The golf course at Louviers Country Club was built by the DuPont Corporation for its employees in 1955 and it operated as a staff facility for forty years until it was acquired by MBNA, who built a new clubhouse and renamed it Deerfield. A decade later, when Bank of America took control of the credit card company, the 145-acre site was deemed surplus to requirement, prompting the state of Delaware to step in to protect it from adverse development.
The surprise move was reported at the time in the following terms: “Early Friday morning, in the waning hours of the legislative session, the House and Senate introduced and quickly passed the $834.88 million capital spending plan. The bill, which was not made public until after midnight, contains a proposal to spend up to $6 million to acquire the Deerfield Golf and Tennis Club near Newark and make it part of White Clay Creek State Park.”
Under the Delaware Division of Parks and
Recreation, the property is now managed by Forewinds Hospitality, with public
golfers able to access the course since it first re-opened in April 2006.
For a course of its era, I rather liked Deerfield. It was playable and enjoyable, albeit somewhat unmemorable. The course sits in a particularly hilly area, even for northern Delaware; for those who aren’t privy to the First State’s unique characteristics, it’s essentially two very different landscapes divided rather starkly by the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. South of the canal is flat and mostly rural, except the beaches, and north of the canal is very hilly and mostly urban/suburban. Deerfield lies less than a mile from the “Wedge”, a slice of land formerly disputed between Delware and Pennsylvania due to colonial-era surveys and land grants not jiving with each other. In case you can’t tell, I like Delaware and find it fascinating, which makes it all the more surprising that my round at Deerfield is the only round of golf I ever played there, given that I lived within 20 miles of the border for three and a half years of my life.
Anyway, I digress. Deerfield is very 1950s, with narrow hole corridors and tiny greens, and every hole being somewhat similar to the others. It’s not overly long, but the fairways are tight and the rough (at least when I played it) was particularly penal. The front nine features particularly narrow holes with a lot more elevation change, while the back nine is slightly more open as it climbs the hill towards the entrance road. There are a few uphill semi-blind approaches on the course, and the greens feature heavy slope, but aren’t super difficult as the slopes are rather consistent (i.e. back to front, side to side). A previous reviewer suggested that walking the course was rare; in my exuberant youth, I did walk it, although I regretted it afterward. As the course leveled out, my game improved, and I shot a significantly better score on the back nine.
Deerfield deserves its place among the top public layouts in the First State as it’s a fun golf course with great conditioning, but it’s certainly very cookie cutter architecture-wise and not really worth traveling a great distance to play.
Played August 6, 2006
Legend has it that when William Gordon was asked to design Stanwich Country Club’s course, he gave them three options and they chose the toughest. Gordon’s work at Deerfield does not approach the difficulty one finds at Stanwich, but the 6300 yards he squeezed into a small parcel a few hundred yards from where Delaware meets Pennsylvania and Maryland is not without its challenges.
The land E.I duPont de Demours and Company allocated for golf includes a steep north-south ridge atop which where the club’s driveway now sits. Seven times the course descends the side of the ridge and seven times it returns, making for a quite a hike. The highest point in Delaware, nearby Ebright Azimuth, is only 443 feet above sea level. By the time the golfer finishes the round at Deerfield, (s)he will have covered much more verticality than that…….which is probably why very few golfers ever walk the course.
Doglegs abound here (nine by my count), but few challenge the golfer to figure out how much of the dogleg to cut off to provide an advantageous next shot. The 17th, which turns sharply to the right around a bunker complex, is a good example. The greenside bunker is on the wrong side—the right—meaning that a drive away from the fairway bunker yields the best approach to the green. And though that hole does allow a running approach, many others do not, including the 14th where 30 yards of rough have been grown in front of the green.
Most greens slope steeply down from back to front, enough so that putting off the green is a real opportunity at holes such as 6, 11 and 12. And there’s not much variety to them. Many are bowl shaped, with the highest points on the side or at the rear.
Conditions were excellent in early April 2018, but that seemed to me the course’s best feature.