Once again the design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have created a stunning American golf course, this time in the Sandhills area near Pinehurst, North Carolina. The Dormie Club sits on 310 acres with only 68 acres of managed grass. The balance is made up of wire grasses, pine trees, Sandhills native vegetation, and “natural sands.” The course is as natural looking as any Sandhills course as it winds through mature pine and hardwood forests and around a couple of lakes. There are no manicured edges or defined rough and you’ll also encounter something fairly unique in the area – 110 feet of elevation change. Most fairways are flanked by sandy soil, pine straw, native grasses, and fescues.
I’ve read that Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore spent several hours walking the grounds of what would become the Dormie Club, which is the site of a former quail hunting retreat. Once they were sure that they could build the classic, minimalist-style layout they were known for, plans were set in motion and that day, 14 potential holes were identified.
Dormie Club follows the Donald Ross design principle of wide fairways, which rewards tee shots hit to a specific area of the fairway while giving errant shots a chance at recovery albeit with a bit of added difficulty. Many holes at the Dormie Club also have large chipping areas that require golfers to think through and execute their chip shots.
The Dormie Club has received national recognition including #3 Best New Course in 2010 by Golfweek Magazine, #12 The Best Golf Courses in North Carolina in 2019-2020 by Golf Digest as well as multiple appearances in Golf Digest’s list of America’s Top 100 Public Courses between 2013 and 2018.
There are no paved cart paths or any paved surfaces for that matter on the course and like many great courses, signage is kept to a minimum. What few signs they have are designed to keep you moving in the right direction. Holes are marked with 4×4 posts with the hole number at the top. Moving from Number 6 to Number 7 can be a little tricky with 14 in the middle. To get to the 7th tee you have to go by the 14th tee and thankfully, there is a sign on the 14th tee that says “This Ain’t 7!”
From the back tees, Dormie Club plays 6,883 yards with a course rating of 73.7 and a slope of 138. Four sets of tees plus a blended set on the scorecard produce yardages of 5,180 for the ladies to the championship distance. I found the blended tees (6,264/71.5/127) to be a good test and still let me leave with some dignity intact.
As you make your way around the layout you’ll encounter three natural lakes and course aesthetics reminiscent of Scotland. Dormie Club features Bermuda fairways and tees with bent grass greens. Bunkers have been strategically placed to encourage creativity off the tee, on layups, and approaches. The greens have a lot of undulation in them. For example, the 3rd hole has no less than four separate mounds in it so you better hope you catch the pinsetter on a good day.
Keeping it in the fairway at the Dormie Club is everything, however, the first three holes are short enough that if your driver isn’t working right out of the gate, you can still escape if you can make a good second shot.
The elevation change can be seen on the 3rd and 4th hole, a sweeping dogleg left that plays downhill. The 4th green is very large and a front to back pin placement can easily a 3-club difference.
The back nine has a couple of risk/reward par 4s: Number 14 plays 283 yards and a good drive down the left side can easily run-up to the green. Number 15 plays slightly less at 263 yards however it takes a well-struck and well-placed tee shot to not only get to the green but to keep the ball in play.
Dormie Club has several memorable holes, but here are a couple that will stick with me for a while. Number 8 is a 459-yard par 4 that has the distinction of being the course’s Number 1 handicap, although I think that’s debatable. It’s a dogleg left that plays slightly uphill off the tee and then downhill. Playing your tee shot out to the right and catching the downhill will go a long way in leaving a manageable approach shot. Anything long and left will probably find the large waste bunker at the bottom of the hill. The green is narrow and at least 50 yards (not feet) long.
For my money, Number 10 is the toughest hole on the course, although the scorecard doesn’t even have it as the toughest on the back nine. It plays 605 yards from the White tees (over 650 from the back tees). The tee shot plays slightly uphill to a downhill slope. A good drive will leave about 140-yard carry over wetlands. Find one of the two fairway pot bunkers on your second shot and par just became a pipe dream. From there on in, sand traps dot the right side of the fairway and another guards the right side of the green. Two good shots will still leave a long to mid-iron into a very large green.
Number 17 is yet another hole that could be considered as the course’s toughest. It’s a 448-yard par 5 that plays slightly downhill off the tee and then severely uphill the rest of the way. Your second shot requires a choice to layup in front of the waste area and leave an uphill pitch shot of about 100 yards or try and clear the waste area and leave a much easier approach. Next time I play Dormie Club, I’ll choose option 2!
Big things are happening at The Dormie Club and in June 2021, things are going to explode. That’s when their all-new 16,000-square-foot clubhouse is scheduled to open along with another 15 Stay and Play cottages. The clubhouse will consist of several seating areas including a spacious dining room anchored by a large two-sided fireplace and vaulted ceilings. Plans also include a standalone pro shop.
The cottages are located just a short ride from the clubhouse and will have three lodging options. Ten 4-bedroom standard cottages with private bathrooms, a vaulted great room with a snack area and 55” TV seating area, four Executive cottages with four bedrooms with private bathrooms and steam shower, and a kitchenette with seating area and a separate TV area with gas fireplace. A two-story owner’s cottage will also be available for members.
The Dormie Club is part of the Dormie network a collection of six fine, private clubs in Nebraska, Texas, Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina, and New Jersey. Becoming a member of one club makes you a member of all six. Each club offers a pure golf experience with 15-minute tee times, chef-prepared cuisine, specialty cocktails, sommelier-chosen wine, and deluxe en-suite cottages. With golf courses designed by the likes of Tom Fazio and Coore & Crenshaw, you’ll have full access to each club all under a single dues structure. The Dormie Network is the perfect second membership, especially for golfers who like to travel and demand the best that a country club has to offer. For more information on becoming a member of The Dormie Network, visit their website at www.dormienetwork.com.