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Dornick Hills Golf Course to undergo $3.2 million restoration

Drew Butler
dbutler@gannett.com
The golf course at Dornick Hills will get a $3.2 million restoration starting next spring to restore the course to the original design by Perry Maxwell.

The Dornick Hills Golf course will soon be undergoing a $3.2 million renovation project. The work will begin next spring and be a massive restoration effort to bring the course closer to the original design by golf course architect Perry Maxwell.

Joe Ward, Vice President of the Dornick Hills Board of Directors, said because the Maxwell added to and changed his design over the years, there is not one official “original” design. However, aerial photographs taken in the 1930s and 1950s will be used to help capture the spirit of Maxwell’s plans.

“Dornick Hills was originally built in 1914,” Ward said. “On top of being a golf course architect, Maxwell was a banker in Ardmore, and Dornick Hills was one of the first courses he built. He had a farm out by Dornick, and he tinkered with Dornick for most of his career. So even as we went off to build other things, he kept returning to Dornick.”

Renown golf course architect Tom Doak will be spearheading the redesign efforts. According to Golf Magazine, Doak has designed four golf courses ranked in the top 100 in the world.

Ward said that Doak had written about Dornick hills in one of his books and had referred to renovations carried out in the 1980s as one of the “biggest tragedies in golf course architecture in his life time.” He went on to write that he would gladly help to restore Dornick Hills completely pro bono.

Once talks about restoring the course began in earnest, Ward contacted Doak to see if he was still interested in working on the course.

“When I contacted him, he lived up to what he said in his book, and he’s not charging us for any of his work,” Ward said. “He has a great deal of respect for Perry Maxwell and his legacy, and he wants to see that legacy restored.”

Because Doak will be working at no cost, the money being spent will all go towards restoration and the new irrigation system.

“It’s mostly going to be on the green surround and trying to bring the greens back to what they were originally,” Ward said. “It also entails redoing about half the tee boxes and doing some fairway work. Some of the bunkers will stay where they are, but most of the bunkering will change around the greens to what they originally were.”

The restoration project will also involve clearing hundreds on non-native trees from the course.

“Over time a lot of trees have been planted, and a lot of those are sycamores and trees that aren’t native to Oklahoma,” Ward said. “So, we’re going to remove probably 300 to 500 trees that have encroached over time to the fairways.”

Ward said the majority of funding for the project has come from the Westheimer Foundation, which has pledged $2.5 million for the project. He said some other foundations have also gotten involved in the project. They have raised some funds through their membership, so they are close to having all the funds they will need.

The project will begin in earnest next spring and Ward said the project will likely take around six months. Though the course will be shut down, he is hopeful that some temporary greens will be available.

“The course is going to be shut down for about six months, but the actual restoration is going to be around four-months-long over the summer and early fall,” he said. “Then we’ll have to reseed the greens which will take around two months to grow in. So, you’ll have a four-month process where you have the reshaping of the greens and the renovation of the bunkers and all that. Then you’ll plant your seed and the course will be ready to play probably around the middle of November.”

Ward said there is already buzz in the golfing community about the upcoming project.

“It’s already created a lot of interest around the nation,” Ward said. “I’ve been following some things on Instagram and also some golf podcasts and they are already talking about Dornick Hills — especially people who are really into golf course architecture. Around the state we’ve had a lot of people who have come up to our members and asked about it. A lot of people think this restoration could possibly become a top 100 course in the United States.”