Originally published on April 08, 2001
When Allen Liddicoat unveiled Back Creek Golf Club in Middletown, Del., four years ago, the obvious question was whether it was a fluke.
Even if Liddicoat was an avid golfer, how could a developer with no experience in golf-course architecture read a few books and attend a few seminars, then design a pleasurable, testy track that soon cracked Golfweek's list of the top 100 modern courses in America?
Who knows, but it turns out Back Creek wasn't a fluke.
With Frog Hollow Golf Club, which opened in August just five minutes up the road from Back Creek, Liddicoat has created another winner that is sure to attract carloads of golfers in search of a quality course for a reasonable price.
|At a glance|
| Getting there: Frog Hollow Golf Club is located at 1 E. Whittington Way, Middletown, Del. From I-95, take Delaware's Exit 1, then follow Route 896 south toward Middletown for about 10 miles. Where Route 896/301 splits, proceed straight on Route 301 south for three miles. Where Route 301/71 splits, bear left onto Route 71 south. Just after the railroad tracks, turn left onto Cedar Lane Road. Frog Hollow is half a mile on the right. The phone number is 302-376-6500. The Web site is www.froghollowgolf.com.
Green fees: Monday through Thursday, $48; Friday, $58; Saturday, Sunday and holidays, $65. (All fees include cart.) Twilight and senior-citizen rates are available at certain times.
Walking: Walking is permitted any time, but cart fees are included. There are long stretches between some holes.
Spikes: Nonmetal only.
Amenities: Clubhouse and pro shop.
Rating: A strong addition as a challenging, mid-priced course. Links style. Housing on the East Course can be a distraction. Not a good walking course for most golfers.
Accurate as of April 2001
At 6,608 yards from the tips, Frog Hollow is respectable in length, but it doesn't necessarily require the long ball. With a course rating and slope that top out at 72.1/128, it's got plenty of bite without being too frustrating for the mid- and high-handicapper.
"What we tried to do was to build a slight upgrade from Back Creek but keep it at a modest cost," Liddicoat said last week. "A lot of people think it is tighter and tougher."
Liddicoat, who has continued his self-education in golf course design, brings new techniques to Frog Hollow that he hadn't yet learned when he undertook Back Creek. Specifically, with judicious use of 51 jagged, natural-looking bunkers, generous mounding, and midsized, undulating greens, he has created a course that has illusions, deceptions and nuances, and that demands thought and strategy.
He has also done it at a fair price. In a golf-course climate in which greens fees increasingly top $100, a round at Frog Hollow can be had for $48 on weekdays, or $65 during the prime time of weekend mornings.
Frog Hollow is still a work in progress. The course is complete and in commendable condition, but the sizable clubhouse won't be finished until early summer. For many golfers, however, the bigger distraction in the coming months will be that Frog Hollow is the centerpiece of a golf course community that is still very much under construction. Hammers pound, workers talk and laugh, curious potential home buyers cruise slowly by.
By the time Liddicoat was called in, the homesites had already been laid out for the flat, treeless slab property that would become the East Course, which is being played as the front nine.
Liddicoat did as much as he could to overcome the routing limitations on the East Course, moving tons of earth to create mounds to separate holes and letting native grasses grow to give it a linksy feel. Still, the result is an outward nine that's good but not great, and plagued by some awkward separations between green and tee on some holes that make walking the course out of the question for most golfers. It also makes for a front nine that isn't nearly as strong as the back nine, or West Course.
Ah, the back nine.
Here, where homesites are yet to come and Liddicoat had a much freer hand, Frog Hollow moves away from the construction and gets better with each successive hole.
My favorite stretch starts at No. 2 on the West, or the 11th, an uphill 533-yard dogleg par 5 over a lake, where you can bite off as much of the water off the tee as you wish.
After a mid-length (390-yard) straightway par-4 follow-up, Liddicoat has you gulping over a short (360-yard) but dicey par 4.
"The island fairway," Liddicoat devilishly called it, referring to what isn't truly an island but has a pond to the left and to the right, pinching the landing area to perhaps 40 yards wide. Keep it in the short grass, however, and you're left with a little sand wedge into a green guarded by a hungry front bunker.
Next comes the first of two strong par 3s on the West Course - a 177-yard poke entirely over water onto an elevated green that juts out into the water. For the meek and mild, Liddicoat has provided a bailout area left and short of the green. Two holes later comes the 219-yard, par-3 seventh (or 16th), where wind, oceans of sand and a big, tiered green can give you fits.
The two closing holes are perhaps the best on the course. The eighth on the West Course (17th) is a 435-yard, slightly uphill, lazy dogleg. Even for low handicappers, a big tee shot can leave almost 200 yards into a green that slopes away from you. Leak it to the right and you're into trees that run all the way up the right side; venture left and you're in a pond that protects the left front of the green.
The closing hole is a monster: 570 yards, with mounding left and right off the tee and a labyrinth of bunkers on the right awaiting an errant tee shot. Farther up the fairway, dead center, another yawning chasm of sand poses problems for the second shot. Can you clear it? Can you steer left or right? You won't know until you try.