The Dormie Club in Pinehurst North Carolina had a major underground buzz long before the first game of golf had ever been played on the course. It all started with a few photos of the Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw designed golf course posted to the internet and talk that the new course was destined for a Top 20 spot in the U.S. rankings. I have to admit that when I saw those first photos of the course they got my blood pumping. Pinehurst is just 3 hours away from Richmond and would make a perfect spot for me to join a club as a national member which is something I had been considering. I decided to sit back and wait to see how things with the club unfolded before I got too excited.
Sadly, as things unfolded at Dormie, the U.S. economy began to unravel at the same time and the club fell victim to the unfortunate economic situation of 2009-10. What was planned as an ultra private retreat style club with a walking only golf course is now operating, temporarily, as a daily fee semi-private golf course with carts. Back in the 1930s when the great depression struck America there were several young start up clubs that struggled at that time as well. Today some of those clubs are considered to be among the very best in the country, so looking from a historical perspective, Dormie Club is in good company.
My friend Kyle was in North Carolina over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2010 and we made arrangements to meet in Pinehurst and take a loop around Dormie Club. Pinehurst is an easy drive from Richmond, so my brother and I set out in the morning and arrived at the club around 11AM. We parked in the otherwise empty parking lot and went into the temporary clubhouse to check in with the pro. Once we had settled up for our greens fee we headed down to the practice tee to hit some balls and get warm. Kyle arrived a few minutes later and we headed to the 1st tee.
It should also be noted that while golf carts are currently available at Dormie, the club still maintains a caddie program and it is well worth taking one if you play there. As I have stated on this website before, I am of the strong opinion that the only way to get a genuine feel for a golf course is to walk it, so we were happy to have caddies available to us for our round here.
Each set of tees at Dormie Club has their own scorecard so the yardages quoted throughout this write up will be from the 6,355 yard tees that we chose to play.
The 1st hole starts the course off from an elevated tee box with a 383 yard par 4. As is typical of Coore & Crenshaw designs the fairway is quite generous. The photo below was taken from the tee box.
Below is a look at the 1st green. With the turf being dormant this time of year the grass around the bunkers is not very long and balls rolling on the ground have a much greater chance of finding their way into the bunker so its best to keep your ball away from these as much as possible.
The 3rd hole was one my favorites on the course and is a short par 4 that we played from 295 yards. The photo below was taken from the tee box and the smart play is a 3 wood or utility club up the middle.
Here is a look at the short shot onto the 3rd green. As can be seen in the photo the green is fairly undulating and hitting a good pitch is essential to setting up a par or birdie.
Below is a view of the 4th green which runs downhill from the left side of the photo to the right. A miss to the right side of the green with the hole cut in this location makes for a delicate pitch in order to get close to the flag.
The photo below of the 6th green shows more of the type of undulation that is found on the greens here.
The first par 3 on the course is the testy 205 yard 7th hole. As can be seen below the tee shot requires a significant carry over a waste area. The left side offers a bail out area while balls going too far right are almost sure to end up in the waste area or a bunker.
The 8th hole is a great long par 4 that we played from 459 yards. The fairway falls to the left so the best drive will fly along the right side of the fairway and catch a good roll off the hill.
Below is a look into the 8th green.
The 9th hole is a fairly short par 3 that we played from 141 yards. Tee shots coming up short right, short left or long will likely find one of the bunkers and require a good up and down from a bunker in order to make par.
The 10th hole is a strange layout and not a hole that I loved. It is a par 5 we played from 603 yards that has an oddly placed waste area that makes for an awkward second shot. The photo below is of the principals nose bunker that resides about 100 yards out from the green.
I loved the 12th hole which is a very short par 3 we played from 98 yards. The photo below was taken from the tee box. This green is protected by a number of strategically placed bunkers.
This closer view of the green shows the two tiers of the putting surface and also is a better look at the edge of the green that flows into the bunker. As stated earlier the grass is near dormant and shorter in some places than I suspect it would be in peak season. Balls that get too near the edge of this bunker will roll right in and make for a tough up and down.
The 14th hole is another short par 4 but this one just beckons for driver. At 284 yards it is conceivably driveable for big hitters, but is it really worth the risk when an easy hybrid and wedge can set up a good birdie opportunity? Tough decision.
Here is a look at the 14th green. The bunker to the right is sure to catch plenty of tee shots with drivers.
I loved the 15th hole which we played from 361 yards. The photo below was taken from the tee and, as can be seen in the picture, players who take an aggressive line to the right are rewarded with a shorter approach shot. I opted to aim just to the left of the bunkers.
Below is a look into the green from the fairway. Note that the green is partially hidden from view. With a hole location at the back its conceivable that the shot would be completely blind.
Here is view from the green looking back down the hole.
The 17th hole is a great par 5 that we played from 449 yards. The ideal line from the tee is right down the middle with a nice little draw. A good drive here will set up an opportunity to reach the green in two.
I’m a big fan of the second shot on this hole. It bears a striking resemblance to the 2nd hole at Pine Valley Golf Club which is one of my all time favorites. This hole is short for a par 5, but with the uphill climb to the green it plays quite a bit longer than the yardage would indicate.
Once we wrapped up at the 18th hole we made a quick pit stop in the temporary clubhouse and then loaded the car back up for the trip home. Upon reflection during the drive back to Virginia, I loved the course even more than I did as I played it. The property itself is incredible and Coore & Crenshaw did a remarkable job of creating a smooth and walkable routing loaded with a variety of fun and interesting golf holes. I’m not sure what more anyone can ask for.
As for the future of Dormie Club, it is my understanding that the plan is to eventually move ahead as a fully private club with a new clubhouse and member cottages. However, until that time, whenever it may be, the club will be accepting outside play from the general public. While this is unfortunate for the club and its members it is a lucky opportunity for all of us golf nuts to play a world class golf course that we normally wouldn’t have access to. Get to Pinehurst and play it while you still can. I wish the club the best of luck as they go forward and hope that the true vision will soon be realized.