The Dormie Club*  (Private, but currently allowing public play)

West End, NC (NC Sandhills near Pinehurst)

www.dormieclub.com

2010, Ben Crenshaw & Bill Coore

"Following much speculation over its status, the new Dormie Club near Pinehurst in North Carolina, has confirmed that it will be offering non-member play at least until the end of 2012." [GolfCourseArchitecture.com]

TravelGolf.com, 4/11

Ambitious new Dormie Club in the Carolina Sandhills is a gem in the making -- and you can play it

WEST END, N.C. -- As fanfare surrounds the reopening of the brand new Pinehurst No. 2 restored by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, just four miles away, a new golf club is going about its business quietly: Dormie Club.

Coore & Crenshaw were plotting this Carolina Sandhills-area course out before making their way to revamp No. 2. Opened since May 2010, Dormie is a fine addition to the Carolina Sandhills' top shelf, even if few of the many golfers who come here know they're allowed to play it.

For the foreseeable future, part of the club's grassroots marketing philosophy is to welcome public tee times. Rates are $200 with a cart and forecaddie or $220 walking with a caddie.

Dormie Club founder Robert Hansen (a member of Merion and the R&A) had a goal "to create a high-quality property for golf that features world-class details and service without overbuilt facilities that require high annual fees, a large staff and high operating expenses."

Arrive at the club today, and you won't see much overhead. There is a temporary clubhouse with a bare-bones pro shop, changing area and bar in a 2,500-square-foot building that used to be a hunting lodge.

Make no mistake, golf is the centerpiece of a planned, 1,028-acre residential community with 228 single-family lots. But plans are such that you won't be able to see hardly anything but rolling hills, sand and trees when you're on the golf course.

Dormie Club: How the golf course plays
Any great members course should have a design that can play a lot of different ways, and those who repeatedly play Dormie Club shouldn't get bored of it for a lifetime.

The large, rolling greens, which run at a 10 on the stimpmeter, are expected to always play fast and firm. Many greens have a lot of different areas for pin placements both easy and devilish. The green complexes are Dormie Club's strong suit.

"Sixteen holes have the option of flying it to the pin or landing it short," said Paul Oglesby, head golf professional at Dormie Club. "The greens have nice movement to them. There are so many options around them."

The club won't plan on over-seeding its course in the winter like most Carolina courses. Rather, it will be a dormant brown hue, similar in look to a baked-out British isles links, and it should play similarly firm, too.

"The idea is that if mother nature cooperates," said Olgesby, "it will play like the British Open."

Seeing the course in early April, you could be fooled into thinking these fairways aren't bermuda at all, given their hue and rumbling playability.

Amongst the 309 acres for the golf course is about 100 feet of elevation change. All things funnel down towards Cole's Lake, a little postcard of a watering hole, which comes into play on perhaps the course's finest hole, the long, tumbling, par-4 fifth hole that finishes right beside the lake. The sixth hole tees off across it and runs along the lake most of the way.

What goes down must come back up, and the 17th hole, a long par 5 with an elevated green at the top of a hill, is highlighted by a huge waste bunker that stares you right in the face, warning you not-so politely to hit your approach shot with caution.

Dormie Club: The verdict
Call it "Bandon Trails East" if you'd like, and it wouldn't be too far off.

All-natural Dormie Club plays somewhat similar to the Coore-Crenshaw Pacific Northwest gem, with tall pines lining wide fairways bordered by sandy waste areas. Dormie Club, at just less than 7,000 yards and a 140 slope, should play a little longer and more challenging.

Those who like the non-residential, wide-open feel of Pinehurst No. 8 will feel right at home at Dormie Club. As long as this course books public tee times, good players will want to factor it into their must-play list, along with Pinehurst Resort's 2, 4 and 8, Pine Needles and Tobacco Road, among others.

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LINKS Magazine: “Fittingly, the course is based upon the timeless design principles espoused by Donald Ross, who lived in Pinehurst. The transplanted Scot believed a course should be designed with width, which provides several options for players. Much of modern course architecture has been missing this key strategic element, but the throwback Dormie Club has restored this Golden Age philosophy of wide corridors and multiple angles to the green.”

Golf Odyssey: “When Coore-Crenshaw received the Dormie Club commission, they were given two directives: build a walking course, and create a routing in which no two holes are alike. Their design is a throwback to traditional golf course architecture. It looks very much like Pinehurst No. 2 but enjoys a site with far more elevation change. The highest and lowest points on the property vary by 130 feet, and you’ll find dipping or rising terrain on almost every hole.”

Larry Olmsted on The A Position: “Dormie will most assuredly make the next set of Top 100 golf courses in the country lists, and may well be named the Top New Course of 2011. And as soon as they sell enough memberships it will be private. So I seriously urge you to play it now while you can. What the Dormie Club manages is to muster a classic feel and ambiance, the soul of golf, with a routing that is anything but old fashioned. It feels old fashioned because there are caddies, and nobody playing, and the many bunkers are raw and ragged and filled with threating brown sand and look like they were just gouged out of the earth. It has an unfinished, old school feel, but it is very much finished (except for a 10-hole practice course they will be building). There are lots of doglegs, some real elevation changes, and enough water to make your heart skip a beat or two, all decidedly ‘unclassic’ touches.”

Lee Pace in PineStraw Magazine: “It’s quite the golfing experience, this Dormie Club, and an interesting addition to the Sandhills golf menu that includes six courses by Donald Ross, five by Tom Fazio and two dozen by everyone from Ellis Maples to Jack Nicklaus. Coore and Crenshaw belong in the mix, given their courses have an old world ‘patina’ and Golden Age glow. Ross achieves his look with mules and a dragpan, Coore with that old Smithco tractor buried in the sands on the outskirts of Pinehurst (next to the second tee at Dormie).”

Brandon Tucker on TravelGolf : “Any great members course should have a design that can play a lot of different ways, and those who repeatedly play Dormie Club shouldn’t get bored of it for a lifetime. Call it ‘Bandon Trails East’ if you’d like, and it wouldn’t be too far off. All-natural Dormie Club plays somewhat similar to the Coore-Crenshaw Pacific Northwest gem, with tall pines lining wide fairways bordered by sandy waste areas. Dormie Club, at just less than 7,000 yards and a 140 slope, should play a little longer and more challenging.”

Golf Course Architect Richard Mandell in the Washington Times: “I saw a golf course that utilized native sand in the sand bunkers and had no rakes to be seen on the property. These are two excellent actions to make golf more affordable. But Dormie Club is a bit of a throwback to the way golf used to be, so in retro fashion, you play it as it lies at Dormie. That is a great concept that needs a re-introduction in many other corners of the golfing world. … Dormie Club was an absolute architectural treat that should be experienced by all.”

Dave Droschak in Triangle/Triad Golf Today: “Developers of the newest golf course in the Sandhills joke that ‘one foot of dirt’ was moved to build Dormie Club. While that’s a slight exaggeration and virtually unheard of in today’s ‘bulldozer age’ of golf course design, Dormie Club’s natural setting really is a throwback layout in the ilk of British Open venues. The course is not extremely long (6,988 from the tips), features wide driving corridors with 94 waste bunkers (no rakes here), and you can virtually roll the ball onto the green from 30-50 yards away on some holes. The large, expansive putting surfaces, with subtle twists, turns and shelves, can be tricky, while the surrounding green complexes offer a variety of strategic shots that tickle the golf senses.”

Where To Booze & Grub:  See Fat Guy's Pinehurst NC Golf Weekend