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.

There are a wide variety of membership and housing options available to both local and international members at Dormie Club. Those curious should check out DormieClub.com.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.
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Ambitious new Dormie Club in the Carolina Sandhills is a gem in the making -- and you can play it
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