Perry Maxwell is the homeland hero in Oklahoma golf, having designed many courses across the state. Even then, Dornick Hills Golf & Country Club holds a special place in the hearts of Maxwell fans. Aside from being the former host of The Maxwell amateur golf tournament, the architect’s family burial plot is located not too far from the seventh fairway (the course sits on what was once the Maxwell’s dairy farm). Don’t intentionally slice to try getting a closer glimpse, however...the best line on this par four will be toward the inside of the dogleg on the left.
The course is also noted for its rock formations, most evident on the signature “Cliff” hole at No. 16, a par five that requires a final shot up to a green perched atop a natural rock wall. “Dornick” itself translates from Gaelic to “little rocks,” which refers to the thousands of stones Maxwell and company needed to clear from the site to create the course.
Between the old school clubhouse and homages to designer Perry Maxwell every which way you look, Dornick Hills oozes with history. It’s clear throughout your round you are playing one of Oklahoma’s most important venues, and that’s the way the club likes it. In fact, one of the groundskeepers informed me of what my scorecard would later: “This is the home of Perry Maxwell.” There are tributes etched in stone throughout the layout, none bigger than the plaque off the seventh tee dedicated to the club’s patriarch. To add to the legend, Maxwell is buried on a hill just north of the fairway, a short dogleg left protected by a bunker on the left and a pond behind and to the right. Other great holes include: the par three fourth, an uphill lengthy par three with two distinct tiers; the extremely downhill par three 17th, which sports a spectacular panoramic view of the property; and in a class of its own, in terms of both originality and difficulty, is the par five 16th, named the “cliff hole”, aptly because of the giant 30-odd foot ridge you must hit your approach to the green over. There’s a lot of subtle movement around the bentgrass greens. High-risk, high-reward holes line the scorecard. After the glorious Southern Hills, Dornick was the second Maxwell design I’ve ever played, and I must admit I’m a full-blown believer in his work. Tom Doak came in and restored the course, recalling the early days of Dornick. Trees were removed and old aerial photographs honored. Maybe their old gem in Ardmore will soon grace national lists rather than just Oklahoma ones.