White Clay Creek CC

New Wilmington course doesn't disappoint

(Originally published Sept. 18, 2005}

After almost two years of delays and an extra $1 million to fix flooding problems, White Clay Creek Country Club finally opened a couple of months ago without much fanfare.

That's too bad, because White Clay Creek , an upscale daily-fee facility at Delaware Park, deserves better.

At a glance
Getting there: White Clay Creek Country Club at Delaware Park is located at 777 Delaware Park Blvd., Wilmington. Phone: 302-994-2521. Web site: www.whiteclaycreekcc.com .

Directions: From Philadelphia, take Interstate 95 south to below Wilmington. Take Exit 48 for Churchmans Road and follow that for four lights to Delaware Park. Greens fees: Fridays, weekends and holidays, $110 with cart; Mondays through Thursdays, $85 with cart.

Carts: Walk any time Monday through Thursday; carts required until 3 p.m. Friday, weekends and holidays.

Amenities: Posh clubhouse, restaurant, banquet facilities, fully stocked pro shop, locker room, golf academy, practice facility.

Rating: Welcome addition to the local golf scene. Solid layout, well kept, target golf. Once it finds its audience, White Clay Creek should thrive.

A shotmaker's layout with personality and punch, White Clay Creek 's only crime is arriving late at the party, throwing out the welcome mat as even many golfers with insatiable appetites for new courses find themselves pinching pennies and cocooning.

There is good news on that front, however. Faced with the reality of the marketplace, White Clay Creek has already dropped its Monday-through-Thursday greens fees from $110 to $85, hoping to lure more first-timers.

See the course once and Bill Fasy, a 2-handicapper who is chief operating officer at Delaware Park, is convinced you will return. Even if the early numbers have been disappointing, Fasy said last week, "we are getting repeat players. "

I can believe that. There's the new clubhouse with all the country-club-for-a-day bells and whistles, but my primary concern is the golf course. There, too, White Clay Creek didn't disappoint.

Designed by Steve Forrest, a senior partner with Arthur Hills, one of the deans of the industry, White Clay Creek comes at you hard and fast from the first hole.

The 230-acre property wraps about the perimeter of Delaware Park, and is dissected from start to finish by White Clay Creek . Water, in the form of the creek or one of three lakes, comes into play on most every hole.

It is target golf, plain and simple, and bound to conjure memories of your swampy golf vacation at Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head.

Whether you're playing one of White Clay Creek 's short, crooked par 4s or one of the long par 5s that wraps around a lake, you're constantly measuring yourself and your game: How much of the corner should you cut off the tee? Can you carry the junk? Should you lay up? Can you thread the needle between the creek and the bunker?

It's not overly long. True, there are some championship tees (7,007 yards), but to play them you must (a) have your name professionally stitched on your bag or (b) prove that your head has been recently examined.

Why invite that kind of misery (75 rating, 140 slope) when White Clay Creek offers plenty of oomph from the black tees, at 6,467 yards (72.2 rating, 135 slope), or even fewer forced carries from the white (5,884) or the green (5,297)?

I'm hard-pressed to think of a perfectly straight hole at White Clay Creek , except for No. 1; and even that short par 4, with a lay-up shot off the tee and a tricky green, is a sneaky bogey waiting to happen. After that, the course is a series of twists and turns, some subtle, some dicey.

One complaint: White Clay Creek is not a walker's course, not because of hills or ponds but because of the sprawling nature of the property. No lie, it is a $10 cab ride from the second green to the third tee. Granted, these days most people favor carts, but I think it detracts from the overall charm.

If you never knew White Clay Creek was in the works, you had no reason to wonder why its opening kept getting delayed. The reason was flooding.

When construction began in February 2002 - at the tail end of the great golf course boom - Fasy and others at Delaware Park knew that 90 percent of the property was part of a flood plain. But they had no idea how bad the situation was until the following year, in the middle of the project, when it started to rain . . . and rain . . . and rain.

"We had 18 50-year floods in a two-year period," said Fasy, still uneasy at the recollection.

It became obvious that if White Clay Creek was going to be a golf course in addition to being a creek, the equation was going to involve more time, money, engineers, bulldozers and environmental watchdogs. Berms, or dikelike mounds, were added to low-lying fairways that border the creek and are most subject to flooding.

So far, so good. White Clay Creek is up and running, ready and waiting. The operators just hope golfers notice.

Contact staff writer Joe Logan at 215-854-5604 or jlogan@phillynews.com.