Three Little Bakers Country Club

Shot-making a premium on this Delaware gem

PIKE CREEK VALLEY, Del. -- Ask golfers from Wilmington what they think about Three Little Bakers and don't be surprised if you get a blank stare and a ``never heard of it.''

At a glance
Getting there: Three Little Bakers Dinner Theatre and Country Club is at 3542 three little bakers boulevard, in Wilmington. Take Interstate 95 south to Exit 4B, south of Wilmington. Follow Route 7 for about six miles. Just past Pike Creek Shopping Center, turn left onto Skyline Drive. The country club is on the right, after about a half-mile. Phone: 302-737-1877.

Greens fees: Monday through Thursday, $47 to walk or ride; Twilight rate, $24 to walk. Friday through Sundays, $52 to walk or ride. Twilight rate, $28.

Carts: Walking allowed at any time.

Spikes: Mandatory nonmetal.

Amenities: Moderately stocked pro shop, bar and grill, banquet facilities, chipping and putting green; outings are welcome.

Rating: A shot-maker's hidden gem.

Information accurate as of 8/26/2002

They've heard of it all right -- they just don't want you to hear about it.

Three Little Bakers Country Club -- and yes, it has to be good with a name like that -- is a hidden gem of a semiprivate golf course near Wilmington. It's hilly, it's tight, it's demanding, it's superbly conditioned. The greens are large and undulating. At least a half-dozen times during a round you'll stand on the tee and marvel at what a terrific golf hole you're about to play.

So, why have you probably not heard of it?

Because, basically, Three Little Bakers doesn't need to chase your business -- there are so few public tracks in Delaware that people there already know about it.

``It is something of a secret,'' said head professional Dick Matthias. ``It's a great little course that a lot of people don't know about. But we already get 40,000 rounds a year, and we can't handle much more.''

Golf Digest's 4,200 Places to Play rates TLB three stars -- and it's easily that. The course, which plays to a 130 slope and measures 6,609 yards from the back tees, has no bad holes, plenty of good holes, and at least six terrific holes.

Superintendent Steve Segui and his staff have the place groomed -- manicured bent fairways and greens -- as if it were a pricey country club instead of some public loop.

It's hard to pick a favorite hole. Would it be the fifth, a devilish, 410-yard par 4 that's way downhill, then doglegs around a lake on the left into a tight green?

Or the 17th, a 205-yard par 3 into a boomerang-shaped green with a nasty bunker guarding the front?

Or maybe the 18th, the 512-yard downhill, then sidehill, then uphill, dogleg left?

The drawbacks? There are several holes that wend their way through condo developments but, frankly, it's a small price to pay.

The course is part of a semiprivate country club and dinner-theater complex owned by three brothers who once were, literally, three little bakers. The Immediato brothers -- Hugo, Nick and the late Al -- were an acrobatic act during the big-band era. When one of them hurt his back, the brothers turned to baking, which they had learned from their immigrant parents.

The baking business became successful enough that they launched a dinner theater, Three Little Bakers, in Kennett Square. By the early 1980s, they were looking for a larger facility, and they found it in what was then a private country club, Pike Creek Valley.

None of the brothers played golf, but the course, designed in the early '70s by Ed Ault (Toftrees, Waynesboro), was part of the deal, and they decided to continue operating it.

Three Little Bakers has 350 members, but the bulk of its play is daily-fee. You could do worse than join that bulk.

Sunday, June 15, 1997