Courses We Love: Dornick Hills
Sometimes golf courses surprise you in a good way and Dornick Hills is definitely one of those that we at Walker Trolleys enjoyed thoroughly. A small town country club in Ardmore, Oklahoma is what you would expect of Dornick, but being the home club of the great Perry Maxwell means you’re in for more than just a small town club. Built in 1914, Dornick Hills is a true diamond in the rough, with great bones that is very close to being a world class club with a little bit of TLC. Perry Maxwell’s first golf course was the start of a legendary career that would take him all across the United States to build some of the most famous courses in the country, including Prairie Dunes, Colonial and Southern Hills, while making major contributions at Pine Valley, National Golf Links, Augusta National, Crystal Downs and Merion.
Walker Trolleys drove up from Austin to Ardmore for the inaugural Perry Maxwell Society event, which included lunch, a visit to Perry’s grave off the 7th hole and a day on the links. We can definitively say the company was outstanding. The course itself has suffered from tree overgrowth, narrowing many of the playing corridors, but the bones of Maxwell’s first design are very much apparent. His design philosophy of using the land to dictate the strategy of the course is very much apparent as Maxwell uses the natural features on the property extremely well. Set on rolling terrain that is very much walkable (something we prefer), there are a number of stand out holes, including the volcano par 3 4th, the green site of the par 4 7th, the drivable par 4 14th, the famous par 5 ’Cliff’ 16th and downhill par 3 17th hole.
The 4th hole is a sharply uphill par 3, playing 190 yards from the back tees. The green site is volcano like with deep grass face bunkers with flat bottoms to the left and a steep slope in front of the green. The green itself is incredibly difficult to hit and a par here is a good score.
The 7th is one of our favorite green sites on the course. A sweeping dogleg left tee shot uphill to the fairway avoiding the bunkers on the left gives you a partially blind look at the green. Just a short iron in, but with a green sloping sharply back-to-front with a pond behind and a deep bunker to the left, the second shot is anything but easy. Maxwell has a great view of this green as his grave is located just up the hill on the right of the fairway.
The drivable 14th is a great respite following one of the longest holes on the course. At 273 yards with an elevated green that is heavily bunkered, it is a lot of fun. Avoid the big tree to the left of the green by placing a long iron to the right side of the fairway and you’ll have a straight forward pitch to the green.
The most famous hole on the course is the par 5 16th, ‘Cliff’ hole, which features a 40 foot tall cliff between the fairway and green. The hole very much signifies Maxwell’s use of the natural features of the land. At 532 yards from the back, it requires two big shots to get home in two, unless you are Tiger Woods, who apparently reached with driver, wedge during a tournament in college. If one does choose to lay up, then the 3rd shot still presents a formidable challenge as the green features several mounds with OB long and the cliff looming short. If you are short, then expect the ball to end up right back near your feet.
The 17th is a beautiful downhill par 3 from the top of the cliff with a pond guarding the green left and short. While not entirely an original as the pond did not exist in the hole’s original form and the green has undergone massive changes, it is still a beautiful one shotter before the final par 4 ends the round.