple notes about the course. None of the bunkers have rakes surrounding them, instead you’ll have a mini rake in your cart that you’re supposed to bring to every bunker shot. Luckily, I only forgot to bring the rake back to my cart once.
The greens on the course are super smooth, look great, but are decently slow. Half of that is based on how slopey the greens are and greens that are too quick would make putting annoying, and I’ll assume the other half of that is Flo-rida based courses with tons of play and people walking all over. Here’s a tip though if you’re on the course: play more break on your putts. The final three feet of basically every putt we hit snapped at the end and we kept missing low. If you know this about the greens, and you make some more putts when you’re playing RO, hit us up on twitter and give us the assist.