DuPont CC Aims for 'Wow!' Courses

By: Mark Leslie

Once the home of five superb golf courses, including one designed by Donald Ross and two each by Alfred Tull and William F. Gordon, DuPont Country Club (CC) in Wilmington, Deleware intends to return to its glory days.

"We've had some great golf courses in the past. Through various property-line changes and construction of the DuPont research facilities, we now have one good course left, along with two others. We want to boast those 'Wow!' golf courses again," said John Gosselin, facilities and sports manager for the country club which annually hosts the LPGA MacDonalds Championship. "We will set ourselves up for next 25 years," he added.

To accomplish that lofty goal, DuPont engaged golf course architect Lester George of Richmond, Virginia to perform a "sympathetic restoration" of the DuPont Course, designed by Tull in 1938, and to draft a master plan for the entire 600-acre property. Besides the DuPont Course, the facility now includes the Nemours Course, designed by Gordon in the 1950s and redesigned by various architects over the years, and the Montchanin Course, a par-65 track with nine holes designed by Gordon and nine later designed by Geoffrey Cornish and William G. Robinson.

DuPont CC officials have charged George with tearing down the Nemours Course and rebuilding a brand-new 18 holes on that tract plus the DuPont family’s former 65-acre estate. He will also either rebuild the newer nine on the Montchanin Course and restore the Gordon nine, or rebuild the entire 18 holes. George will also design a practice facility.

"We hired Lester George because he is strong on tradition," said Gosselin. "We are not selling condos or townhouses. We're not looking to put in gimmicks to attract outside play. We just need three great golf courses. We're not far off. We have the land. We have 6,000 members (DuPont company employees are all eligible). And we are owned by DuPont, so we have all the key ingredients."

George's immediate concern is restoring the famous Tull touch to the DuPont Course. "Tull produced flamboyant greens and some ferocious bunkers," George said. "But when the greens were dug out in 1954 to install drainage, they were flattened. They have also shrunk over the years. They need to be modernized and have the Tull character restored.

"Meanwhile, some of the bunkers have been taken out of play by moving fairway lines and building cart paths, etc. One of the things we will do is correct the cart-path routing that seems to be interfering with good features of the golf course."

Having met with the LPGA Hall-of-Famer and MacDonalds Tournament Director Betsy Rawls, and with former LPGA player Alice Miller, George said he will take viewing areas into account, but his main intent will be to create a better golf course for club members which, in turn, will make it better for all players. Some of the holes have only one tee box, so George will add several sets of forward tees as well as redo or lengthen existing ones throughout the course.

Simply put, George said, "DuPont is a course in need of rest," a rest that will be ensured by this construction, which is expected to begin after the LPGA tournament in order to be finished and ready for play for the ensuing year.

"The DuPont Course is on a great piece of property," Gosselin said. "The course is good now and should be fantastic when Lester is done with it. We are also excited about the Nemours Course that we're building from scratch."

According to Gosselin, once builders are in the middle of the DuPont Course construction, he will seek funds to build the brand-new Nemours. Reconstruction of the Montchanin course will follow. All three courses share the same clubhouse.

"With no disrespect to any of the architects who have worked on the Nemours Course, it has been encroached upon in so many ways over the years that it needs to be relooked at in its entirety," George said. "And it is an incredible opportunity because it is a magnificent piece of land. It is gently to moderately rolling, with some steep slopes, rock outcroppings, hand-stacked stone walls and creeks that run through it and some of the largest mature poplar trees I have ever seen. The reservoir for the irrigation is on that side of the property as well."

New-generation bentgrasses will be seeded tee to green, he said. George's master plan should be complete by the end of the summer, and construction could start in 2002 or 2003, according to Gosselin.