The Mike Strantz Review by Moe Miller
I promised a review of Mike Strantz courses after my recent trip to South and North Carolina, so here it is. We didn’t get to play the Caledonia Golf and Fish club because they were redoing the greens this summer. So I feel a little premature with this writing, but perhaps through the power vested in him, Ron will let me update my review after I play three more courses later.

Here are the Mike Strantz courses:

Caledonia Golf and Fish Club (1994) - Pawleyxs Island, South Carolina
True Blue (1998) - Pawleyxs Island, South Carolina
Tradition Club at Stonehouse (1996) - Toano, Virginia
Tradition Club at Royal New Kent (1996) - Providence Forge, Virginia
Tobacco Road (1999) - Sanford, North Carolina
Tot Hill Farm (2000) - Asheboro, North Carolina
Bull's Bay (2002) - Awendaw, South Carolina
Silver Creek Valley C. C. (2002) - San Jose, CaliforniaMonterey

Peninsula C. C. (2004) - Pebble Beach, California

Mike Strantz set out to be an artist and ended up using golf courses as his canvas. He worked for Tom Fazio for eight years, and then got his own chance in 1993. Mike died June 10, 2005, at age 50. He was a gourmet cook and collected music, so you know I would have loved to know him.

I recently played True Blue, Tobacco Road, and Tot Hill Farm. Next year I hope to play Caledonia, the two courses in Virginia, and perhaps Bull’s Bay. So this is a preliminary report.

With Mike Strantz courses you must play from the correct tees. He requires lots of forced carries, sometimes to hidden fairways. If I had played from the tips, certain holes would have been impossible for me. I just can’t carry my drive over 200 yards. I did choose the correct distance (for a 63 year old man) each time out, and at True Blue (81) and Tobacco Road (79), I shot very well. True Blue is a more traditional southern style course with lots of trees, sand and water, while Tobacco Road has more elevation changes and rough ground to negotiate. I found two holes at Tobacco Road I thought were pretty close to “the Clown and Windmill” descriptions that others have used to describe Mike Strantz courses. Number 13 is a long par five with two very distinct landing areas, which is fine, but then he piled up some dirt so we can’t really see the green. Number 15 is a short par 4, where he made a long narrow green (which is OK), but piled more dirt in the fairway to hide the green. This forces everyone to drive up to find the green, and figure yardage, etc, which slows down play.

Number one at Tobacco Road

Hiding greens behind dirt piles actually goes back to the original golf course designers like Ross and McDonald, and others. They called it an “Alps” hole.

It was their way of making a flat uninteresting hole more interesting. I think it was a dumb idea then and it’s still a dumb idea. Early course designers were often given flat boring land to work with and therefore designed courses that were flat and boring. It was hard enough just to hit that pile of feathers with that hunk of steel stuck on a wooden stick. The course didn’t need challenging holes. Nowadays, we realize that most courses turn out fantastic only when you get fantastic land to start with. Those of you who think Belterra is a great course, (and it is) should go to Missouri and play Branson Creek. You would see what the same "if you have money I can spend it" designer could do when he gets to start with elevation changes, creeks, lakes, cliffs, and waterfalls. All those things look and work better if they are natural, rather then created by giant earth moving equipment.

...I’m having a course design argument here with a guy who can’t respond. Let’s move on.

I thought Tot Hill Farm was too contrived in many places. It is my least favorite Strantz course. On one hole there was actually a wall on top of the hill I had to hit over to reach the fairway! You could say I had a double off the center field wall and that would sound good in baseball, but we are still golfing here. This course had too many of his "hide the fairway, hide the green" holes.

Tot Hill Farm

The real problem with the target golf idea is that we can’t all always make that correct swing and reach the target area. At Tot Hill Farm if you didn’t drive properly, you generally lost your ball (but only after spending the allowed 5 minutes looking) and in a foursome of 20 handicappers, it turns into a very slow round.

Mike Strantz course are interesting, not all alike, and well worth playing. The three I played all had tee boxes that played less than 6000 yards, and any 20 handicapper who wants to play these tough courses should move up, and bring plenty of balls.

I would guess that as a painter Mike Strantz was an Impressionist.