Dormie Club Near Pinehurst -- Less Is More

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by Kevin Gaydosh

PINEHURST, NC – “I think that was it,” said a member of our group as we passed by a cedar fence with a driveway opening and a simple wooden sign (with a red flagstick symbol on it) adjacent to a rural road a few miles outside of Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Seeing as this country road did not offer many such stops – and certainly nothing else that appeared to be a golf course -- this had to be the place we were looking for. We didn’t recognize it right off, but this rather inauspicious entrance was to the Dormie Club, a fabulous new golf course with ‘middle of nowhere’ feel in the Sandhills region of the Tar Heel State.

It turns out that the lack of extravagance in the introduction to the place is part of its design, a club meant to offer a golf experience so pure that a flashy façade just wouldn’t seem to fit.

The par three 12th hole is only 118-yards in length, but that hardly makes it a pushover.

Once inside, we were amazed to find a golf layout literally cut out of the natural environment, and instantly grasped why everyone seems to be talking about the Dormie Club these days. The Crenshaw and Coore design looks like it’s been there forever (despite being just a few years old), and for those fans of traditional golf architecture, there just isn’t anything better.

Such a spot couldn’t help but offer an interesting tale, and luckily there’s Bob Hansen (co-owner and “visionary”) to tell it. What follows is the Dormie ‘story,’ in Hansen’s own words:

“I grew up on the coast of New Jersey at a small private golf club. My early skills at golf provided me with opportunities to play some of the great historic clubs in the northeast. (Later, I would look back at those days with regret for not fully appreciating those opportunities).

“What I took from the many visits to Pine Valley, Merion, Baltusrol, Winged Foot, etc. was the manner of the people. There was a certain sense of dignity, integrity, and commitment to the game itself.

The tee shot on the par four 5th hole requires you to carry the largest lake on the property.

“Having spent 35 years studying the origins of the game, with years on the USGA Museum Committee, a membership to the R & A, and assembling a unique collection of the rarest of ancient golf memorabilia, I took that education and the sense of good club life activities from this early exposure, and conceived what to me was a perfect blend of old and new.

“But, the first task was to find the location. Having spent years enjoying the grand sense of American golf history in Pinehurst, the task was made easier.

“With what appeared to be just acres and acres of North Carolina’s ‘Sandhills’ to choose from, the search began for that ‘perfect site’.

"Several months stretched out to over 2 years. Following a lead from one very knowledgeable and established local ‘character’, the answer turned out to be right under my nose….just 4 miles from the Village of Pinehurst, 1,000 acres of rolling sandhills with a fine forest and a beautiful 60-acre ‘sanctuary’ lake.

Like all the greens at Dormie, the par five 17th offers plenty of shot options if you miss the green on your approach.

“Perfect ! Elegant space for the golf, tranquility for the people, and a site for the ages.

“In my quest for knowledge of the true origins of the game of golf, simple facts kept popping up. Like many things in our lives, references associated with the game came from subtle sources. To most golfers, Dormie has been applied to match play in that when one is, say, two up with two to play, he is ‘Dormie.’ He cannot lose.

“But, history tells us that prior to 1350, and the introduction of golf, the Scots had always used Dormie in their language. To approach an elder in the community with the age old question, ‘how are you doing?’ If going well, the response would likely be, ‘Ah Laddie, I am Dormie!’ This refers to a sense of tranquility, and that ‘little can go wrong’ from here on.

“So, Dormie!

The long par four 8th is rated the #1 handicap hole at Dormie.

“Months were spent creating every detail of the theme and the plan. Those years of experience with fine gentlemen, great venues, and adherence to the true traditions of the game gave all the direction necessary.

“Little enough can be said of the many relationships with those whose own individual experiences with fine clubs and fine people influenced the ultimate concept. And tours through so many clubhouses, too.

“In mid 2005, I spoke of these ideas with two gentlemen with interest in the plan, and a partnership was formed. Dormie was to happen.

“On a Monday morning at Augusta National, a practice day for the elite of the game, I approached Ben Crenshaw under the famous ‘Big Oak Tree’ along the first tee. Bob had met Ben as a result of his relationship with the late Mort Olman of Cincinnati. Mort was an agent for purchases of rare golf memorabilia, and represented Ben as well as Bob independently.

Not much room to miss at the par three 16th hole.

“At the first description of this new club for the Pinehurst area, Ben was enthralled. History of golf has been a major love for Crenshaw, as it has for me. The thought of creating a club steeped in the local charm and character of Pinehurst, but with the grand theme of ancient societies from golf’s underpinnings went to Crenshaw’s core…and to his partner Bill Coore as well.

“Months, and many walking miles with Bill on the property later, there was agreement to build Dormie Club. Thank God.

“Had they not elected to be involved, I may have abandoned the idea.

“The request to Coore and Crenshaw was to build an architectural masterpiece that would encompass all of the elegance of ancient designs, provide a challenge for great players, yet allowing ‘regular citizens’ to enjoy the sense of peace and relaxation the site offered.

Even the relief station embodies the rustic theme of the Dormie Club.

“There are 15 greens that are open at the front, and in the Donald Ross style, with options for play around the putting surfaces. The course is not the longest of the current fashion.

“Like great Ross courses, and in keeping with Bill and Ben’s philosophy, patience and strategic play is the order of the day.

“With only 78 acres of managed turf, and no ‘rough’ areas, the goal is to maintain the playing area to the highest standards. With that stated, there may be times when the fairways might be a bit blue, perhaps a bit brown. The intent is to keep the course rather ‘hard and fast’.

“As the course occupies over 300 acres of the 1,000 acre site, space has been provided for each hole to have an identity. There are many great individual holes there; only left to individual perceptions and personal taste. For specific individuality, there are special features along the route that separate many holes from others.

The slight dogleg left, par four 2nd hole virtually dares you to try and cut the corner off the tee.

“The course was designed for walking, with tees and greens positioned for that purpose.

“Dormie will have some carts to offer all golfers the opportunity to enjoy this creation.

“And it’s not just the course…it is the experience…respect, honor, dignity…and the shared passion for the game is all part of that experience.

“Dormie Club is blessed with a fine, experienced staff led by Director of Golf Randy Cavanaugh. Randy understands the old values that have guided the successes of golf; and, he has his entire life. The Golf Staff is an example of Dormie’s commitment to honor, tradition, and integrity.

The tee shot on the par four 15th hole looks intimidating, but there is quite a bit of short grass out there to land it.

“The hope is that visitors and members will find Dormie to be a refreshing ‘new’ introduction to those ancient values for the game and of the game from the centuries old formula of community, passion, discipline, and respect. Oh yes, the golf is spectacular!

“The game has evolved; clubs evolve. The principles never change. Dormie is all about Less is More.”


Needless to say, it’s not every day that we provide a speaker an uninterrupted platform, but how could we improve on how Hansen told the story?

You pass the 14th hole on the way to the 7th tee, so this sign helps first-timers get their bearings.

For his part, Bill Coore reaffirmed the enthusiasm that Bob Hansen said he and Ben felt in working at Dormie: “Certainly, coming from North Carolina and having grown up there, it was terrific to do a project there. At that time, we hadn’t worked in my home state (of course, they subsequently did the restoration of Pinehurst #2, starting in 2009).”

“For me personally, it was so exciting to be able to go back and work,” Coore remembered. “We thought it was a very nice site, with a lot of potential. The completed golf course wasn’t bad either, as we truly believed that it had a chance to be special.”

“Through all the uncertainties of these past several years in economics and real estate, it was great to see a place like Dormie come through,” Coore said.

Come through it did. In a modern golf world that’s filled with housing complexes and planned community space, Dormie offers the complete opposite effect. It seems so isolated that you’ll need to pinch yourself to remember that you’re literally in the middle of the American golfing universe (Pinehurst, that is).

At 243-yards from the back tee, the par three 7th hole is both beautiful and quite a challenge.

In fairness, the facility’s long-term development plans include some houses, though we’re told they’ll be well set-back from the golfing areas.

In the meantime, one can’t help but feel “Dormie” when playing at the club. The sand cart paths, the quaint wooden signs and blissful confusion you’ll feel in trying to figure out which hole is the next one will amaze you every step of the way.

There are a number of carries at Dormie for those wishing a real test from the back tees, but on the whole, the course plays much shorter than the listed yardage (6988-yards from the tips). As Hansen alluded to, all the grassed areas are mowed to fairway height, which allows for exceptionally generous rolls.

Dormie also provides opportunities for creative shot-making, as you can play bump-and-run shots into greens (we even chose to try a 100-yard roll-up pitch, and it worked splendidly) and play the ball on the ground around the putting surfaces. Those who enjoy the “Texas wedge” will certainly find a home at Dormie, and pitting your imagination against the course is one of its best features.

Not everything is big at the Dormie Club. The green of the par five 6th hole does not leave much room for error.

Crenshaw & Coore also did a masterful job in designing the slopes of the greens, which will not only test the mettle of your putting stroke, they’ll force you to think about how you want to approach the green from the fairway. The course is well bunkered but not ridiculous, and the waste areas are often playable should you find them.

Our favorite holes included the short par four third hole, which requires a great deal of thought on the tee box to determine how to beat it. As is true of most of the holes at Dormie, there’s an exceptionally wide fairway area waiting for you should you club down and play it safe. Those taking the “risk” will need to avoid a large sand waste area on the right of the tee shot landing area, and the green is exceptionally well bunkered.

The par three seventh hole is long and tough – 243 yards – but there’s a wide bailout area to the left and short if you’re worried about the carry over the natural area. There’s also a slope to the left side of the green, which suggests that you can play away from the flag and still roll it on to the putting surface.

The par three sixteenth hole is another classic Sandhills beauty, with sand surrounding the green but still leaving room to miss short. Hardly an easy par, but one of the gentler holes on a difficult back nine.

Greenside at the par four 11th hole. Take our advice: stay out of this bunker.

The par five seventeenth is one of the more unique holes you’ll see anywhere. The challenge lies in the second shot, whether you want to try and reach the upper plateau (and hence, get closer to the green), or lay-up in front of a sandy slope full of wiregrass and leave a short but blind shot into the green.

As you might expect, the facilities at Dormie are not yet complete, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the comforts of a club atmosphere there. There’s a cozy 2,500 sq. ft. temporary clubhouse which includes men’s and women’s locker rooms, golf shop and comfortable living, bar and dining rooms.

But it’s safe to say, Dormie Club’s best days are still to come – not bad considering what’s already there is something pretty special. It’s not known how long the course will remain open to the public, so you’d better take advantage of the chance to play it while you can.

And you’ll clearly see that “less” sometimes most definitely is “more.”

There is a mild carry off the tee of the short par four 3rd hole, but the real challenge is deciding whether to club down or try and knock it close to the green.

Where We Stayed – The Lodges at Mid South

Staying at Pinehurst Resort is a special experience by itself, but for our last trip, we chose a place nearby that offered all the comforts of home – and a darn nice home at that.

General Manager (of Talamore and Mid South) John McDougald explains the thinking behind the Lodges at Mid South – which were just about the complete package when it comes to taking golf “on the road.”

“Talamore Golf partners… when we came to the area in the early 90’s, one thing we didn’t want to do was impact our neighbors. We didn’t want to try and challenge what Pinehurst does, because they do it extremely well. We didn’t want to do what Pine Needles does – they do a wonderful job.

Looking from behind the 18th green, you will see for a final time the beautiful, unspoiled quality of the Dormie Club.

“We wanted to have our own niche. And we found our niche to be condos as opposed to hotel rooms. We found our niche to be, people staying with us, cooking their own food or going to dinner, making it more of a longer term, more permanent, kind of a ‘stay.’

“It’s a wonderful thing, and some of our greatest growth of late has been long-term stays.

"As we get into the fall, it’s Canadians and people in the northeast who aren’t able to retire for whatever reason and are taking the opportunity to come down for month at a time, and enjoy the area and have accommodations that are comfortable to the point where you can live in them without concern.”

Without concern is an understatement. The condos are extremely well appointed with Jacuzzi tubs, full kitchens (with stainless steel appliances, no less), more-than-generous living areas and tiled floors.

The view from the deck of the Mid South Lodges is as beautiful as the inside.

You won’t want to go home. As if the golf wasn’t great enough, the Lodges at Mid South will make you love the Pinehurst area even more.

For more information on the Lodges at Mid South, consult the website:



Dormie Club
6033 Beulah Hill Church Road
West End, NC 27376

Phone: 910-215-4587 (Main); 855-955-1999 (Toll-free)


Course Designers: Ben Crenshaw & Bill Coore
Visionary: Bob Hansen
Director of Golf: Randy Cavanaugh


Back                6988    140/74.0
Middle             6355    132/70.9
Forward          5189    126/70.4


Non-members may “Discover Dormie” as unaccompanied guests of the Club. A limited number of golf reservations are available for visitors to the Sandhills. Call Dormie Club on 910-215-4587.
What are the Guest Fees?
Unaccompanied guest fees include 18-holes, cart and range.
Spring Season $195: March 1 – May 20.
Summer Season $115: May 24 – September 13.
Fall Season $170: September 14 – November 30.
Special rates may be posted on this website by the Club from time to time.


Cart or Caddie?

Dormie has an excellent Caddie Program.

Although Coore & Crenshaw designed Dormie as a walking course, carts are available for those who prefer to ride.

All Guests have the option of either a walking caddie ($70/player) or a forecaddie ($30/player).

Dormie supports The First Tee of the Sandhills with a Junior Caddie Program that includes training and limited play privileges for participants. Junior caddies carrying single bags receive $35/bag and $15/player as forecaddies.

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