6,763 yards, 135 slope from the Blues
In Wilmington, Delaware, The Dupont Country Club opened in 1921 and was originally tied to the DuPont family. In fact, one of the clubhouses on the property used to be a DuPont residence. The club has comprehensive facilities, which includes three golf courses and four practice facilities. The DuPont Championship Course is the main attraction of the golf courses, designed by Alfred Tull in 1949 and hosting the LPGA Championship from 1994 – 2004. Tull worked with Devereaux Emmet and his work includes Bethpage Yellow, where he worked with A.W. Tillinghast. Lester George then came in 2005 to perform significant remodeling work. George’s work was a combination of restoring historical integrity along with evolving its features to confront the modern game. Indeed, the work was extensive and transformed the course in many ways. Nineteen bunkers were added, greens were enlarged just over 20%, fairways were enlarged by about 30% and tee areas by about 50%. Trees were more reconfigured than anything, taking out those that interfered with playing corridors and planting more in other areas. Thematically, George stayed true to Tull’s design concepts but made changes to the routing, greens and tee placement as appropriate. The result at the end of the day was an entirely new course that enhanced Tull’s original vision while improving on it based on the hindsight and input of decades of play.
The course is on rippling property. Mounds jut up here and there, which provides a good amount of the course’s definition. Green sites are often placed on or at the base of these mounds while fairways run between or around them. In flatter areas, the greens are often raised anyways, with bunkers always lurking on either side. Trending more towards a lower profile design, it’s fairly open with trees scattered about in off fairway areas for the most part. Strategy off the tee was an underrated feature, where the width usually provides a false sense of security. There are preferred angles into the greens and while you may have an approach into them from a lot of different spots, the bunkers and mounds start conspiring to make those approaches a lot more challenging depending on the angle. While a few holes stood out, the course is nondescript in many ways. There’s not much you can’t find elsewhere but that’s beside the point. Its presentation here and how it unfolds before you is what matters and at least in that respect, the measure of challenge and forgiveness the course provides simultaneously is noteworthy.
After a lesson that implemented a swing change, things were a lot better yet I wasn’t out of the woods so to speak. Relief and excitement replaced dread and desperation, so in an improved state of mind and the season very much still ahead of me, I took my game for a round in the land of DuPont.
The First is a 360 yard par 4 (from the Blues). Husbands Run runs at the end of the fairway, which takes driver out of play for most off the tee, as laying up short of the Run is the smartest play, although the longer players could consider carrying it altogether. A well placed tee shot will result in a short iron or wedge into the green, which wide yet slopes severely from left to right and off the front. This green also gives us a first look at the off green short grass areas, which undulate and slope in their own right, offering a nice alternative to the surrounding rough.
The Second is a 581 yard par 5. A tad uphill and just a smidge to the right, the tree lined fairway has bunkers spotted on either side as you head up to the green. These bunkers and accompanying rough start to encroach on the fairway as you get closer to the green, creating a little bit of left to right movement. The green is where most of the interest lies, moving back to front, deep and wide. Knowing what angle to approach this green from considering pin location is what gives this hole intrigue, as the green has a ton of movement and putting from the wrong area could start piling up strokes.
The Third is a 367 yard par 4. Still running along the outer perimeter of the course, another shorter par 4 awaits us, this one tracking left from the tee. Bunkers are off to the left and the treeline on the right comes into play for overly aggressive tee shots that don’t turn over. The approach is through or over a group of larger bunkers lurking below the green and apron while the green is a kidney shape that curves to the right. It’s a fun hole that gives you a lot of options on each shot.
The Fourth is a 215 yard par 3. While this hole pulverized my delicate sense of golfing confidence I had at the time, I quite liked it. A longer par 3 uphill with cavernous bunkers dominating both sides of the green, the course shifts its manner of play here to a more heroic/penal structure. Classic courses oftentimes challenged acumen with the long clubs and the Fourth certainly does that. A brawny hole with dangerous bunkers, the green is large enough to accommodate a lot of tee shots and you always have short of the green to bail out and play conservative as the occasion arises.
The Fifth is a 392 yard par 4. Finally delving into the interior of the course, surveying the hole from the tee suggests going down the right side is preferable. This is to avoid the bunkers on the left, but getting your tee shot between the bunkers on that side gives you a better line into the green. The green is deep and set at an angle from the fairway. Bunkers essentially line both sides of the green and beyond those, the slopes fall away severely, so this is one green to hone in on and hit with the approach.
The Sixth is a 437 yard par 4. Willow Run makes its first appearance of the round, running from top left to bottom right at the end of the fairway. Before it, the fairway runs off to the left from the tee, yet the closer you stay to the right, the shorter your approach, as the green is on the other side of Willow Run on the right side. The longer and accurate among us may try to carry the Run altogether from the tee since there’s some room on that side to do so but that needs to be a very impressive shot indeed. The green is underrated here with all the intrigue and chaos the Run brings, but its movement off the back side and shaping make it a lot of fun in its own right.
The Seventh is a 531 yard par 5. The march back to the clubhouse begins here. The tee shot is a forced carry over long grass to a tree lined fairway that dog legs slightly to the right. Bunkers are at each side of the turn, then more pronounced near the green. The green is on the smaller side and bunkers get well below it. If anything, this is a hole to get a stroke or two back on.
The Eighth is a 166 yard par 3. The green is a little below the tee, a wide affair that can run off the back side. A ridge runs through towards the center of the green, eschewing putts towards the edges. It’s a balance of carrying the bunkers in the front while avoiding going off the back. I missed a one footer for par here because the pin was near that center ridge. That still pains me to this day.
The Ninth is a 423 yard par 4. Just like the First, Husbands Run is here to greet us. This time, running up straight up from the tee, splitting the fairway on the right with that on the left. Deciding which side to go for off the tee is a matter of preference, but the fairway on the right is easier to reach and unimpeded from the tee. Either way, you’ll need to clear the tree that sits in the center of the hole and start the clim uphill to the green. An array of different angles and areas from which to approach the green, getting the ball in a position for a manageable approach off the tee is vital.
The front nine covers the southern part of the property, has very good par 3’s, a few fun par 4’s yet the par 5’s are a bit redundant. I would rank them 4, 6, 3, 1, 5, 9, 8, 2, 7.
The back nine starts with the 432 yard par 4 Tenth. A dog leg left around a small hillside, the tee shot negotiates a fairway that moves from left to right with a bunker on the left very much in play off the tee. The fairway turns left and slightly uphill to the green, bunkers on the left and right, below it. A gentle hole off the tee that gets sharper as you get closer to the green.
The Eleventh is a 421 yard par 4. A much stronger dog leg than the Tenth, this one to the right. Figuring out what to hit off the tee and where to hit it is fun to ponder and oftentimes probably means taking something less than driver. Once after the turn, the green is raised with bunkers well below the green. The green moves from right to left, hard.
The Twelfth is a 410 yard par 4. Another strong dog leg, this one to the left. While the tee shot line is a little more clear than the Eleventh, some may want to try and carry the turn for a shorter approach. Closer to the left does mean a shorter approach in but even tee shots that stay in the middle and get to the turn will have a manageable approach in. The green is above the fairway, mounds hiding it on the right while the opening is more on the left. The green is yet another fun one, moving from front left to back right, so those going for the opening on the approach should consider that movement.
The Thirteenth is a 375 yard par 4. A dog leg right and we’re officially slaloming. A wide fairway with bunkers at each side of the turn, then narrowing after the turn to the green. The green has most of the interest here with a sweeping apron in front and the right side sloping up. One of the few places where the green is set at grade, which in turn engages some interesting ground game options, especially with the movement of the green.
The Fourteenth is a 170 yard par 3. A raised large green with bunkers on either side and bail out room short of it all.
The Fifteenth is a 375 yard par 4. A blind tee shot as the fairway moves downhill yet as seen in the photo below, the flag peeks ever so slightly above it. Once the fairway dives, the green is before you, with the fairway tilting to the right and bunkers on that side as well. While there’s a small entry point to thew green on the left, most will need an aerial approach over the green side bunkers. The green is a lot of fun in its own right, tilting and undulating in various directions depending on the area of the green. It’s a good hole, brimming with excitement and various manners of play.
The Sixteenth is a 388 yard par 4. A slight dog leg right moving uphill, bunkers on either side of the fairway are in play off the tee and must be avoided. The hole plays longer than the stated yardage because it’s almost all uphill and if thew wind is against you, all the longer. As we’ve seen, the fairway swerves around bunkers on either side leading up to the green, which is then pushed up a bit with bunkers carved in below.
The Seventeenth is a 190 yard par 3. Longer, but with the green set below the tee, some reprieve. A great green that tilts from left to right with a long apron before it. This is very much about pin placement and how you approach the hole once on the green.
The Eighteenth is a 530 yard par 5. Husbands Run sees us off here, first off to the right of the tee, then crossing the fairway altogether. The fairway dog legs right off the tee so those trying to cut the turn that go too far right will get a closer look at the Run. The second shot must carry the Run. The fairway on the other side does the swervy thing between the bunkers to a deep green. The practice green is behind it, so don’t get confused on the approach. A well hit tee shot gives you a lot of decisions on how best to get over the Run and on to the green for a nice finish. For those that miss those putts and don’t close out the way they hoped for, the practice green is a few paces away.
The back nine is a bit wider and shorter than the front yet seemed like it presented more opportunities for strategic advantages. It certainly featured a lot of dog legs yet varied the play on them enough. My ranking of them would be 15, 18, 12, 11, 10, 17, 13, 16, 14.
Generally, DuPont combines modern and classic design tenets nicely. The bunkering and greens have a more modern look to them while the dog legs and strategy off the tee harkened to more classic concepts. The overall theme gives the course an enjoyable round that remains engaging with the hills and greens for the most part. While cohesive, some of the design features got a bit redundant at times. But there’s some holes that shift things to the thrilling side while the creeks are used sparingly and effectively, which takes those moments of repetitiveness as fleeting.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: An extensive and elaborate clubhouse is at hand while the pro shop is well sized with anything you need.
Practice area: Also extensive and elaborate, and multiple, very well done.
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