Thursday, May 24, 2012

Czabe's Annual Southern Pines Golf Trip Recap: Part 1: Dormie Club

Lots to share from our weekend down in Southern Pines, NC chasing that infernal little white golf ball. So let's get started.

For starters, I vow to stop saying "Pinehurst" when people ask "where do you go" because that's technically, and literally, not true. In the late 1990's, the Pinehurst Resort and the town itself, launched lawsuits at many local courses and resorts, aimed at stopping any use of the term "Pinehurst" in their marketing.

They won. Okay, bitches. Have it your way.

We go to "Southern Pines" which is right next door, and basically the same thing.

Southern Pines also has a tidy little old school downtown area next to the train tracks, which I only found out about this year, because a drunken "Cowboy Mike" blurted out a wrong turn to our designated driver and we detoured right through it. By accident. "Oh, there it is..."

Now back to Pinehurst Resort. Nothing against them, but I honestly don't think you get much value by staying at there. There are many other great options in the area, and the staggering cost of Pinehurst's elite courses (#2 is $410 for non-resort guests!) make it a place I've never felt the urge to stay at, or play.

We stay at The National, and they package up our 3-day, 5 round stay. If you want a first rate experience, I think the National is as good if not better than anywhere down there. We've stayed at Mid-Pines. Nice, but sorta old and creaky. We've stayed at Pine Needles. Nice, but more pricey than it should be, thanks to the fact they've held two women's majors.

Hole #3: The National GC - Par 4
The National is a Nicklaus designed course, with just enough "modern" design flashes to make it interesting without being cheesy. The conditions are always private club quality, and you stay right there on the premises which can't be beat.

You want to book a trip there for any size group, call the National and ask for either Ken Crow or Jeffrey Jones and TELL THEM you know The Czabe. (Pretend we're buddies. Shhh. I won't tell). After that, they should give you a rate that is 10% over retail, and make you put down a 50% security deposit.


They will HOOK YOU UP, if you drop my name. Swear.

Now, the other thing you need to know, is that Ken and Jeff can get you and your group on a brand new layout in the area, called "The Dormie Club." The club opened 3 years ago, and it's initial ambition was to be a $150,000 initiation ultra-private club.

The Dormie Club - Hole #1, Par 4.
Uh, yeah. Then the economy happened. So now they are allowing some limited "public" play through certain area packagers. Rumor has it they will go all private again in the fall. Others say if the economy doesn't turn around it will go "all bankrupt" before that.

Whatever the case, go play it. Now.

It's a Crenshaw & Coore collaboration, and it is flat out phenomenal.

When we teed it up on Friday morning on a cool spring day, with dappled sunshine and hardly a breeze filtering through the pines, it was nothing short of magical. The first hole presents itself so perfectly, it looks like a postcard.

The rest of the course is a strategic adventure, with plenty to think about along the way to trying to make par, but without anything that feels too penal or goofy.

Driving areas are wide, and while the scrapply sandhills terrain off the carpet is random full of bogey, you can usually find your ball and at least play it.

The third hole begins a series of tantalizing Crenshaw/Coore risk/reward holes that tempt and tease. A par four of only 312 yards from the back tee, it practically yanks the driver out of your bag and takes the head cover off for you.

Dormie Club: #15, Par 4
But the hole's nasty burrs reside in the green complex, which reads like Chinese trigonometry. A large, bulging "nose" of a false front deflects all shots that come up short, and makes a par-saving chip or pitch even more problematic.

This feature caught many of my guys flat footed, causing quite a few grumbles. But hey, in this one case, "long is right" so take enough club.

The 8th hole stretches you out, as a sweeping dogleg par 4 of 488 yards from the tips. That number is deceiving though, because a speed slot along the left hand side allows for massive drives as long as you carry the crest of a large swale in the fairway.

Bail out just slightly right, however, and you'll be in the fairway - safe - but a hefty 230 or so away from a narrow, tilted green.

And back and forth it goes, with tempting short holes, and burly long ones.

My favorite is the endless 653 yard par-5 10th. Yes, you read that yardage correctly.


After (hopefully) busting your drive, you then must cut across a yawning pond, while choosing a route around a cluster of bunkers that are stubbornly sitting right in the middle of the fairway. Two GOOD shots, will still leave you a likely 150 (or more) from home.

The green sits in a disturbingly tight sliver of pines, that narrows as you get closer to its backward sliding front-to-back tilt.

I didn't come close to parring it either round. And loved it.

It is so rare to find a genuine three-shot hole that come at you like an angry gorilla, and this sucker might be the hardest par-5 I've ever seen.

Dormie Club #6: Par 5.
The clubhouse is a tiny little cottage in the pines. Humble. Serviceable. They may have big plans for something more in the future, but I personally don't think anything more is needed.

The pulled chicken BBQ sandwich on a pretzel bun, was damn near sexual it was so good.

The only small complaints, are that the course has no yardages on sprinkler heads, and no rakes for any of the bunkers. In fact, all bunkers are considered waste bunkers on the course, so good luck with ruts and footprints.

Both of these quirks are meant to be an homage to "old school" golf, natural and un-affected by modern conveniences.

Nice try, but c'mon, really?

They want you to hire local caddies and forecaddies to give you yardages. And walk. Perhaps on a nice cool day that would be ideal. If you have a decent caddy.

But I could just as easily see a sweat soaked afternoon walking up and down the sandhills getting "about 160" kind of yardages from a guy who does loops on the side. Not my idea of fun.

With modern rangefinders and GPS devices, it makes much more sense to get your own exact yardages over every little swale and bunker.

Otherwise, the Dormie Club is an absolute treasure. Let's hope it survives and thrives. And hope that it doesn't become as exclusive as Pine Valley in the process.

Because it is, that good.

National GC #4: Par 5.
National GC #5: Par 4
Dormie Club #18: Par 4

Dormie Club #10: Par 5


  1. Hello Friends, Malcolm would be proud.

  2. Man does golf suck. Nothing worse than listening to some white guy describe the exciting hole by hole action of his inane golf round played on some former slave plantation in the South.

    Well, maybe some white guy telling you about his last 10k or half marathon - that really sucks, too.