The Takeaway: A classic country club experience with tree lined fairways, plenty of bunkers, limited hazards, and a layout where you can hardly lose a ball. A solid test with a straight forward design that fits the model for hosting high level tournaments, but lacks intrigue throughout most of the course. Grade B
Designer: Pete Dye in 1968
Phone Number: (515) 440-7575
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Des Moines Golf and Country Club (North)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 1600 Jordan Creek Pkwy, West Des Moines, Iowa 50266 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: Des Moines Country Club is the premier private 36 hole operation in Iowa and located in the state's capital city. Both the North and South courses were designed by Pete Dye in the late 1960s and today stand as mature layouts with tree lined fairways, a handful of water hazards, and no waste or natural areas which results in grass over virtually every non-water square inch of the property. In a very un-Pete Dye fashion, the courses don't look manufactured at all and instead lay naturally over the terrain. The result is a very playable golf course that doesn't overly penalize players for hitting balls off line, but isn't quick to yield a birdie unless good shots are executed. It is hard to lose a ball on this course which I'm sure the members love and delivers the long term playability that a private club often looks for. The North is a good championship layout, although a composite course is used when hosting big events such as when the Solheim Cup was here (Holes 1-7, 17 & 18 on the South course and then the back nine of the North course). As one might suspect based on the composite routing, the back nine is clearly better than the front with more character in the design and variety in the shots. In the end, there isn't much to "wow" you here, but the course is solid from start to finish.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 18th Hole – 633 Yard Par 5 – The North course finishes with a strong three-shotter that will test your game to the bitter end. From tee to green there is nearly a 50 foot descent that will help players reduce the yardage, but getting home in two is not a realistic scenario for most players. The tree lined fairway plays straight ahead before doglegging left around a pair of bunkers and descending towards the green that is fronted by a creek that will cause most players to layup rather than risk a watery demise. The hockey stick bunker on the left side of the green is nowhere you want to find yourself as the steep falloff to the sand mimics something you would expect to contend with at a links course, but going too far right will bring a false front into play. It is a fantastic finishing hole with birdies being well rewarded.
Best Par 3: 12th Hole – 160/194 Yards – A design shape that you rarely find at a golf course is employed at the 12th with Pete Dye creating a horseshoe shaped green that arches around a large bunker. The tee shot plays over a pond with the green built up with Dye's classic wood plank and railroad tie base, but it is the day's pin position that is the biggest concern for the day. Flags in the front half of the green yield twice as much putting surface to land on compared to the back half of the green which will take a high quality shot to reach safely. On a course that has relatively tame design features by Pete Dye's standard, this is evidence that Pete can't help but employ a unique element no matter where he is at.
Best Par 4: 8th Hole – 400 Yards – A intriguing take on a split fairway design is presented on the 8th hole that is found at the northeast corner of the property. Standing on the tee, players are presented with a dogleg right hole highlighted by a trio of long, skinny bunkers down the center that split the fairway into two halves. The slimmer fairway on the right offers a shorter distance to the green but an inferior angle and more bunkers come into play on that line. From the left side, players will need more club to get home but will have less trouble to contend with. With a smaller, undulated green waiting for players at the end, they'll have to decide which strategy best fits their game.
Best Par 5: 13th Hole – 583 Yards – Coming off the horseshoe 12th green, players walk to the 13th tee with driver in hand and aspirations of getting a birdie on the card. The tee shot features a bunkerless fairway that is framed by trees on each side and calls for a long tee shot that stays up the right half of the fairway. The fairway steadily begins bending to the left midway through the hole and descends down to the green that is defended by a pond on the left and a horseshoe bunker next to it. The slope in the terrain begs for a ball that lands on the high right side and tumbles down onto the green unless the flag is in the back where only an aerial shot will do to get close.
Birdie Time: 16th Hole – 356 Yard Par 4 – Shockingly tagged as the 4 handicap on the scorecard, the 16th should be a scoring opportunity for players. Tipping out at just 356 yards and generally playing downwind, the only concern on the 16th is staying out of the massive bunker short of the green and beginning 40 yards shy of the front edge. The putting surface is quite tame by Pete Dye standards so there is little to fear when going pinseeking, so swing away with confidence and pick up a stroke on Old Man Par before heading into the final two holes at Des Moines Country Club's North course.
Bogey Beware: 14th Hole – 472 Yard Par 4 – It is astonishing to me how often the most difficult hole on a course is the 5th or 14th; smack dab in the middle of a nine. At DMCC's North course, it is the 14th that can cause havoc on your scorecard with a long two-shotter to contend with. The tee shot plays slightly uphill which hides some of the landing zone and requires players to trust their swing more than they trust their eyes. A long bunker runs on the inside of the dogleg of this hole that bends left and asks players to flirt with the sand rather than blowing it into the tree line turning in from the right. The approach shot into the green ascends even further with 20 feet to climb and five bunkers to avoid to find a safe place to land. While challenging the dogleg off the tee will shorten the hole, the angle is poor so most players will elect to drive up the right side and leave a long shot into the green. It should be no shock that this hole was originally designed as a par five, but Pete's modifications now make it the most difficult four to card on the course.