Destination Guide

Destination: Delaware

When it comes to golf, Delaware has become the little state that could, and it offers a surprisingly wide variety of off-course attractions.

The First State might not be the first choice for a golf vacation, but it would be an excellent alternative to some of the more well known (read: over-crowded) destinations, especially for denizens of the Eastern seaboard from Boston to D.C.

On paper, Delaware appears underwhelming: just 800,000 residents, only three counties, no more than a 90-minute drive from top to bottom and never wider than 35 miles from side to side. On the ground, however, this second smallest of states contains a diversity unimaginable to motorists on Interstate 95.

From the old-money grandiosity of the DuPont properties in Wilmington to the family beach resorts of Bethany and Fenwick in the south, there's something to suit every taste.

And the same goes for the Delaware golf courses.

Northern Delaware Golf (New Castle County)


Nearly three-fourths of the state's population lives in and around Wilmington, and several of the best public courses can be found here.

At the top of the list are Back Creek Golf Club and its sister course Frog Hollow Golf Club. Both are owned by Allen Liddicoat (who also designed both layouts), and draw a lot of players from the greater Philadelphia area. Back Creek (par-71, 7,001 yards) is extremely wide open, with expansive fairways and sprawling greens. Frog Hollow (par-71, 6,608 yards) is a bit narrower off the tee, with some wooded holes and severely contoured greens. Although the residential developments on both detract from the aesthetics, the houses mostly remain out of play..

Altogether different tracks can be found at Delcastle Golf Course, where mature trees and unexpected elevation changes are the rule. It represents perhaps the best value in the state. Occupying land that was once a prison farm, this county-owned Ed Ault layout also offers elevated tees and greens.

Attractions in New Castle County are diverse. The architecture and atmosphere in the historic village of New Castle hearkens back to colonial days. William Penn first set foot in North America here, and George Washington stayed here while attending a wedding. Delaware Park Horse Racing and Slots offers all the wagering your wallet will allow, and is also home to its own Arthur Hills-designed golf course, White Clay Creek Country Club. And for a little old-school entertainment, Three Little Bakers Dinner Theater features Broadway shows in one of the top three dinner theaters on the East Coast.

Lodging and food are plentiful. For pure elegance, try the Hotel du Pont and its critically acclaimed Green Room, where the museum-quality art collection on the walls competes with the gourmet fare for attention. Just down the road from Delaware Park is the Hilton Brandywine Valley's Country Estate, which offers golf packages.

Perhaps the best victuals can be had in New Castle. Connoisseurs of New England cuisine should not miss the roast duck and shepherd's pie at Jessop' s Tavern.

Central Delaware (Kent County)


The major city in central Delaware is the state capitol, Dover (one of four state capitols beginning with the same letter as the state). Golf courses are rarer here than in the north or south, but a decent public layout can be found at Jonathan's Landing. The Wild Quail Golf & Country Club is private but extends playing privileges to members of numerous other clubs around the country. Wild Quail also partners with Dover Downs Hotel in packages for larger group outings.

As for off-course action, this rather quiet section of "lower, slower Delaware" holds surprises for those willing to look. Aside from the slots, horse racing and NASCAR action at Dover Downs, more laid-back diversions can be found at any one of several Amish country markets, the largest of which is Spence's Bazaar (550 S. New Street, Dover). You have simply not tasted pie until you've tasted a freshly baked Amish pie.

Unlike the slots at Dover Downs, the food around Dover is a sure bet. For fish with a flair, try Cool Springs Fish Bar & Restaurant. For more traditional fare, try the Village Inn Restaurant in Little Creek. And if all you want is the best barbeque in the state, check out Where Pigs Fly.

Southern Delaware (Sussex County)


Although the placid, windswept beaches of Sussex County seem a million miles from the hubbub of Wilmington, the two ends of tiny Delaware are less than two hours apart -- as long as the summer traffic doesn't hold you up, that is. The beach crowd here can be overwhelming at times, but the “quiet resorts” of Bethany and Fenwick promise a modicum of solitude even during the peak tourist season.

One highlight of the golf scene here is Baywood Greens, an Ault and Clark design that is often referred to as “the Augusta of the North” thanks to its immaculate landscaping. This "exclusively public" course located in Long Neck even offers an outdoor swimming pool for use at a nominal fee by non-golfing family members. Eventually, Baywood Greens will be a 27-hole complex, and the permanent clubhouse is now under construction.

Bear Trap Dunes Golf Club in Ocean View is a superb 27-hole complex with an outstanding clubhouse restaurant. Course architect Rick Jacobson, who apprenticed under Jack Nicklaus, moved a lot of soil in order to create waste areas and fairways reminiscent of the natural dunes lining the local beaches. The Black Bear-Grizzly combination of nines is the 18 rightfully considered by the locals to be a Mid-Atlantic "must play."

Hotels are abundant in this summer vacation hot-spot, but golfers would have a hard time finding a more golf-friendly establishment than the Holiday Inn Express in Bethany Beach, which has golf packages arranged with numerous Delaware and Maryland courses. For a special evening of fine dining, Nantuckets in Fenwick Island serves up the best filet mignon in the area, and the various oyster and crab dishes leave your mouth watering for days. During peak season this place is usually crowded, especially during “Men's Nights” and “Ladies' Nights,” when folks of the appropriate gender receive half-off their entrees.

Besides the obvious and ever-present beach fun, off-course attractions include Delaware's only vineyard, Nassau Valley Vineyards. “The soil and climate in Delaware are perfect for grapes,” said proprietor and vintner Peggy Raley.

The single most mind-blowing, imagination-charging attraction in the entire state, however, is the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum on Fenwick Island. Proprietor, owner, and curator Dale W. Clifton Jr. is a renowned -- and perhaps the most successful -- treasure hunter in America. He was a partner in the salvage of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha off the Florida coast in the mid 1980s, which yielded $580 million in sunken treasure and artifacts.

Dale is a walking encyclopedia of maritime lore, and he will share all of it with you for the price of the free admission. He might also share 180-proof rum salvaged from a 1733 wreck. Rather than sell the 100-plus bottles at auction for $20,000, he decided to keep them to share with complete strangers!

Delaware, it seems, is full of surprises and treasures. Like the saying goes: Good things come in small packages.

Transportation


Philly, D.C. both serve Delaware - Delaware has no international airport of its own, but Philadelphia International Airport to the north and Washington/Baltimore Airport to the south are both reasonably close. If you are flying privately, New Castle Airport and Salisbury-Ocean City in Maryland have small, regional airports.

As for land, US-13 is the main north/south highway. I-95 stretches from Washington D.C., through Baltimore up to Wilmington. It extends north of Delaware into Philadelphia eventually running into New York City.

Taking a train is also possible. Newark, just west of Wilmington is the 9th busiest train station in America.

FAQ


1) Exactly how small is Delaware?

By car, it's less than two hours end to end. It's also never more than 35 miles wide. All in all, it's just 1,982 square miles inhabited by 800,000 people. The government allocates just one congressman for the state.

2) Why is it dubbed "The First State"?

Delaware was the first state to ratify the United States Constitution on December 7, 1897.

3) How is the shopping in Delaware?

Tax free. That's right, no sales tax in the first state.

4) What is the climate like?

The average summer temperature is 74.3 degrees in the summer time but a cool 32 degrees in the winter. The temperature along the ocean however is 10 degrees cooler in the summer and ten degrees hotter in the winter. Delaware gets approximately 45 inches of rain annually.

5) Is there anything to do on the Atlantic Ocean?

Delaware has 28 miles of coastline, including the historic town of Lewes, claiming to be "the nation's summer capital." Other tourist and family friendly coastal towns include Rehoboth Beach (great water sports), Bethany Beach and the laid-back atmosphere of Fenwick Island.

See also


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Courses

Course City Rates from
Course City Rates from
Deerfield Golf & Tennis Club
Tee Times | Website
Newark $27
White Clay Creek Country Club at Delaware Park
Tee Times | Website
Wilmington $26.35
Frog Hollow Golf Club
Tee Times | Website
Middletown $24
Rock Manor Golf Club
Tee Times
Wilmington $29
Baywood Greens
Tee Times
Long Neck $46
Sussex Pines Country Club
Tee Times
Georgetown $20
Jonathan's Landing Golf Course
Tee Times
Magnolia $18
Maple Dale Country Club
Tee Times
Dover $25 - $49
Grizzly/Kodiak Course at Bear Trap Dunes Golf Club
Tee Times
Ocean View $56
Black Bear/Grizzly Course at Bear Trap Dunes Golf Club
Tee Times
Ocean View $56
Bayside Resort Golf Club
Tee Times
Bethany Beach $68
Delcastle Golf Course
Tee Times
Wilmington $21
Garrisons Lake Golf Club
Tee Times
Smyrna $13
Heritage Shores Golf
Tee Times
Bridgeville $25
Ed Oliver Golf Club
Tee Times
Wilmington $16
American Classic Golf Club Lewes $15 - $19
Kodiak/Black Bear Course at Bear Trap Dunes Golf Club
Tee Times
Ocean View $56
Rookery North Milford $35 - $60
Hooper's Landing Golf Course Seaford $20 - $44
Back Creek Golf Club
Tee Times
Middletown $32 - $46
Rookery South
Tee Times
Milton $35 - $70
Fieldstone Golf Club Wilmington $115 - $125
Midway Par 3 Golf Course Lewes $15
Newark Country Club Newark $72
Montchanin Course at DuPont Country Club Wilmington $30
Bethany Bay Golf Club Millville $15
Wild Quail Golf & Country Club Camden Wyoming $53
Marsh Island Golf Club Lewes $50
DuPont Course at DuPont Country Club Wilmington $75
Odessa National Golf Club Townsend $35 - $45
Cripple Creek Golf & Country Club Dagsboro $66 - $123
Nemours Course at DuPont Country Club Wilmington $50
Vince's Sport Center Par 3 Golf Course Newark $10 - $12
North at Wilmington Country Club Wilmington $145 - $175
South at Wilmington Country Club Wilmington $132 - $175
Bidermann Golf Club Wilmington $85
Vandegift Course at Golf Academy of Delaware Middletown $18
Eagle Creek Golf Club Dover Air Force Base $25 - $43
Cavaliers Country Club Newark $50
Salt Pond Golf Course Bethany Beach $18 - $35
Kings Creek Country Club Rehoboth Beach $80 - $110
Dover Par-3 & Driving Range Dover $14
Old Landing Golf Course Rehoboth Beach $32 - $47
Rehoboth Beach Country Club Rehoboth Beach N/A
Rehoboth Golf Park Rehoboth Beach $15
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