One of three 18-hole layouts at the DuPont Country Club, the DuPont course was originally designed by Alfred Tull in 1949 and it played host to the LPGA Championships from 1994 to 2004 when Laura Davies, Julie Inkster, Se Ri Pak and Annika Sorenstam each won the event twice.
Virginian architect Lester George was called in to remodel the layout in 2005 and it has since been used for the Delaware State Championships as well as regional qualifying for the US Open and US Amateur.
The 460-yard 15th is considered the signature hole on the DuPont course. A creek called “Husbands Run” flanks the right side of the hole on this par four before cutting across the fairway in front of a heavily contoured green.
In 2018 the DuPont Corporation sold the nearly 100 year DuPont Country Club to Ben DuPont and his primary business partner Don Wirth, a former executive at DuPont. I was told a few others have also acquired a small ownership stake but cannot confirm that. Since the sale, investments have been made in a new swimming pool, a 19,000 square feet two-story fitness center and updating the 113,000 square feet clubhouse. There is a large area devoted to tennis, both indoor and outdoor including grass tennis courts. I was told I would impressed with the driving range and practice center which was relocated closer to the clubhouse accessible via a short walk or cart ride. The driving range is one of the larger ones in the greater Philadelphia/Wilmington area with a short game practice area that is unrivaled. The practice facility spans 30 acres of which 4 acres is dedicated to the short game comprised of 5 greens, multiple bunkers and putting greens. There is also a 9,000 square feet indoor teaching academy. All of this work was done by Sanford Golf Design.
There are two eighteen hole courses at the club, with a third course being a par 3 course. The par 3 used to be 18 holes but was reduced in order to accommodate the new practice facilities. All told, the new owners have put a minimum of $21 million into the club (and counting).
The new owners also refreshed the courses, doing tree removal, new bunker placements, removing a pond, moving tees, etc. The better of the courses is the DuPont course, which held the McDonalds LPGA from 1986-2003. Multiple winners included Laurie Davies, Se Ri Pak, Julie Inkster and Annika Sorenstam. I actually attended the third round of the event in 1988 and recalled the course having substantially more trees.
The course was first constructed under Alfred Tull, opening in 1949. Mr. Tull had worked with Devereaux Emmet and A.W. Tillinghast on other projects. In 2005 Lester George was asked to modernize the course. Mr. George did not change the routing, but renovated and restored the course by adding nineteen bunkers, enlarging the greens and fairways and repositioning tees. Trees were both removed if they interfered with the playing corridors or added if needed for defensive purposes.
One item I will note is that the original routing has been restored with the front nine beginning in front of the clubhouse as one of the shorter holes on the course. As noted in the overview, the difficult fifteen is now the sixth. There are numerous doglegs on the course with several of these holes have a definite preferred landing zone in order to best attack the green. I do not consider Dupont to be a course where “the course is right in front of you” due to the many doglegs as well as some raised bunkers disguising the location of the green or pin. One slight criticism of the routing is that the front nine is on one side of the property and the back nine on the opposite meaning holes tend to go slightly up and down rather than across some of the rises and falls. There are no “banked” fairways as a result.
From the Black tees the course is now 7120 yards par 71 while the Blue tees play a sturdy 6763 yards and the Gold tees, preferred by most members, are at 6325 yards.
I was told that the course was on rolling property but I found it to be flatter than I expected. There are rises and falls to the land but one does not get the feeling of playing across a valley or to a substantial rise. Many of the greens are raised but given the age of the course they look “natural” even if one can easily determine that earth was moved to create them.
There are a lot of trees that remain on the property yet the fairways have substantial width. One can hit into the trees but it requires a very poor wayward shot. I am not a huge fan of trees on a golf course, but here they add to the ambience of the course particularly since there are several holes running parallel to roads and houses.
The bunkering is good and adds to the challenge of the holes as opposed to some courses where one is puzzled as to the location. There are not many overly deep bunkers so recovery is usually possible and not overly punitive. The greenside bunkering is good both in size, shape, number and placement.
The greens do not feature many sizeable spines, bowls or depressions although they can be found on a few holes. The greens are defined more by a few peninsula locations or simply steeper slopes.
1. Par 4 – This short hole falls downhill with a stream cutting across the fairway about 60-80 yards from the green. There is a large bunker on the right that can collect tee shots although above average length or longer players will have to worry about hitting into the stream, named Husbands Run. If one hits too far to the left they will be blocked by trees. The green is on a hill with a substantial false front as well as a steep slope to the front on the right side with a plateau behind it that falls away from the player. The green has good mounding and bunkering surrounding the hole with a higher mound on the left side. While it is not difficult to get to the hole in regulation, a par is not a given due to the excellent shaping of this green.
2. Par 5 – The Black tee now stretches to 610 yards with the member’s tee at 552 yards. I found this hole to be one of the lesser holes on the course playing very slightly uphill with a road and housing to the right. The trees and bunkers are scattered down both sides of this wide fairway. The hole features ten bunkers with the most interesting one being the one on the left front of the green which is angled to the left. The wide green is average in character with an overall tilt to the front.
3. Par 4 – this is another short par 4 bending left to a green that is on lower ground. Hit too far to the right and you might be in the trees. Hit too far left and you will be in thicker trees. The ideal tee shot needs to split the flanking bunkers which significantly narrow the width of the fairway. The green is angled to the right with three bunkers protecting the front. This is one of the most fun holes on the course due to the shape of the green which “hides” behind those bunkers. The only real negative to this hole is the road and housing off to the right.
4. Par 3 – this is the longest par 3 on the course at 241 yards although the member tees reduce it to a more manageable 181 yards. Adding to its length is that it plays uphill. There is an early bunker on the left that is a bit perplexing followed by two very deep bunkers flanking the green. The green is large but bean shaped to the right providing even more difficulty to this hole. There is adequate width to the hole such that a safe play is to be short of the green. It is not the best par 3 on the course but likely does yield the highest scores.
5. Par 4 – We finally play an interior hole with this one being a shorter dogleg left. Two large bunkers down the right make the play off the tee to the left yet the green is placed a bit to the right so the ideal line is either short of the second fairway bunker on the left or longer if one has the length. This is the best bunkered green on the course with both a central bunker just short of the green and three bunkers on either side. The green is smallish with a fall-off at the rear. There is good tilt to this green surface. It is a pleasantly fun hole.
6. Par 4 – This is the first longer par 4 stretching to 460 yards from the Black tee. This is the hardest hole on the front nine and the best hole on the course. The hole plays to a fairway that is divided by Willow Run which runs down the right side between the fairway and thick trees. Willow Run continues on a straight line with the left side of the fairway ending to the left of the green about 50 yards short of its placement. The fairway to the right side of Willow Run starts about 100 yards short of the green. For those going down the left side of the fairway to play away from the trees and Willow Run they have to thread a narrow fairway or carry the large bunker on the left. Another large bunker is placed at the end of the left side fairway. The farther up the left one goes the more awkward the shot to the green is. To add to the difficulty of attacking a green that is fronted on the left by piled/stacked rocks as this is a raised green of five feet, there is an opposing large bunker on the right side of the green so any shot coming onto the green from the left must land as softly as possible. On our day the pin was placed at the back left of the green requiring one to hit their tee shot as close to the right side of the fairway as possible in order to have an angle into this green. For those who cannot reach this green in two, the split fairway on the right offers the chance to lay up in front of the green. This is an excellent green with a tall spine running from the left corner of the green to the right middle. My putt from the back right to the back left had to crest this nearly 30” spine and once accomplished move sharply to the right and rolling out another fifteen feet such is the slope after the spine. This is the type of hole one only wants to see once on a golf course and I admired it both for its strategy to the green and on the green.
7. Par 5 – Another long par 5 at 574 yards but again manageable from the member tees at 520 yards. This hole bends to the right off the tee with the longer hitters trying to carry the large/raised fairway bunker placed on the inner corner for added distance. Another bunker is on the left further up but very much in play off the tee. The raised green is well defended with three bunkers with the green having a back left section somewhat hidden behind a fronting bunker. This is a green built in three sections but overall I thought the hole did not offer much intrique.
8. Par 3 – a mid-length par 3 playing downhill with three fronting bunkers. It is the most visually interesting par 3 on the course but I thought the green surrounds could have been more interesting. The green is divided into two parts by a central spine/hump with the front/right laying back to front and the rear/left moving front to back.
9. Par 4 – I think this is a “like it or don’t like it” hole. In my case I did not like the hole which offers a forced carry to a split fairway. The split fairway is due to Husbands Run running vertically to separate the two halves. In addition there is a large tree at the split in the fairways. While there is still ample room to go left of the large tree which substantially shortens the hole as it is a dogleg left, for those trying to play a safer line they leave themselves a very long approach shot on this uphill par 4. For those playing to the safer right side there is a large bunker opposite the tree. This makes the hole overly punitive. For those going left of the tree there are also two large bunkers on the left making a miss there overly punitive for the risk taken. Trees near the green block a shot to the green if one ends up in those two left bunkers. The green has fronting bunkers and is sloped back to front with a smaller central spine.
10. Par 4 – This longer hole bends to the left with flanking fairway bunkers although the left one is 35 yards ahead of the right one. There are three scattered trees down the left side of which the first tree has a bunker right below it, again making no sense to me since the next two trees block the line to the green. The green is angled to the right with two bunkers right and one left. This green has good contours. I did like that this hole asks one to make a decision: play down the left for a better and shorter approach into the green or sacrifice distance by playing to the safer right side although this also brings those two greenside bunkers more into play. The tenth is the first of four consecutive “army march” doglegs – left, right, left, right, which is a big reason why I questioned whether this is the best routing for the land.
11. Par 4 – it gets a bit confusing here because you actually cross by the eighteenth tee to get to eleven. This dogleg right offers the same decision as eleven although the dogleg starts at a shorter distance so bigger hitters really have no worry about clearing the right hand bunker. Although it is a long hole at 438 yards the fairway is slightly downhill from the tee. The raised green is probably the most severely sloped on the course both from front to back and right to left. One has to get onto this green due to a very narrow opening between the two front greenside bunkers. This hole did not do a lot for me even if it is the #1 index as I felt the dogleg is poorly shaped.
12. Par 4 – The third consecutive dogleg this one moving to the left with a collection of three raised bunkers on the inner corner. Previously there was a pond here but has been filled in and the three bunkers added. There is ample room to the right of the fairway and it does not really penalize one to go there. There is good mounding on the front of the left side of the green which moves from front right to back left.
13. Par 4 – the fourth consecutive dogleg now going to the right with a narrow opening in the fairway due to opposing bunkers placed just before the turn. Longer hitters will easily carry them as well as potentially get within 50 yards of this shorter par 4. The green has a back left plateau with flanking bunkers.
14. Par 3 – three of the par 3’s are in the same direction parallel to Country Club Drive which generally means they play into the same wind direction for the day. This hole is a mid-length par 3 with a raised green and flanking front bunkers. It is an average hole.
15. Par 4 – After beginning the back nine with four doglegs, the final two par 4’s are both essentially straight. The hole is blind from the tee going downhill. It has flanking fairway bunkers but the real excitement is at the green where four bunkers come into play including a very large one that both fronts the green and goes down the right half. The result is a green that requires a high lofted shot. The green is my favorite on the course with undulations and slopes in all directions, particularly influenced by the mound on the right side.
16. Par 4 – Two bunkers on the right can be carried on this slightly uphill hole although the longer hitters have to worry about the single bunker on the left. There is a collection of three bunkers on the left that add to the visual appeal of the hole but should not be in play. The slightly raised green is angled to the right with bunkers at opposing corners but overall easy to read.
17. Par 3 – I liked this par 3 the most even if it is similar in direction and style to four and fourteen. The hole plays downhill from an elevated tee with the green angled to the left. There is a bunker on the right about ten yards short of the green, otherwise there is a long area of short grass before the green. Due to the angle of the green the flanking bunkers appear to be as much as on the front and back although they are essentially on both sides. This is the best of the greens on the par 3’s strongly sloped from back left to front right as sort of a reverse redan.
18. Par 5 - The course ends on a dramatic note with a substantial dogleg right off the tee and then the hole continuing to work right. There are thick trees down the right but there is a gap between a couple of them where one can go between and cut the dogleg. The longest hitters will simply fly over the trees with their concern being going into a large bunker on the left side close to where the fairway stops. The safe play is to the left off the tee although this can add 60 yards to the next shot. Previously there were flanking bunkes on the turn but these have been removed. Husbands Run bisects the fairway but should be able to be cleared on the second shot for those who have made the safe play. The hole then moves uphill to the green which is angled this time to the right. The green is further protected by a bunker off the front left and one on the right side. I liked this green for its fall-offs and nearby small mounding. It is a good finishing hole.
The DuPont course is certainly worth playing if in the area. I have yet to play Bidermann or Fieldstone which are near it. But I have played both at Wilmington CC and the revitalized DuPont course is better than Wilmington North although not quite as strong as Wilmington South. The course, like many, has benefited from selective tree removal. The trees that have been kept both add to the ambience of the course, the visual appeal, the defense, and often the strategy. The criticisms I have of the course is that two of the par 5’s are relatively straightforward, three of the par 3’s play somewhat the same, and the back nine begins with four doglegs. All of these made me question whether the best routing was used when first built. The strengths of the course are many such as the incorporation of Willow Run and Husbands Run into many of the holes, the brilliant sixth hole, the use of trees, several holes have intriguing bunker placement, the green contours and often the green surrounds.