White Clay Creek Set to Open

White Clay Creek Country Club at Delaware Park, the latest in a string of Mid-Atlantic pearls designed by Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest & Associates, will open for public play Tuesday, June 28.

The two dominant features on this upscale daily-fee layout are both accounted for in its name. White Clay Creek and its tributaries meander throughout the 230-acre site; 16 of the 18 holes are bounded or crossed by river, stream, wetland or pond. The back nine stretch of Nos. 11-16 is particularly dramatic and testing, as golfers play from elevated river-bank tees back and forth across rushing waters.

Developed by the owners of Delaware Park – a thoroughbred race track that also offers a slots casino – the 7,007-yard White Clay Creek layout plays inventively around the facility itself, in full view of ponies, paddocks and practice rings.

"A round at White Clay Creek is certainly a dramatic, eclectic journey – past racetracks, railroads, tunnels, a water tower, a casino, and some of the most scenic, tree-lined river settings anywhere," says Steve Forrest, the Hills/Forrest partner who directed the project. "I can't imagine there's another facility quite like it. The walk from the second green to the third tee goes right by the practice ring, and I guess it goes without saying the aprés-golf options at White Clay are remarkably extensive."

Toledo, Ohio-based Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest & Associates has designed more than 180 golf course projects worldwide, including several of the Mid-Atlantic region's top public/resort tracks: The Links at Lighthouse Sound in Ocean City, Md., Maryland National in Frederick, and Blue Mash in Olney, Md., to name but a few.

Because of the property's unique physical attributes, and the design strategies for which Hills/Forrest is renowned, White Clay Creek – located minutes south of Wilmington just off Interstate 95 (Exit 4B) – is poised to set an even higher standard for public golf in the region.

"Most courses are lucky to feature a single river crossing, maybe two," Forrest says. "We were fortunate at White Clay Creek to incorporate four on the back nine alone! The 11th is a 444-yard par-4 where players must challenge a bend in the river; the 314-yard 12th plays across the opposite elbow – it's a driveable par-4 for the bold; 13 is a gorgeous par-3 across water; and 14 is another par-4 where the river tempts players to bite off as much of the river bank as they dare.”

Where the creek and its tributaries didn't allow for risk-reward strategies, Hills/Forrest created them. The ninth at White Clay Creek is a good example: "It's a drivable par-4 built entirely in the flood plain," Forrest explains. "The green complex is essentially a volcano that will kick approaches away, from the fairway or the tee, if they're not accurate. It's a wonderful temptation hole that begs the player to hit driver."

Designing a golf course in such close proximity to so much water presented Hills/Forrest and White Clay Creek's developers Parkside III, LLC, with several environmental challenges. Indeed, heavy rains caused a series of flood episodes in 2004 delaying completion of the project. However, they also provided Hills/Forrest and White Clay superintendent Scott Boyd the opportunity to address worst-case drainage scenarios in advance of opening. Hills/Forrest also went to extraordinary lengths to preserve the purity and safe passage of the waterways that figure so prominently in the course design.

"No firm working in course architecture is better equipped to ensure environmental sensitivity than Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest & Associates," said Bill Fasy, chief operating officer of Delaware Park. "That is one of the reasons we selected them, and they did a fantastic job incorporating the course into the existing terrain and not disturbing the natural habitat."

In 1995, the Hills/Forrest design at Collier's Reserve GC in Naples, Fla., became the first course in the world to earn Audubon International's Cooperative Gold Signature Sanctuary status, golf's highest environmental honor. Oitavos Golfe Quinta da Marinha in Cascais, Portugal – host of the European PGA Tour's Open of Portugal – became Audubon's first International Gold Signature Sanctuary when it opened in 2001.

White Clay Creek was designed and built with the same attention to environmental detail, which Hills/Forrest then used to the greatest architectural advantage. "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.

"Building up green sites is another design benefit, even if it's mandated by flood plain conditions, because any time you have a slope into which to build a bunker, it makes for a more dramatic and attractive bunker."

Flanking a diverse set of bentgrass putting surfaces and accenting undulating, riverside fairways, White Clay's 48 bunkers are some of the Mid-Atlantic region's most dramatic course features.

Off the course, White Clay Creek boasts a nice complement of amenities, including a golf academy for players of all abilities; an extensive multi-disciplinary practice facility; and an exquisite new clubhouse with restaurant, bar, banquet rooms, extensive locker amenities (including a fitness center), deluxe pro shop, and indoor teaching facility. With the casino and race track right next door, White Clay Creek is far more than a golf club.

Membership in White Clay Creek is free but requires registration as a member of the Delaware Park Player Rewards Club. Greens fees are $110 and include a cart, range balls and full use of the locker facilities including fitness center and sauna. For additional information or a tee time, call 302/994-2521, or visit www.whiteclaycreekcc.com.