Review: Dormie Club

Course Name: Dormie Club

Designer: Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw (2010)

Location: West End, North Carolina

History: Originally designed as an exclusive private retreat just north of Pinehurst, financial concerns forced Dormie Club to open as a public course in 2010. In 2017, it was announced that Dormie Club was joining the “Dormie Network” along with Ballyhack (VA), Arbor Links (NE), and Briggs Ranch (TX) and returning to private status by 2020. Perhaps opening to the public was a good thing for Dormie, as it gave the course more exposure and allowed it to earn some pretty impressive rankings, including:

  • #49 Best Public Course in America – Golf Digest (2017)
  • #57 Best Public Course in America – Golf Magazine (2017)
  • #12 Best Course in North Carolina – Golf Digest (2017)
  • #3 Best Public Course in North Carolina – Golf Magazine (2016)
  • #3 Best Public Course in North Carolina – Golfweek (2018)

Conditions: 8/10, The conditioning at Dormie Club was strong in early April, even after a brutal Winter. The bentgrass greens were flawless, playing firm and fast and I really enjoyed the clay bunkers. Dormie doesn’t overseed like nearby Tobacco Road Golf Club, so the fairways and teeboxes were a bit behind but were still very good.

Value: 3/10, A round at Dormie Club is not cheap, with prices ranging from $190 to $215 depending on day of the week. The course was basically empty when I played and I can’t help but wonder if a high price tag is Dormie’s way of maintaining a “private course feel.”

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                       71           6883               73.0               135

Blue                        71           6576                71.6               132

White                     71           5910                68.3               122

Gold                       71           5180                69.7                122

Hole Descriptions: Looking back on my round at Dormie Club, two main features really stick out in my mind. The first is how natural the course feels. Coore and Crenshaw are notorious for their minimalist design philosophy and the rugged Dormie Club feels this way before you even turn down the driveway. There are few markers, a very simple clubhouse, and rudimentary cartpaths. Although you’re only a few miles from the busy village of Pinehurst, it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. I really enjoyed this minimalist philosophy at Streamsong Red and did here as well to some extent. Streamsong undoubtedly has the superior terrain for a minimalist design and there are a few instances I thought Dormie could benefit from some earth-moving I’ll discuss further below.

The second feature I really appreciated at Dormie Club is the sheer variety in hole design. If Streamsong and Dormie are any indication, I’m inclined to say Coore and Crenshaw might be the finest architects ever when it comes to hole variety. With two reachable par fours, two par fours over 465 yards, and four par threes ranging from 108 to 206 yards, you will almost certainly use every club in the bag on this par 71. Furthermore, each hole is clearly separated on this sprawling 300 acre property but the overall course feels very cohesive.

Dormie Club opens with an absolutely splendid stretch of five par fours beginning with the 402 yard 1st. The view from this teebox is one of the most recognizable images of Dormie Club with a generous fairway lined beautifully by tall pines and two prominent bunkers in the center of the fairway about 300 yards from the tee. While I generally dislike bunkers in the middle of the fairway, these offer plenty of aesthetic value and actually provide a formidable obstacle on the lay-up more than the drive. This hole features an extremely large green that slopes from back-to-front.

IMG_5035
The picturesque view from the 1st teebox

The 2nd hole plays 378 yards as a severe dogleg that turns left at about 250 yards. While longer players might be able to drive it through the fairway, I do believe driver is the right play here to have a better angle on your approach. The left corner of the dogleg is lined by a large bunker and requires a strong drive to carry. This green is guarded by a small bunker short right and subtle slope on the left.

IMG_5036
Your view from the 2nd teebox
IMG_5037
The approach to the par 4 2nd

At just 298 yards, the par 4 3rd is the first of two fantastic reachable par fours at Dormie Club. This teebox provides another strong visual as this straightaway hole rises like an escalator out in front of you. I particularly liked the staggered fairway bunkering here that forces you to control your distance. The more severe of the two bunkers begins on the right at 215 yards and the majority of golfers should aim to be just short of this. This hole features perhaps the most severe green complex on the course with multiple tiers and undulations surrounded by several deep bunkers.

IMG_5038
The uphill teeshot on the 3rd
IMG_5039
The 3rd green complex

While the 415 yard 4th doesn’t receive the press some other par fours do at Dormie, this was my favorite hole on the course. This is a better version of the 12th at Streamsong Red as a downhill dogleg left with a power slot at about 250 yards. Simply one of the best driving holes I’ve ever played, the approach is equally as good with a severe left-to-right sloped green running towards a pond.

IMG_5040
The view from the 4th teebox
IMG_5043
Side view of the 4th green

The 414 yard 5th is the last of a tremendously strong stretch of par fours. This hole is most notable for an immediate forced carry of about 160 yards over water. This water bends around the right side of the fairway as well and continues all the way to the green. While the drive here is exhilarating, the remainder of the hole is straightforward, flat and relatively bland with no real danger. This is the first of several examples of a hole I think would be enhanced if Coore and Crenshaw moved some dirt and created a crossbunker or more interesting green.

IMG_5045
The intimidating view from the 5th teebox

The first par 5 at Dormie Club is the 511 yard 6th, another relatively straightforward hole. The drive here runs uphill and you can’t really see the fairway but rest assured this fairway is extremely generous. While there are a few scattered bunkers down the left side, I can’t help but feel this is another rather bland fairway. The defining feature on this hole is a tiny green surrounded on all sides by slopes and tiny bunkers. If you’re like me and are a few feet left or right on your approach, be prepared for a very difficult up-and-down.

IMG_5046
It isn’t readily apparent what the 6th hole entails from the teebox

Beginning with the 206 yard par 3 7th, Dormie Club ramps up the difficulty with a very challenging stretch of holes 7-13. The 7th is the longest of the one-shotters and an absolute beast of a hole. A reverse redan with marshy wetland between the teebox and green, a par here is to be cherished. Bunkers guard short and might actually save some balls from trundling into the water.

IMG_5048
The intimidating par 3 7th

Dormie Club opened with a policy of having no par values assigned to holes in line with a minimalist philosophy. Customers didn’t appreciate it and not long after opening it became a par 71. On holes like the 472 yard par 4 8th, however, I wished there was still no par. The number 1 handicap, this is a monstrous dogleg left par 4 with OB all down the left side and a generous right-to-left sloped fairway. Longer players may be able to catch a power slot similar to the 4th, but the majority of golfers will be forced to lay-up here. This green complex is relatively benign and unguarded, allowing for runners.

IMG_5049
Your view from the 8th teebox
IMG_5050
The downhill approach on the 8th

Interestingly, Dormie Club closes the front 9 with an 147 yard par 3 that plays longer uphill and into the wind. This two-tiered back-to-front sloped green is imperative to hit surrounded by several deep bunkers and a false front.

IMG_5051
The par 3 9th

At 632 yards (not even the Tips!), the par 5 10th is another beast and a very tricky hole the first time you play it. This drive runs uphill and completely blind to a plateau. It looks like you have a ton of room to rip drive but a hidden marshland juts into the left side of the fairway and actually makes this a very challenging driving hole. At about 390 yards from the teebox, this hole turns sharp left towards a large green. The marshland continues down the left side and most golfers will have the option to cut the corner on the second shot. Further complicating things, there’s a prominent principal’s nose bunker in the middle of the fairway about 160 yards short of the green that almost forces you to cut the corner. I made double here after a great drive and couldn’t help but walk away wondering if this hole is a bit too convoluted to be on a minimalist course.

IMG_5053
What I was faced with on the second shot – notice the principal’s nose bunkers that forces you left

At 395 yards, the 11th is a slight dogleg right lined by trees on either side. The major hazard on this hole is a gigantic waste bunker on the right starting at 230 yards running all the way to the green. The further left you are, the better the angle you have into this narrow green.

IMG_5054
The par 4 11th from the tee

I love a short par 3 with a difficult-to-hit green and the 108 yard 12th is the epitome of this. While this yardage may seem like it belongs in a pitch-and-putt, the visuals from this teebox are a bit misleading, as the bunkers are layered so as to confuse the golfer’s depth perception. Even those who find the green in regulation will have a tough time with par given three severe tiers.

IMG_5055
The par 3 12th, a short hole framed beautifully by one overhanging tree

My least favorite hole at Dormie Club was the 13th, another stupidly long hole at 465 yards. This straightaway par 4 plays uphill and blind off the tee and plays extremely bland for its entire length. Despite its blandness and width, most golfers will make 5 or 6 here due to length and a very hard left-to-right sloped green.

IMG_5056
The par 4 13th is a bit too bare-bones (and long) for my liking

At just 296 yards, the 14th is another reachable par 4 and much easier to reach than the 3rd. While I always enjoy a chance to drive the green, I feel like this hole is more of a glorified par 3 than short par 4, with an extremely wide fairway and no obstacles except for a bunker short right at 260 yards. This bunker is no doubt a common destination, but I don’t think it’s enough of a hazard on such a short hole. For those who lay-up short of it, this becomes another unfortunately bland hole.

IMG_5057
The reachable par 4 14th

The 360 yard par 4 15th is arguably the most fun hole on the course and a clear favorite for me on the back 9. This is a very aesthetically pleasing and intimidating driving hole, as you must carry your drive at least 160 yards over marshland to reach the very left portion of this diagonal dogleg right. The further right you go, the better angle you have into this green but the further the carry (up to 245 yards at its deepest point). Given the angle of this teeshot, most golfers who successfully clear the marsh will be on the left side of the fairway with their view of the green obstructed by large mounds of bunkers that line the left. It’s one of the only instances I can remember being able to see the pin from the teebox but not seeing it from 100 yards in. This green is also very unique, with a steep slope just short kicking balls right. The worst miss on this approach is long right where a deep bunker awaits.

IMG_5058
The par 4 15th from the teebox

The 16th is a good, yet not great downhill 178 yard par 3. This hole features a large green guarded by bunkers left and right and a carry over a sandy wasteland.

IMG_5059
The downhill par 3 16th

At just 489 yards, the 17th is the shortest par 5 on the course and one of the more interesting holes. The drive here is quite generous to a fairway that gently bends left. Several deep bunkers and sandy waste areas line this fairway. The defining feature on this hole is the “Hell’s half acre” bunker a la Pine Valley found about 100 yards short of this green. This bunker needs to be avoided at all costs, so golfers will have to decide whether to lay up short or try to carry it on their second shot. Despite being only 489 yards, this is a difficult green to reach in two because the fairway runs steeply uphill after the bunker. This back-to-front sloped green is guarded by bunkers on both sides and a severe false front.

IMG_5060
Your view from the the 17th tee

At 410 yards into the breeze, the closer at Dormie Club is a strong par 4 that didn’t really suit my eye well from the teebox. This slight dogleg left offers another relatively generous fairway lined by short trees and native areas. This hole features another massive waste bunker in the middle of the fairway about 140 yards short of this green, but this shouldn’t be in play unless you’re playing as poorly as I was. With the clubhouse in the background, this narrow green is two-tiered and generally runs back-to-front. The green is flanked by two deep bunkers, and holing out for par from the left bunker was a sweet ending after a very trying round.

IMG_5063
The lack of definition on the 18th hole didn’t suit my eye well
IMG_5064
Approach from the 18th waste bunker

Best Par 3: 7th Hole, 206 yards, 15th handicap. The redan is one of my favorite templates and the reverse one found on the 7th is one of the best anywhere. This is a very long hole with a carry that increases the further you go right. The only safe miss here is long left and I really liked the fact that Coore and Crenshaw further encouraged a long left shot with the reverse redan.

Best Par 4: 4th Hole, 415 yards, 7th handicap. The par fours at Dormie Club are tremendous as a whole but this is the one that really stands out. A downhill dogleg left with a power slot, this fairways is lined by a corridor of tall pines but opens up at you near the green with water on the right.

IMG_5041
My approach on the par 4 7th

Best Par 5: 17th Hole, 489 yards, 12th handicap. I didn’t care for the other two par fives much (6th and 10th), but I did enjoy the 17th. The shortest of the bunch is characterized by a giant waste bunker occluding the fairway about 100 yards short of this perched green. I imagine Ben Crenshaw got the idea from one of his many rounds at Pine Valley.

IMG_5061
The “Hell’s half acre” waste bunker on 17

General Comments: Due to financial restrictions and the overarching minimalist philosophy, the amenities at Dormie Club are pretty bare-bone, with a simple clubhouse that’s nothing to ride home about. I suspect this will change as the club transitions private. The practice facilities are strong, with a practice green near the first tee and large grass range with complimentary balls. I played alone and basically had the course to myself on a beautiful Thursday morning. Pace of play was superb, and I actually wish the round took longer considering what I paid.

IMG_5034
The gorgeous grass driving range at Dormie Club

Verdict: Dormie Club is another strong effort from Coore and Crenshaw and is a course every visitor to Pinehurst should explore as long as it’s still open to the public. While my expectations were perhaps a bit too high after Streamsong Red, I did thoroughly enjoy this par 71 with one of the strongest opening stretches of holes I’ve played.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s