Timing may prove to be rough, given the economic climate, but two new public courses opened their doors in 2008, both south of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. Odessa National Golf Club in Townsend and Garrisons Lake Golf Club in Smyrna.
Dale Loeslein, director of golf at Odessa National, likens the layout to Inniscrone—so bring plenty of balls your first time out. The good news is that the aesthetics are excellent for a public course, and peak fees remain a short putt under $60.
“You won’t see anything but the hole you are playing,” says Loeslein, who had previous stints at Wilmington Country Club and Deerfield Golf & Tennis Club in Newark.
Though shotmaking and target golf may be the order of the day, Odessa does boast a beast or two. Case in point is the par-5 second, which plays at 632 yards from the tips. The tee shot should ideally be placed to the edge of the fairway fronting a creek that splits it in two. With little reward for attempting a very risky second shot over nearly 250 yards, the prudent play is a target iron to within 150 yards, setting up an easy approach and a two-putt par. This is one of those round-breaker holes that occur early enough in the circuit that you’ll be happy even with a bogey six.
With rebuilt green complexes, new undulation, increased bunkering and modern irrigation, Garrisons Lake—a former gem-cum-dog-track—has been reborn thanks to Delaware’s greenspace program.
“It’s still as tree-lined as old timers will remember it,” says head golf professional Barry Dear, “but they are well-trimmed to play out of, and we’ve removed some 300 trees overall.”
Routing is much the same as before, and a new clubhouse is in the works. Memberships are available. Weekend fees are $40 for state residents and $50 for out-of-staters, making this new track one of the best bargains in the state.
“What should have been done 20 years ago has been done now,” says member Jack Powell. “I’ve heard nothing but compliments. The staff is friendly and the course can only get better.”
Page 2: Pepple’s Choice | The owner of Wyncote has created a course that consistently ranks among the area’s best. The key? Taking it slow.
The owner of Wyncote has created a course that consistently ranks among the area’s best. The key? Taking it slow.
An awesome view was one factor that drove Jim Pepple to carve up the 1,200-acre dairy farm his family had started in Oxford, Pennsylvania, in 1957. Another could be traced to his taking up the game in 1983.
But there was one over-arching reason to build the course, and it has made Pepple a rarity in the volatile golf industry: the determination for a single proprietor to maintain a profitable stand-alone course.
“First and foremost, I am a businessman,” Pepple says. “And I knew that my one solid business asset as a farmer was land. I did not want it all plowed under into housing.”
To ensure the views from his farm remained pastoral as a golf course—now Wyncote Golf Club—Pepple allocated 350 acres in agricultural rights to Chester County, thus ensuring the land would not be sold for commercial purposes. He sold another 300 acres around the edges to Amish farmers, while the rest went to the course and a small neighborhood of estate homes.
“I originally hired Brian Ault (of the architectural firm of Ault-Clark Associates) with the plan to build a tree-lined, parkland-style course mirroring what I admired so much when I had played Philadelphia Country Club,” Pepple says.
But that same year—1988—Pepple made his first trek to Scotland. After he played around at the legendary St. Andrews, he found a new vision for his course: a treeless track that matched the openness he had found at the very birthplace of golf.
In March 1993 Wyncote Golf Club opened to the general public. The club remained profitable through the 1990s, the golden years of the golf course boom. When the bubble burst, Wyncote was profitable in all but one of the declining years.
Golf Magazine has rated the course No. 7 in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia Magazine placed Wyncote ninth on its top 10 ranking, which included the area’s most prestigious private clubs, such as Pine Valley and Aronomink. And Golf Digest has made Wyncote one of only four courses in the state to earn a rating of 4.5 out of 5—and there are no fives.
Can Wyncote continue to thrive in an industry that seems to be in perpetual contraction? Pepple says yes.
“Golf is a game that everyone can play,” he says. “It combines physical, athletic and social activities. You may play less often when times are tough, but just like a $40 steak, you’ll still want to put one in your budget from time to time.”
Page 3: New Website Targets Golf Properties
Barbara Morales was looking to improve the marketing of her golf course properties in the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, area last fall when she stumbled upon a new idea.
“I had been reaching retirees and baby boomers with two previously targeted websites of mine, and I knew from those leads that many people were specifically interested in golf properties,” Morales says.
She found a website that listed properties in the Carolinas and Florida, but none in Delaware. “When I found how expensive it would be to list with them, I decided to build my own site,” Morales says.
The RE/MAX independent agent says all three of her sites are helpful in helping clients negotiate the large amount of unsold product on the market now.
“Buyers are getting very sophisticated,” Morales says. “We wanted to offer our clients selling homes and our buyers one place to find information about the best golf course homes in our area.”
The site www.golfcoursehomesdelaware.com features listings at The Peninsula, the private Jack Nicklaus golf community in Millsboro. Homes at Kings Creek and the Rehoboth Beach Yacht & Country Club are expected to be added soon.
Page 5: How’s Your Driving? | A better club may be the key to improvement.
A better club may be the key to improvement.
The adage that you drive for show and putt for dough doesn’t hold sway when you’re standing on the first tee matched with some flatbelly who just striped a feathery draw about 280 yards down the center of the fairway.
And chances are that Big Bertha you just took out of your bag is the wrong club for you. “The driver is the club that has the least amount of room for error of any other in your bag,” says Eric MacCluen, of Eric MacCluen Golf Academies.
Kurt Zolbe, head pro at Deerfield Golf & Tennis Club in Newark, Delaware, says the best players use a driver that gives them maximum roll when their drive lands.
“Most recreational players use a driver that is too long with insufficient loft and a shaft that is too stiff,” says Zolbe. “They lose distance and accuracy as a result. You need to achieve the right launch angle.”
John Dunigan, director of instruction at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, says the optimum launch angle is achieved by using the proper loft for your swing. “More or less, a launch angle of somewhere between 12 and 14 degrees is one that will maximize your distance,” Dunigan says. “Such an angle will produce the 40-degree angle of descent that will provide the maximum bounce and roll when your drive hits the ground.”
And though MacCluen believes that making the right adjustments to your swing is a prerequisite to finding the right driver, Zolbe says using the wrong equipment can undo the hard work that’s gone into improving your swing. “You may start adjusting your swing to accommodate a bad fit.”
Though most players choose the firmest flex on the market, Zolbe believes you should use the softest flex that still provides accuracy. “That maximizes control in distance and accuracy,” he says.
There’s nothing wrong with buying off the rack—“Most brand-name club makers are all making good clubs,” says Dunigan—but the move today is toward club fitting.
While there is any number of methods for fitting, Fred Shriner of the Brandywine Valley Golf Center in Oxford, Pennsylvania, believes in fitting through instruction. “I like to take a golfer through two or three instructional sessions, noting factors such as distance, accuracy, trajectory, consistency and feel.”
Page 6: One of a Kind in Oxford
What makes the Brandywine Valley Golf Center unique is not the latest in digital technology instruction. What makes it unique is its status as the only certified Mitchell Golf Partner repair shop in the area, the standard for the golf industry and the No. 1 repair equipment on the PGA and LPGA tours. It’s also the only Jack Nicklaus club distributor in the area, says owner Fred Shriner, a certified golf teaching professional who opened the center in July 2008.
A Master Club Fitter and certified club repair technician, Shriner can “fine tune a set of clubs to fit players’ individual talents and swing characteristics.”
Shriner is passionate about helping golfers match equipment to their games. “The lack of golf equipment knowledge results in millions of golfers attempting to play an already difficult game with clubs that cannot possibly meet their needs,” he says.
At the BVGC, clubs are selected using high-tech tools to suit the physical condition and skill of each client. Swing tempo, head speed at impact, launch angle, ball speed and other things are measured to help Shriner customize the perfect club for its owner. “I’m interested in being one of the best in the industry and backing it with a money-back guarantee,” he says.
For more information, contact the BVGC at (484) 356-3569.
Page 7: Area Golf Associations Name Their Top Players for 2008 | Who’s hot? Just ask The Delaware State Golf Association and Golf Association of Philadelphia, who recently announced their selections for Players of the Year in 2008.
Who’s hot? Just ask The Delaware State Golf Association and Golf Association of Philadelphia, who recently announced their selections for Players of the Year in 2008.
Jerry Temple Jr. of Cavaliers Country Club in Newark was named junior player of the year. Aided mainly by his second-place finish in the Junior Championship, Temple secured the award when he broke a tie with Hartefeld National’s Greg Matthias by finishing 20th in the Amateur Championship.
Mark Surtees, also of Cavaliers, was named player of the year for several high finishes, including a second-place finish in the Amateur and a tie for first in the Mid-Open Championship and Tournament of Champions.
Pete Widdoes of the Deerfield Golf & Tennis Club in Newark was named senior player of the year for a number of great finishes that included a tie for first in the Tournament of Champions.
Robert Galbreath Jr. of Huntingdon Valley Country Club was named junior player of the year, his third consecutive year for the award. In addition to amassing a record number of points for the title—eclipsing his own old record—Galbreath also won the Junior Boys’ Championship for a record fourth time.
Michael McDermott won GAP player of the year for a record fifth time. He won the 2008 Middle-Amateur Championship and the Amateur Championship. Those titles, along with the Joseph H. Patterson Cup victory in 2007, make McDermott the first player to hold all three titles simultaneously.
Saucon Valley Country Club’s Thomas Bartolacci Jr. won senior player of the year, edging out U.S. Senior Amateur champion George “Buddy” Marucci. He parlayed several top-tier finishes—along with qualifying for the U.S. Senior Amateur and finishing third in the Senior Silver Cross Award standings—into the title for 2008.