Those familiar with bears know that Kodiaks are the biggest and the baddest, dwarfing even the mighty Polar Bear. It’s a little surprising then that the Kodiak takes a backseat at Bear Trap Dunes to the Black and Grizzly nines as part of this 27-hole complex a few miles off the beach.
As is so often the case with bear-themed golf operations, the plans come from the offices of Nicklaus Design, however the Golden Bear himself did not handle this design. That honor instead goes to his longtime associate Rick Jacobsen.
Opening the front nine with the Black holes, players may draw a line to the actual behavior of Black Bears, which come into contact with humans more than any other species. Likewise, as players travel around the large bunkers and water hazards of the Black nine, they’ll also come in contact with the bulk of the area’s residential development.
Things open up during the Grizzly nine, where the housing disappears and the “dunes” from the title come into play. The managers have maintained native scrub and other plants around the edges and waste areas on this nine, to provide a more isolated golfing experience.
My overall rating is referenced to what you find on the golf front when in Delaware. The overall pickings are quite limited although as you travel nearer to Wilmington you do get better terrain. The courses nearer to the Atlantic coast are naturally dead flat and only a few really elicit much interest. Bear Trap Dunes is on that short list.
Credit architect Rick Jacobsen for an engaging layout. Yes, there's plenty of water to circumnavigate and if you play from the appropriate tees the test is a manageable one provided the daily wind pattern is not howling.
The opening two holes are meant to get the golf muscles moving and hardly showcase what lies ahead.
The routing is smartly done given that there's 27 holes all crowding into the tight landscape. Jacobsen did a fine effort in constantly moving holes about -- you can't settle in one type of shot because the movements are constant.
The inward half -- called Grizzly is aptly named. The shotmaking challenges do intensify and the wherewithal to work the ball is called upon at different times on the side. The ending trio caps the round in a splendid manner. The long par-4 16th keeps turning left with a lurking water penalty area awaiting the mishit shot.
The par-3 17th is a quality hole -- the same water penalty area near enough to the green on the left side so the slightest of pulled shots to the left will mean a wet conclusion. The ending par-5 18th provides one last opportunity to end the round on a high note but Jacobsen does not allow birdies to be made without the requisite quality shots played.
The layout gets a good bit of play during the high season months when beachgoers flock to the area. Bear Trap Dunes does not get its rightful amount of attention but for those in the area in need of getting a round in golf in will find their time not wasted.
M. James Ward