The stunning 3rd at the Dormie Club
After arriving back from the two week road trip that took us to South Carolina (Kiawah),
Philadelphia (Merion West), Westchester (Siwanoy), Boston (TPC Boston), back to Philly
(Merion East), Gladstone, N.J (Hamilton Farm), and then south to Palm Beach, it was back
to the road for four days in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
This particular journey was the brain child of my close friends Tony and John Zambos.Day
one was a travel day up the coast, about halfway in we decided to stop in Savannah, Ga.
for lunch.Good call by Johnny Z to detour east (for 30 miles or so), Vic's on the River was
amazing.The cuisine to die for(try the fried green tomatoes), and the scenery overlooking
the river was worth the extra ride. http://www.vicsontheriver.com/
The view from Vic's in Savannah
On the docket for this episode was an eclectic mix of North Carolina's finest: Forest Creek
South (a highly ranked private Fazio layout), Dormie Club (a new exclusive Crenshaw/Coore
design that is on a spectacular site), Pine Needles (famous Donald Ross design that has
hosted 3 Womens U.S Opens in recent years), and the world reknowned venue of the 2014
Mens & Womens U.S Opens: Pinehurst No.2 (recently restored to Ross' vintage style of native
sand scrub and pine straw bordering fairways by Crenshaw/Coore).
Donald Ross lives on everywhere at Pinehurst
Joining us during the first two rounds were Phil and Nick "legend" Zambos.Phil, brother to
Tony & John, played at Wake Forest during his college days on the same team as Curtis
Strange, Jay Haas, and Scott Hoch, he is known as a "stick" around his hometown at the
Greenbrier in West Virginia.Nick, Phil's son is a legend in West Virginia high school athletics
for his recent hoops talents.
Tony, John, Nick, J.B, and Phil
Arriving at Forest Creek on day two, I decided this would be my maiden voyage putting
cross handed, so besides experiencing Fazio's creation, rollin the rock would be a new
sensation as well.
Forest Creek is a pristine layout with all of the North Carolina stereotypical traits you'd expect,
tall pines, rolling terrain and bent grass putting surfaces.The first thing I realized about North
Carolina golf is the combination of Bermuda tees and Fairways and bent greens.That seemed
odd to me (agronomy is part of my everyday gig), with all of the new hybrid bermuda putting
surfaces that have little to no grain, and can handle extremely hot temperatures it would seem
a no brainer to me to make that switch . . . don't get me wrong, I'd rather putt on bent all day
over any bermuda, but bent just isn't hardy enough to handle the extremes (it was 104 degrees
the entire time we were in the Pinehurst area).I can see why people like Michael Jordan frequent
Forest Creek, it's a great private club.
The 429 yard ninth at Forest Creek South
Day three we headed over to the Dormie Club, a new highly acclaimed club designed by
Crenshaw/Coore.These two guys are superb with the their ability to shape the land and
have it appear that they never moved a yard of soil, the Dormie Club has many similiar
traits to what they created at Sugarloaf Mountain in Monteverde, Florida. As Matt Shaffer
at Merion calls it "edgy", a very unkempt style where the turf is anything but formal, sort
of the opposite of say Augusta or Winged Foot, but just as beautiful.Dormie Club seems to
be suffering from the economic climate that is affecting the entire country, with only 46
members at this ultra exclusive club, it will be hard for this club to survive in its present state
(very similiar to Sugarloaf Mountain).The target was 250-300 members, so if you're interested
in getting a round on this beauty(it's not public), it can be accomplished by pushing the right
buttons . . . now might be your only shot.
Playing with the Zambos clan is a great experience, and goin mano a mano with the stick of
the family (Phil) made the golf even more memorable.Our individual matches came down to
the last hole each day (too bad he left before Pine Needles, he would have needed to go low
that day to cash in).
The uphill approach to the 17th at the Dormie Club
I had arranged a review (after the round at Dormie Club) of the newly renovated Pinehurst
No.2, the weather was turning ugly just as we arrived (thunderstorms/lightning in the area),
so time was an issue.
Tony Z drove me around to each hole as I studied and snapped photos of each of the famous
18 on No.2.In a way it was better than playing the course, I was paying attention to all of the
details instead of attempting to hit golf shots and the emotions of trying to make a score.
I was surprised by how flat the property was (aside from a few holes).The legendary greens were
not at their usual firmness, and because of the opressive heat wave, they had to be kept very
shaggy and slow .
A few holes stood out to me, the fourth was a spectacular par five that just rolled downward
and right to left, the sixteenth and Seventeenth were very memorable as well.The green
complexes were some of the most creative and severe I'd ever seen, so that quality certainly
lived up to all that I had read and heard about.Crenshaw & Coore removed all of the rough and
restored No.2 back to its sandy origins of Donald Ross.The place just exudes history (it is an
American classic), and make no doubt the place should be seen by all . . . but as far as value goes,
I'm not going to put Pinehurst No.2 on that list.There is another Donald Ross classic just down the
road for less then half the price, and for my opinion it measures up quite favorably.
This statue right beside the 18th green at Pinehurst, pays homage to 1999 U.S Open Champion Payne Stewart
One of the legendary landmarks in Pinehurst is the Pine Crest Inn.The Pine Crest Inn
was at one time owned and operated by guess who, Donald Ross himself.This is the
hot spot to meet the who's who in Pinehurst golf.On any given evening, professionals
from any of the clubs in town can be found here enjoying a libation at Mr.B's Lounge
or an incredible dinner.Be sure to order the Pine Crest signature 22oz center cut pork
chop . . . I can attest, it's amazing.
Another staple of Pinehurst, the Pine Crest Inn
Day Four was on the OTHER Ross classic, Pine Needles Golf Club & Lodge.Pine Needles
to me is similiar to Hamilton Farm, in the sense that it is sooo underrated as a golf course.
It has received it's share of praise, and has hosted 3 Womens U.S Opens in recent years,
but Pinehurst No.2 gets all of the fan fare.I've played and and walked quite a few Ross
courses, this one is right up there with Siwanoy and Seminole at the top of my list.The
property at Pine Needles rolls and cambers, when you combine that with Ross greens, and
outstanding conditions, you have sheer brilliance (not to mention beauty).
The par 3 sixteenth at Pine Needles
Later that Sunday afternoon, I boarded a flight back to Palm Beach, as the Zambos
clan headed to the Greenbrier for festivities at the PGA Tour event being held that
week at the Old White course.
Course reviews of the four Pinehurst courses coming soon in the Course Review
My next stop was the Dick Wilson classic: Pine Tree in Boynton Beach, Florida.
Thanks to Jim Musick for being the point man for everything Pinehurst, and to the
Zambos Clan for their hospitality and friendship.