My golf trips to Pinehurst usually focus on the nine courses at the Pinehurst Resort itself and the iconic courses in the immediate area, Mid-Pines and Pine Needles. While there are over thirty courses in the area, only five make the cut for Golf Magazines Top 100 You Can Play, The Dormie Club, Tobacco Road, Pinehurst #2, Pinehurst #4, Mid-Pines and Pine Needles. The Dormie Club is a 2010 links design of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. See my profile of another nationally acclaimed links course in the area – Tobacco Road.
Built on an expansive three hundred and ten acres, the property is spectacular. Scottish Highlanders settled this area north of Pinehurst in the 19th century. It’s fitting that a sensational links course would ultimately be designed here. Seclusion is the hallmark of the Dormie Club. You feel you’re out there by yourself. No residential real estate or commercial activity is in the immediate vicinity. A small rich wood paneled club house welcomes you with a small shop, a snack bar, a stone fireplace and a comfy leather couch.
I played alone and felt a sense of serenity and attachment with the golf course as I meandered through the Carolina pines on a tremendous layout. Tee times are 15 minutes rather than the traditional 10 minutes apart to contribute to the uncrowded experience.
Dormie Club Golf Course
This a “Players Course”. It’s about the simple spirit of golf. Coore & Crenshaw are noted for their strong links style designs reminiscent of rural Scotland. They are over 100 feet of overall elevation change over the course, contributing to the excellent shotmaking challenges. But it remains walkable.
Everything adheres to the minimalist “golf purist” philosophy. Caddies are available. Since golf is eighteen holes, the ninth hole does not return to the clubhouse. A small Dormie Canteen provide snacks after the ninth. The clubhouse will bring food out to you. Complimentary bottled water is cold and available in wooden boxes throughout the course.
There are no 150-yard markers. Don’t look for a pin sheet with the typical six locations stating which pin position “number” is for today, there isn’t one. The pin positions are random.
There are no concrete or asphalt cart paths, only sand ones. All bunkers are waste bunkers. Players drive carts through them and there are no rakes. This can be a problem since I found footprints and divots in greenside bunkers.
The 18-hole course features generous Bermuda fairways in perfect condition. Despite the brown color in winter, they do not require overseeding. Not fluffy but tight and fast, supporting ground shots on nearly every hole. The sand base is naturally exposed providing a challenge for even slightly offline shots. This makes tee shots visually intimidating with most fairways framed by waste areas. Hence, this lack of rough allows errant shots to run off fairways into this sand and scrub. Be careful off the fairway as I found the fire ants.
Bunkers have rough edging often with clumps of wiry grass on the leading edges. Waste areas often have scattered clumps of tall grass that raise havoc with your recovery shot. As with many links courses, the key to success is to stay away from them.
The bentgrass greens are awesome. I found both small and large greens with strong undulations often elevated with runoffs toward bunkers. Long pitch shots from off the green are common and need to take the slopes into account. Recovery shots around greens have multiple options. The greens putt true but you’ll have a lot of big breaking putts. Long putts can be a challenge to get down in two depending on your green location. Even shot putts often have large breaks making it difficult to score for most of us mortals. I found myself find playing defensively not aggressively.
There are so many great holes at Dormie Club. Two reachable par 4s are notable, the 298-yard third and the 296-yard fourteenth. Both are set up for “going for it” but protected on both sides with well-placed bunkers.
A couple lakes on the property provide some variety not always found on links courses. On the fifth hole, your shot from the blue teeing ground must carry 200 yards over a large water feature. It favors the right-to-left player as the diagonal shoreline is longer on the right side.
The par 3 seventh, a 236-yard reverse Redan hole is one standout. A redan hole features a 45 degree right-to-left green with a deep bunker along the front left of the green. A reverse Redan has a 45 degree left-to-right green and with deep bunkers along the front right of the green. The Redan green is sloped toward the bunker with a slope that funnels balls toward the center.
The back nine starts out with monster par 5. The 632-yard tenth is a dogleg left that plays to its full length. With its wide fairways and minimal bunkering, you just need to hit three decent shots to get close. The second shot layup includes a forced carry over marshland followed by two small bunkers in the center of the fairway demanding precision
Then the short 108-yard par 3 twelfth hole requires a shot on the correct tier, otherwise it’s an easy three-putt.
The 489-yard par 5 seventeenth is reachable for the bigger hitters. Watch out for the huge waste area that consumes the entire fairway in the lay up area.
A course that allows golfers of all abilities to enjoy with wide fairways and limited rough, it still challenges better players. As soon as I finished, I wanted to play it again, for the tranquility, the aesthetics and the challenge. I love the purist feeling without the golf cart, walking with the caddie in such solitude and beauty. Golf Advisor Matt Ginella ranks it #34 on his Top 50 Courses You Can Play. With the course just short of perfect, it’s a quintessential golf experience extraordinaire. It’s part of the Dormie Network of clubs, and it’s designated to go private. Not sure if they can make a private club work but don’t wait to find out. Play it soon.
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