Dormie Club – Is This Crenshaw and Coore’s Best Yet?

Feb 07, 2011 Comments Off on Dormie Club – Is This Crenshaw and Coore’s Best Yet? by

In the shadow of Donald Ross’ home, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore delivered on their promise of a natural, strategic course that offers a sense of sanctuary in the Carolina Sandhills.

Few people appreciate golf’s history and traditions the way Ben Crenshaw does, as both designer and player. He was at one of the game’s most hallowed venues, Augusta National Golf Club, during the 2003 Masters, when he learned of a unique project near another special address for golf: Pinehurst, North Carolina.  Tears welled in Crenshaw’s eyes as he heard about the proposed golf-only club, to be known as Dormie Club, and envisioned working in the North Carolina Sandhills, an area on which he always had wanted to leave his mark.  This sentiment matched that of his longtime design partner, Bill Coore, who had grown up in the area.

But first, Coore and Crenshaw needed to visit the site to determine whether it would yield the kind of minimalist, classic layout that has become their trademark.  So for hours, the duo walked the former quail-hunting retreat outside Pinehurst, the way they had trekked across the Nebraska countryside before designing Sand Hills Golf Club and the Long Island dunes before building Friar’s Head.

Coore and Crenshaw “found” 14 potential holes that day, recognizing the value of the 1,100-acre property the way the club’s founders had when they set out to build the course.  An integral component of their plan was the hiring of Coore and Crenshaw, and had the pair declined the assignment, Dormie Club might never have been built.  Years later, Dormie Club is finally open, fulfilling the owners’ vision of a natural-looking course that moves up and down 110 feet of elevation changes while wending through and around pines, mature hardwoods and a pair of lakes.

Hole No. 1

The 6,988-yard layout blends seamlessly with the native Sandhills landscape of wiregrass and sandy scrub areas, without manicured edges or defined rough.  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.  Holes would reward tee shots to a specific portion of the fairway, while a strayed drive affords an opportunity for a recovery, albeit with some difficulty.

Much of modern course architecture has been missing this key strategic element, but the throwback Dormie Club has restored this Golden Age philosophy with generous hole corridors providing multiple angles to the green, as well as large chipping areas that demand thoughtful shot selection and precise execution, whether the player chooses to hit a flop, a Texas wedge or anything in between.  The designers and founders make this old-school approach apparent from the opening hole, which has a wide fairway guarded by two cross bunkers.

Hole No. 3

The 532-yard 6th has 15 bunkers, although most are only visible if you are near them, and it plays uphill to a hog’s-back fairway toward the heavily bunkered green. The 477-yard 8th is another gem, with the elevated fairway following the curvature of the lake to a large green that is 50 yards deep. Another archetype missing from today’s courses is the short, fun one-shotter, and Dormie Club has two enviable examples. The first is the 173-yard 9th, which often measures shorter than the printed yardage and plays over wetlands to a tiny green, perched on a hill and guarded by a pair of rugged bunkers. According to a founder, the 9th is one of the clearest examples on the course where it looks as if green carpet were simply laid over the land.

Hole No. 12

As a final testament to the routing conceived by Crenshaw and Coore, there are no par values on the scorecard, simply yardages. “Par is really an arbitrary number,” says Director of Golf Paul Oglesby. “So many of the holes here play differently each day, depending on conditions and time of year, that it doesn’t make sense to put down a set par for each hole. In the end, your score will be your score, regardless.

Hole No. 17

Members will be able to use the original Donald Ross house for special events and functions.  To be sure, all these developments will take place with the same attention to golf’s traditions found throughout the masterpiece of a course that fits perfectly within the landscape of Pinehurst, one of the most historic, most revered, most visited golf destinations in America.

Article and photographs reprinted from

The Best of American Golf – Links Premier Clubs, January 2011

GOLF, Golf Instruction, Golf Schools, Packages, Slider

About the author

Randy Cavanaugh, co-founder of The Avid Sportsman, became a Quarter Century Club Member of the PGA of America in 2007. Randy has USA, European, Asian and South American PGA Tours experience and has taught thousands of lessons. When not on the course, he often can be found fly-fishing in shallow saltwater.
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