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Delaware, also known as the First State, is the second smallest state in the U.S. Its terrain is flat and has with patches of elevation, and this can be observed in most golf courses.
While best layouts here are private, Delaware also offers some interesting courses for the general public. All of the courses charge similar rates and are always kept in great conditions. Here’s our list for the top ten public courses in The First State. Enjoy!
Best Golf Courses in Delaware
A scenic location, a Jack Nicklaus design and a course which offers three different styles of play. What else do you need for a great golf round?
The location, the coastal side of Delaware, overlooking the Assawoman Bay. The Jack Nicklaus, timeless, mixing fun and challenge in a perfect way. The three styles of play, perfectly differentiated: one part is surrounded by hardwood, tree-lined, in a classic woodland style; another one is more open, sometimes reminding of a links course; and another is full of marsh in a more marshland-style course.
Opened in 2005, this course has some outstanding holes that will stay in your memory forever. Check out the 3rd, for example: a par 3 played over a marsh to a sloped green, all of it with impressive views of the lake in the background. Another great hole is the 10th, a par 4 in the open with the Ocean City skyline as backdrop, and a water hazard to the right side. The 13th is another one-shotter over water to a green well protected by a couple of huge bunkers, with great panoramic views. Finally the 18th is a par 4 which doglegs to the left and right around water to reach a peninsula green overlooking the clubhouse.
As for the rates, playing here is not cheap. If going on summer, you can expect green fees of around $100 if not a member. However, if you go on low season, the fees go down to approximately $50 per round.
18 holes form this complex located in Long neck, a city situated in the coast of the Indian River bay. Divided in two nines, called the Woodside and the Waterside, they are now building a third nine called Duneside.
The Woodside is the most traditional of the nines, offering some great holes surrounded by hardwoods, flowers and some water from the Delaware Bay. Best holes could be the 2nd, a scenic par 4 with water to its right side and some great bunkers; or the tough par 5 5th.
The Waterside nine, as its name suggests, has water as the main attraction, with manmade ponds on almost every hole. The signature hole has to be its 5th (the 14th if played after Woodside), a par 4 which offers two main options from the tee: the risky, playing over water to an island fairway, from where it will be a closer and more comfortable approach shot; or the safe one, playing to a wide fairway to the right, which will have a longer and more difficult approach shot.
Green fees are exactly the same as in Bayside, with rates which range from $49 on low season to $109 in summer.
Deerfield is located in a privileged natural park: the White Clay Creek State Park. This beautiful course was built back in 1955 as a private layout, with a William Gordon design, but was acquired in 2005 by the State of Delaware, starting to be open to the public since year 2006.
This course features many uphill holes, doglegs and blind shots, so the first time there can be quite a challenge. A great example of this can be the 17th hole, with a dogleg around a bunker which is very difficult to measure. All this makes this track quite tough and challenging for every player if playing for the very first time here.
Another thing to mention here is their dining service, a brunch that has won many awards in Delaware. A must visit after a round!
Rates at Deerfield can be up to $65 per round at peak season, but if playing in the afternoon, there are some interesting discounts of around 20% in most cases.
Built in 2005 with an Arthur Hills design, this course is located in Delaware Park, a venue that originally was built for horse racing, with William DuPont as the constructor. Later, a casino was added, to finally build a beautiful golf course that was named White Clay creek.
Water hazards, in form of ponds and creeks, come into play in most of the holes here, having some fun and challenging carries in some cases. Our favourite hole is the 17th, a par 3 with a carry over a pond where accuracy is essential. However, many other holes are great here, such as the tough par 4 6th, the par 3 7th, the par 5 15th, or the closing par 4 18th.
As for the green fees, are reasonable but not cheap, ranging from $50 to $89 in some cases. However, we say reasonable because the feeling of this course is like if you were in a private club, and includes some services such as the access to the practice facilities and staff assistance, among others.
Back in 1997, David Horne designed this links-style course, located in the city of Middletown, located in the north coast of Delaware. Once a farmland owned by Delaware's first governor, Joshua Clayton, this layout has some splendid pace of play, and the housing of its surrounding doesn’t interfere in any of the holes. In addition to this, the backyards which are near the fairways are treated as hazards, and not as out of bounds areas, making it even more interesting and improving the pace.
If wanting to experience a true links style round, it is recommendable to do it by walking. This way you won’t miss a thing of this great layout: water hazards, around 80 bunkers and contoured greens that sometimes get really tricky.
Best holes here are the 6th, a par 4 with a dogleg to the left; the par 4 7th, with an intimidating tee shot; and the 15th, another par 4 with an interesting pond coming into play in the fairway.
Rates at Back Creek are really dynamic, being able to change from $19 up to $60. The cheapest rates are when playing any day, from 5 p.m.
Other amenities here include a winning-award bar and restaurant called The Grill, and the possibility of hiring a teacher for improving your game.
Located in the scenic location of Ocean View, in the south eastern coast of Delaware, Bear Trap Dunes counts with 27 holes, divided in three nines: the Grizzly, the Black Bear and the Kodiak. All of them were designed by a former associate of Jack Nicklaus, Rick Jacobson, and were opened in years 1999 and 2001.
While the three of them have some similar characteristics, such as winding fairways, wetlands, large greens and many natural hazards (dunes, water hazards…) the best combination is the Grizzly and the Black Bear, the longest round.
Best holes of this round include the tough par 4 5th and the reachable-in-two par 5 9th from the Grizzly, and the 3rd and 7th hole from the Black Bear, both of them with water coming into play in a dangerous way. (Rendall, s.f.)
As for the prices, rates at Bear Trap Dunes are not cheap, in some cases surpassing the $100. However, as in most courses, it is better to play smart and go when there is less people, and if possible, in the afternoons, when green fees go down in a huge way.
Arthur Hills again outdid himself with his design at Heritage Shores, which opened in year 2007 in the city of Bridgeville, in the central-southern side of Delaware.
One feature of this links-style layout is that most of its fairways are lined with water hazards, however, none of them come into play in any of the holes. Apart from this fact, the most pleasurable nine is the front one, more secluded than the back nine, which is now full of housings which may feel repetitive.
In addition to the course, Heritage Shores counts with a great clubhouse with two restaurants, the cat barn and other offices. Next to it, another building counts with a fitness and an aquatic center, quite interesting for having a break of golfing. Finally, the practice facilities include a driving range, two small putting greens for practice and a short game area.
The links style layout of Frog Hollow opened to the public in the year 2000, with a design by David Horne. In 2009, this course was selected as “The best public golf course in Delaware” by Delaware Today, so we are not joking when we say this course is an absolute must play in the First State!
Challenge and beauty melt in a perfect way here, in a course where wind plays an important part in every hole. Rolling and undulating greens, more than fifty bunkers and some ponds complete a layout where the par 3s and par 5s are fair and enjoyable, while par 4s can be a total test for the best players.
As for the green fees, they range from $30 to $55, a great value for a course that will leave you speechless.
The Rookery opened in 1957 with a first course, the North, more traditional and built by businessmen as a country club, later opened to the public. However, in the year 2000 another 18-hole layout was added, called the South, instantly becoming a contemporary classic.
The south offers a well-maintained layout where water is present in the majority of holes, in some cases playing an important part. There some carries that will stay in your memory forever, such as the one in the par 4 4th hole, the one in the par 3 9th hole, or the one in the par 3 15th.
This club also offers a wide range of services, such as memberships, tournaments and outings, a fully stocked pro shop, a complete practice facility, official PGA golf lessons and the Blue Heron Grill, a bar and restaurant to enjoy some great meals after your round.
Originally built in 1937 by Alex Findlay, Rock Manor was fully redesigned in year 2008 by golf course architect Lester George, who made it longer (from 5,779 to 6,405 yards) and more updated than the old course, with new tee boxes, greens, bunkers and fairways, apart from a new irrigation system.
From the holes, the par 3s are great. Check out the ones of the front nine, especially the 3rd and 5th holes!
A great clubhouse completes the facility, a 1921 building where you can find a pro shop and a pub called ‘On the Rocks’.
So that’s it! That is our top ten list for the best public layouts in the First State.
What do you think about the ranking? Would you change the position or delete any of the courses? Do you know any other great public tracks in Delaware? Do not hesitate in leaving your opinion and tell us your experience.