WHITE CLAY CREEK COUNTRY CLUB
Course Architect(s): Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest
Year Opened: 2005
Location: Wilmington, Delaware
Slope: 140. Rating: 75.0
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 417 Yds 10 - Par 5 582 Yds
2 - Par 4 382 Yds 11 - Par 4 444 Yds
3 - Par 5 593 Yds 12 - Par 4 314 Yds
4 - Par 3 243 Yds 13 - Par 3 190 Yds
5 - Par 4 400 Yds 14 - Par 4 375 Yds
6 - Par 4 491 Yds 15 - Par 5 550 Yds
7 - Par 3 221 Yds 16 - Par 4 392 Yds
8 - Par 5 515 Yds 17 - Par 3 183 Yds
9 - Par 4 343 Yds 18 - Par 4 372 Yds
Par 36 3,605 Yds Par 36 3,402 Yds
HISTORY: When a course is opened for a short period of time, most expect
plenty of growing pains. Not White Clay Creek at Delaware Park. Open for play
in June of 2005, WCC is already drawing rave reviews. "We asked Arthur Hills
and Steve Forrest to design a course that would complement and not disturb the
existing natural environment," said Bill Fasy, COO for Delaware Park. "They
did a terrific job and the course has a very mature feel already."
Hills and Forrest have crafted over 180 courses around the world, such as
Collier's Reserve in Naples, Florida, Oitavos Golfe Quinta da Marinha in
Cascais, Portugal and The Links at Lighthouse Sound in Ocean City, Maryland.
Designing the WCC was not that easy, as the course was built in the flood
plain around the meandering tributaries of White Clay Creek. With that in
mind, the opening of the course was delayed due to heavy rains which caused
flooding in 2004. The added delay however, enabled Hills and Forrest to
address some of the worst-case scenarios for drainage. "Because almost all of
the golf course was built in the flood plain, to get the permits we had to
design all the tee and green sites seven feet above the creek banks," Forrest
explains. "That meant that all the green features are at least five feet above
the flood level, above the creek banks. It was a fixed design consideration
for us, but one of which we took good advantage. Any time you can create an
elevated tee situation, like we did throughout the White Clay Creek project,
it gives you a better, more compelling view of the target area and the overall
golf hole itself."
White Clay Creek features 48 bunkers and water on 16 of the 18 holes. "Most
courses are lucky to feature a single river crossing, maybe two," said
Forrest. "We were fortunate at White Clay Creek to incorporate four on the
back nine alone."
REVIEW: Most courses, especially of the public variety, start the player off
with a simple opening hole. This is not the case at White Clay Creek. Although
just 417 yards from the back tees, this straightaway par four, requires
pinpoint accuracy, not to mention plenty of skill. Despite a wide fairway, the
short grass is protected by a single bunker, located in the center of the
landing area, requiring a 185-yard carry. Driver, however is taken out of the
mix, since the fairway ends abruptly at the namesake of the course, as it
meanders throughout the venue. Three-metal down the left side and a medium
iron to the green is the play. The putting surface is quite long and slopes
from back to front and left to right, making club selection key to making par.
Another, somewhat benign hole, the second, is quite straightforward,
stretching just 382 yards and devoid of fairway sand. The objective on this
hole is hitting the fairway off the tee. Tree-lined on both sides, your tee
shot must carry the creek to reach the landing area. Just slightly left of the
fairway is deep rough, which could result in a lost ball, while right of the
target is water. A short iron will remain to a green guarded on the left-front
by a deep trap. The putting surface stretches from right to left and is one of
the smallest on the course. A back-left pin could require an extra club, but
be careful, as anything long will make a difficult up and down.
Not only the longest hole on the course, but the third most difficult at White
Clay Creek, the third is a bear of a dog-leg left par five. Don't be lulled
into a false sense of enjoyment, as you drive a couple of minutes to the tee
listening to the stables and the horses from within. The drive alone to the
tee box is some 700 yards. Standing on the tee, you'll realize right away that
a big drive and second is a must. Once again, left of the landing area will
present problems, so bail out right and leave yourself a longer second shot.
Your layup will need to be accurate, as a large lake guards the right side and
sand and deep rough flank the left. The green is slightly elevated and quite
receptive, despite its narrow features. Sand guards the left and a chipping
area gathers missed shots to the right. The putting surface slopes from left
to right and features a ridge down the left-center. A good hole to make par
All you need to know on the fourth is that it's a whopping 243 yards from the
gold tees. The best play might be to just layup short of the green in the
fairway leading up to the putting surface. This can set up a short chip in an
effort to save par. If you feel bold, take out your three-metal and rip it. No
sand, but mounding left and a grass bunker, short and right. The green is not
too tricky, but a back-right flag will require a driver to reach. Making par
on four will be an extraordinary feat!
Not known as a signature hole at White Clay Creek, the fifth is one of my
favorites. A sharp, dog-leg right, this hole is only 400 yards from the tips,
but requires a carry over a ravine, as it plays slightly uphill. The key is to
aim at the Delaware Park water tower and cut it back towards the hole. Just
remember, too much right and tall trees will come into play. Two fairway
bunkers down the left side could catch the long hitter who runs through the
fairway. A short iron will remain to a green that's quite long and features a
deep trap, short and right of the putting surface. The slope of the green runs
from left to right and is quite slick.
You'll know if you chose the right tees to play when you get to the sixth.
Just shy of 500 yards, this par four is quite spectacular and very, very
difficult. Your tee ball requires a 250-yard rip just to reach the fairway and
it must avoid the deep rough and trees on both sides. The creek wanders in
front of the fairway and down the right side to make things interesting and if
that wasn't enough, a 20-yard wide trap looms in the center of the fairway,
reachable from the forward tees. Since the hole is so long, three traps are
placed strategically down the fairway, some 50-75 yards short of the green,
while three additional bunkers surround the putting surface. For good measure,
the green is the longest on the front nine and tilts from left to right. If
you didn't figure it out already, this is the number one handicap hole on the
A classic par three, the seventh is a beaute, stretching 221 yards. This hole
is framed exquisitely by the trees beyond the green, not to mention the three
traps guarding the entrance to the putting surface. This green is very long
and slopes from back to front with a humpback in the middle. Avoid the two
bunkers on either side of the opening portion of the green and you should
walk away with par.
Waterloo best describes the par-five eighth hole. Four fingers of water from
White Clay Creek jut out into this dogleg left, as you attempt to traverse
this gem. The play off the tee is down the right side of the fairway, thus
avoiding the water, although bringing a pair of traps into play. Decision time
awaits your next shot. Go for the green with a fairway metal or layup in
between two of the fingers of water. Most would layup, leaving a little wedge
to a fairly, descent sized green. However, the aggressive play should be to
go for the green in two, as there is plenty of room, short and right of the
green to bail out. Devoid of sand at the green, a simple chip remains, thus
setting up birdie.
One of the easier holes on the course, the ninth is a mere 343 yards in
length. Not so fast. Despite an overly wide fairway, the landing area is
guarded entirely down the right side by the large lake that appeared on the
third hole. The key is to choose the correct club off the tee, setting up your
most comfortable distance to the green. The difficulty of the ninth is the
putting surface, which is severely elevated and features a pair of traps just
left of center. Another tiny green, the most difficult pin is short-right,
which will play havoc with any approach not struck cleanly. Even from the red
tees, which are located near the third green, it requires a direct carry over
the lake to the fairway. A fun hole to complete the opening nine.
The inward nine opens with a lengthy par five, bending to the right with the
creek running down the entire right side. Off the tee, avoid at all costs the
three fairway bunkers down the left side, not to mention the trees down both
sides of the landing area. Your next shot must carry over a tributary of the
creek and either play short of or carry over the enormous fairway trap that
juts out into the landing zone. Your approach shot is made difficult by the
narrowness of the green. Although quite long, the putting surface is only 10
paces wide and slopes from back to front. Distance control can produce
Another exciting hole on the course, the 11th is great dogleg right par four,
that bends with the flow of White Clay Creek from tee to green. A strong fade
is the play off the tee, as you carve your first shot towards the fairway.
Don't be too greedy, as water looms large right and crosses the fairway closer
to the green. Your approach shot with a short to mid-iron must avoid the long,
greenside bunker on the left. The putting surface is quite long, making second
shots difficult to get close. A tough hole to birdie, let alone par.
If the wind is right and the conditions are firm, then the 12th could be the
most exciting hole on the course. Just 314 yards in length, this par four can
be reached with one precisely struck shot. However, certain key elements need
to be in place for this to occur. First of all, a nice breeze behind your back
for starters. Second, a high, solid blast with a driver to carry the
meandering creek that runs down the right side and in front of the green.
Finally, a little luck. The sensible play, is an iron or fairway metal short
of the creek, leaving 100 yards to the smallest green on the back nine. Either
way, this is a definite birdie chance.
The par-three 13th can certainly be unlucky if your tee shot misses the green.
Three bunkers are featured prominently, short and left of the putting surface.
Second, the green is very long and undulating and third, trees and White Clay
Creek flank the right side. To make matters worse, any shot long and left will
result in bogey or worse, as the slope to the side of the green, repels all
balls toward the deep rough.
It's time to be aggressive in an effort to get one back, as you play the 14th.
Just 375 yards is all that stands in your way to make birdie. Lock and load
with the big stick as you play this slightly downhill par four. Just be
mindful of the creek that encompasses the entire right side and the two
fairway traps down the left. A short iron awaits to another slender green that
is protected by a pair of deep traps, short and left of the surface. Certain
pin positions can make this green quite tricky.
The final four at White Clay Creek provide a stern test as you head for home.
First up is the 550 yard, par five 15th. Doglegging sharply to the left, your
opening shot requires a sweeping draw from the back tee, cutting off as much
of the lake in front of you as possible. Going for the green in two is not the
prudent play, as the fairway and green are very narrow. With that in mind, the
proper shot would be to layup, short of the fairway bunker, leaving yourself a
nice full wedge to another narrow green. Complications could arise, as water
remains down the entire left side and out of bounds down the right.
What makes the 16th hole difficult is the importance of accuracy. To start off
with, water guards the left side of the landing area, jutting out right to the
edge of the fairway. Bailing out right will only result in a longer second
shot, or worse, an approach from the rough. Your second shot must carry across
two fingers of water and deep rough en route to the green which is protected,
front-right by sand and left by, you guessed it, water. The putting surface is
again long and narrow, making your approach even more difficult.
The final par three on the course is certainly the most dramatic, with water
down the entire left side of the hole. The raised mounding behind the green
makes for great theatre, as players come down the stretch and head for home.
With the wind up, this can be a three-to-four club swing, as there are no
trees to protect from the elements. A mid to long iron should suffice to the
biggest green on the course, at least 25 paces in length. To err right is
human, to miss left is jail.
Last and certainly not least, the 18th hole epitomizes what White Clay Creek
is all about, accuracy and control. Although the tee box area is wide open,
the landing area is very narrow, with trees both right and left and of course,
water to cross. Just 372 yards from the back buttons, the finale at WCC still
requires driver off the tee to clear the creek and reach the landing area. A
flip wedge will remain to a long, narrow green with sand on both sides of the
putting surface. The slope of the green is from back to front, so play below
the hole to set up your best shot at birdie, a great way to finish your round.
FINAL WORD: It's only a matter of time until White Clay Creek begins to
receive accolades from around the golfing community. The course is a first-
class venue complete with a Golf Academy, indoor and outdoor practice
facilities, an exercise center and a 40,000 square-foot clubhouse, complete
with 250-person banquet room. The factors that make this place unique are
numerous. First of all, this course is for all types of players. With five
sets of tees, ranging from 4,827 yards to just over 7,000, WCC is for
beginners, as well as the best of players. Secondly, the track is spread out
over 230 acres, surrounding Delaware Park, the only thoroughbred race track in
the state. Next, White Clay Creek wanders throughout the course, playing havoc
on every hole. The conditioning of the course, even though opened only a short
period of time, is outstanding to say the least. How about the flag sticks?
Sitting on top of each flag pole is the club's signature jockey's helmet, the
"Cap." Finally, it's public! Yes, everyone can play this course and the price
is right. From a low of $65 in December to a high of $110 during the summer
months, WCC is most definitely affordable. To play the course, players must
first be a registered member of the Delaware Park Player Rewards Club, at no
cost. This of course, is one way of enticing you play at the track or the
slots casino. Most courses try to nickle and dime you, not White Clay Creek.
With your green fee comes use of a golf cart, range balls and full use of the
locker facilities, including the fitness center and sauna. Racing from April
through November, slots every day of the year and golf from March through
December, the bottom line, White Clay Creek is a winner.