Tot Hill Farm Golf Club has become a course that attracts golfers from a wide area. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
ASHEBORO – It was more than a foursome, but it was a partnership that worked so well that breaking up was hard to do.
But Ogburn Yates, whose family has owned the land for more than 80 years, said it had come time for Tot Hill Farm Golf Club to be sold.
“It has been an interesting run,” said Ogburn Yates, 88, a member of the ownership group. “Very glad we did it and took part in a project that turned out like this. Forming this group and doing this for so long, it was subject to much prayer.”
The sale of the 18-hole layout became official last week, sold to Pat Barber of Charleston, S.C. He owns two courses – The Links at Stono Ferry and The Plantation Course at Edisto – in the Charleston area.
For the local partners and investors, it played out to a satisfactory conclusion amid all the ups and downs of owning and operating a golf club.
“On a project like this, everything has to work out,” Yates said. “The remarkable thing about this is the partners all stuck together.”
The core of the partners included Yates, C.C. Pharr, Delbert Cranford, Maxton McDowell, Jack Lail, former Asheboro mayor David Jarrell, Sam Gruber, Hi Marziano, Henry Yates (Ogburn’s son) and Tony Cranford (Delbert’s brother). Deceased partners included Keith Crisco, Bill Hoover and Mack Priest.
For many of the recent years, Pharr was credited with steering the group in the right direction as vice president and managing partner.
The property had been in the Yates family since it was purchased in 1943. It was used for cattle well before it became a development. Yates said in the late 1990s when plans were put in place, family members didn’t want to sell the property because there were too many memories.
They also didn’t want it to sit idle.
“At that point, golf was booming in the late ‘90s,” he said. “We discussed it and decided to develop it. A lot of this was prayer,” Yates said.
Partners were needed to assist in the financing. The course opened in May 2000.
A vision becomes reality
The course came to fruition under the design work of the late Mike Strantz.
That was part of the appeal to Barber.
“There are only six Mike Strantz designs the public can play and when I heard the course was for sale my interest piqued quickly,” Barber said. “I love a good restoration and we want to return Tot Hill Farm back to Mike’s original vision for the golf experience here.”
According to information from Barber’s management group, an upcoming restoration will come in stages. Priorities are to improve areas around greens and tee boxes, repair cart path damage, repair several bridges, build on-course restrooms and update the clubhouse.
Strantz’s background included time with famed designer Tom Fazio. Strantz designed nine golf courses before his death at age 50.
In the late 1990s, he seemed to be the right choice to design the course, even living on the property during that phase.
“It was just farmland and woods,” Yates said. “He built a resort course in Asheboro.”
The course became known for its stunning views and challenging golf.
Decision to sell
The golf business has had ebbs and flows during the past couple of decades. Even after the terrorist attacks in 2001, Tot Hill Farm Golf Club was so new that it drew interest. That part of the business held up well until the economic downturn in 2008.
The partners leased Tot Hill Golf Club in 2015, but that turned out to be short term before the group returned to oversee operations. The ownership group took a certain pride in that the course never closed.
The partners in that group understood that it would be best to find another owner.
“Maybe it’s time to let it go,” Yates said. “All the partners were in their 70s and 80s.”
It went on the market by 2018. There were five serious prospects along the way, but nothing panned out. Then Barber came along.
“He was the right guy,” Yates said. “I was never worried about it. Nobody likes to wait, especially at this stage of life.”
It’s a high-end course, with greens fees at about $70.
There have been various challenges. Last January, a maintenance building was destroyed by fire.
It’s more than a local course, with golfers often coming from a 100-mile radius. There also are plenty of out-of-state golfers, making Tot Hill Farm Golf Club a stop on trips to or from Pinehurst.
There are about 50 homes around the course as part of the development. Barber is scheduled to meet with home owners Saturday.
Yates, who operated a Belk franchise in Asheboro, lives in the development off the 10th hole.
“It’s a beautiful facility and has been great for the county,” Yates said. “Tot Hill Farm is in great hands. The future is very bright.”