Any golfer who’s been to the Pinehurst area of North Carolina will be familiar with the stately look of the Carolina Hotel and the fabulous clubhouse that is the centerpiece of the Pinehurst Resort’s eight memorable golf courses. When the word Pinehurst comes up this is the image for most people. This, despite the fact that there are literally dozens of other golf courses in the surrounding Sandhills region.
This is not to diminish the Pinehurst resort, after all, without it is hard to say if and when the golfers in the world would eventually discover the attractive turf of the region that is so suitable for pursuing the grand old game. Without Richard Tufts and his vision as founder of the Pinehurst resort there might never have been a proclamation of the place as the home of American golf.
True golf fans could make a trek to the resort and its courses at least once in their golfing life but at the same time the other layouts in the area deserve their fair share of attention. Ideally a trip to the Sand Hills region would blend a taste of both the Pinehurst resort and a number of other properties within a close proximity. That, my friends, creates one of the best landlocked golf trips you could ever possibly have.
Last Fall myself and Flagstick Publisher Jeff Bauder managed to get back to the Sandhills to explore a couple properties of various accessibility – The Dormie Club which is the newest course in the Pinehurst area (and currently available to the public) and a Forest Creek. Forest Creek is private but with thirty-holes (actually 37, technically) and a large community where real estate is still for sale, you can still manage to find an invitation if you work at it.
I’m happy we did as the trio of courses left a very favorable and lasting impression.
The Dormie Club
It amazes me that golf course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw continue to get things right with their designs yet few others seem to follow their lead.
The pair takes a simple approach to the game, crafting courses that are easy to maintain, are far from convoluted, are approachable by golfers of all talents, yet leave you in awe by the time you walk off the final green.
It took a lot of energy to tackle the Dormie Club, Coore and Crenshaw’s 2010 design in the Sandhills of North Carolina. It demanded the best from all our foursome but even with a smattering of defeats among the highlights you wouldn’t hear a bad word from any of us about the course we played. Dormie Club is simple, and it is simply that good.
Few golf courses can stand on their own as much as this one. It is a walking club where caddies are encouraged, cart paths are absent, and golf is the real focus. Don’t expect unnecessary trappings of an overblown resort. You’ll not find it here. Even the halfway house had an honour box to pay for your fare. It’s a golf experience more than it is another round played.
Tucked into 309 acres on a property that spans more than 1000 acres and has elevation changes of up to 102 feet, Dormie Club possesses a collection of eighteen holes of such variety and quality that it is impossible to choose one as the definitive best. One hole after another, it delivers a memorable design that asks much of you but allows you options for how you can achieve every shot. At times there were ten different clubs I could have played to execute an approach shot. Putt it, roll it, pitch it, hit it high, hit it low – the manner of attack is up to you. While in no way resembling a Scottish golf course, it manages to retain the shot values you will find on links courses at the original home of golf and brings it to the Home of American Golf.
In just 6,988 yards, the par 71 course has holes that play anywhere from 118 to 659 yards. It actually has two 506-yard holes on the back nine that play to a different par. One is a four par while the other is a five par.
Drivable par fours? Two were available. A 243 yard reverse Redan par three? Check it off the list.
Uphill, downhill, sidehill, wide alleys of play – Dormie Club had it all. Fortunately we had the assistance of a great forecaddie with 25 years of experience on the PGA and Champions Tours. We leaned on him…hard.
A private club, Dormie is currently offering unaccompanied golf access and I strongly suggest that if you have any appreciation for golf architecture that you put it on your bucket list before the opportunity to play it disappears.
I know I’ll be making my best effort to get back here for a round again very soon. The nuances were so great that I can’t imagine you would ever be bored playing it. That is hard to say for many layouts but in one brilliant package Coore and Crenshaw have added yet another reason to play golf in this heavenly slice of the American landscape.
I’ll not be surprised if you are not familiar with Forest Creek; the private club is fairly reserved when it comes to making a name for themselves, something sure to change over time.
Those who have made it past the gates at this well-heeled development will tell you that few places offer what they do, namely two golf courses (including an extra 37th “Hog Hole” where the occasional bet is settled) both crafted by Tom Fazio.
Forest Creek is consistently named among the best golf communities in the world and the list finds them with few rivals that offer as many holes of golf at one facility.
And what golf courses they are. The 500 members only pile up about 16,000 rounds a year total on both layouts so exceptional conditions are assured.
Even though they share land on the same property and one designer both the North and South courses at Forest Creek have their own flavour.
We took on the South course first and discovered a burly track with Sandhills touches on several holes. There was plenty of room for tee shots with the approaches and green surfaces primarily responsible for shaping scores.
We fell in love with the North Course from the opening tee shot. With hints of Pine Valley blended with beauty of the Carolinas any golfer worth their salt will respect all aspects of the course. Best of all the North also had greens with the same impressive speed and condition of those on the South course.
We weren’t sure we were really up to 37 holes of golf considering the unexpected temperatures that topped 30 Celsius by mid-day but if there was a place to try it, Forest Creek was an attractive option.
Homewood Suites by Hilton (Olmsted Village)
Forest Creek Golf Club
200 Meyer Farm Drive,
Pinehurst, NC 28374
The Dormie Club
6033 Beulah Hill Church Road
West End, NC 27376