Tot Hill Farm’s Tantalizing Mike Strantz Design Restored

   As seen in Golf Business May/June 2024   

By Scott Kauffman, Contributor, Golf Business

Besides owning three courses in the Carolinas, Pat Barber’s other business passion is restoring homes. According to Greg Wood, who oversees operations for Barber’s three golf facilities, Barber has experience reinvigorating and flipping smaller homes and restoring bigger properties on a personal level.

Now, Barber is undertaking perhaps his biggest restoration project ever: The rare Mike Strantz-designed course at Tot Hill Farm Golf Club in Asheboro, N.C., that Barber acquired in December 2022. Situated between Greensboro and Pinehurst, Tot Hill Farm was Strantz’s penultimate golf project before his untimely death in 2005 at age 50. 

Both Barber and Wood are ecstatic about bringing back this gem of a layout that opened in 2000 but languished in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

“This kind of married two of Pat’s passions,” said Wood, whose two other courses are the Charleston, S.C.-area Links at Stono Ferry and Plantation Course at Edisto. “(Pat) just has a passion for taking something that has really good bones and bringing it out to its full potential. We both share that passion. When you can start to see something reaching its potential, it’s very exciting and very fulfilling.”

As personal fans of the rare trademark courses designed by Strantz, who also hailed from Charleston, Tot Hill Farm was a course opportunity Barber couldn’t pass up after learning it was for sale one day while living at his Stono Ferry home. Right after purchasing the fellow residential golf development, Barber and Wood quickly got to work in restoring this diamond in the rough.

Bounded on three sides by the breathtaking Uwharrie National Forest and Uwharrie Mountains, Tot Hill Farm features 250 feet of elevation change just south of growing Greensboro and the Piedmont Triad area. The majority of the course meanders through the Uwharrie wilderness with the last few holes of each nine opening up into the rolling hills of a former country farm complete with a farmhouse that dates to the 1840s.

Yes, the signature farmhouse has already been restored and turned into Tot Hill Farm’s new clubhouse facility as part of Barber’s ongoing multi-million comprehensive course restoration. Other exciting updates officially unveiled last September, according to Wood, were reopened fairway corridors, installation of new bunker sand and drainage systems, repaired cart paths, removal of 1,200 trees and renovated Prizm zoysiagrass greens that can now be maintained in a unique mono fringe/rough manner.

Wood said everything being done is with the full intent of restoring Tot Hill to Strantz’s original design, a course Strantz boldly stated was the “best piece of land he ever got to work with.” The major restoration project has been made easier for Wood and Barber thanks to the former local ownership group being “very diligent” in recording 45 hours of construction videos with Strantz and taking an estimated 5,000 photos during construction.

Described by some as a design maverick, Strantz, who started his career working for Tom Fazio, developed a golf course cult following of his own after going solo in 1994 and designing a collection of critically acclaimed courses with former PGA Tour player Forrest Fezler. Among Strantz’s rare portfolio of eight courses, only six of which are still open, are Caledonia Golf & Fish Club in Pawleys Island, S.C., and Tobacco Road Golf Club in nearby Sanford, N.C.

“As we’ve been on property, we’ve developed an even greater appreciation for Mike Strantz and Forrest Fezler and their work,” said Wood, whose green fees are $95 to $175 for what is becoming a growing must-play “destination course” for golf aficionados.   “Every day you’re on the property you learn something new about the design. People have mentioned to us they thought the (Tot Hill Farm) design was extreme. But what we really discovered is it’s a very traditional design because Mike’s muse was Alister Mackenzie. … 

“Another thing Mike talked about was the property’s 250-feet of elevation change during the round, and he was such a genius because the majority of it is where you’re hitting downhill so golfers get to really have a great time with the golf experience and views. What’s also remarkable are the matching details he laid out, where the elevations on certain holes match other holes across the property, which is mind blowing as well. I mean, who designs that!”

Another interesting discovery occurred when Wood gutted and restored the historic farmhouse into the Tot Hill Farm clubhouse and golf shop, complete with changing rooms, lounge areas, a grab-and-go refreshments station, and a screened-in side porch to relax and take in the picturesque western North Carolina vistas. 

“We all fell in love with the farmhouse,” Wood said. “And we felt Mike designed the golf course to point back at the farmhouse, so once it became the new clubhouse it was like everything clicked into place. It was like, ok, the Mike Strantz design is complete.”


This article was featured in the May/June edition of Golf Business Magazine.

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