Wilmington Country Club
|Golf Professional||Michael Shank||(302) 655-6022|
|General Manager||Philip S. Iannelli||(302) 655-6171|
|Superintendent||Jon Urbanski||(302) 655-3337|
|Architect||Robert Trent Jones|
|Tee Sheet||Front 9||Back 9||Course|
Golf came to Wilmington in 1895, when the Delaware Field Club, successor to the Delaware Cricket Club, built a nine-hole course near Elsmere. Six years later the Field Club, which also provided baseball, football, tennis, and cricket, evolved into the Wilmington Country Club. Stock was offered in the new organization at $25 a share, but no specific number of shares was required for membership. Annual dues were set at $25.
The land for the new club, 129 acres, was situated on the south side of what was then known as the Kennett Turnpike and within a four-minute walk of the Rising Sun terminus of the Wilmington City Railway. William du Pont, Sr., owned most of this land, which today includes Wilcastle Center as well as a public golf course and the playing fields of nearby Tower Hill School. Another du Pont, Alfred, was among the club’s first directors.
Contemporary photo of Wilmington’s handsome Georgian clubhouse and the 18th fairway of the South course.
With the green committee providing a routing plan for the holes, 25 workers using eight horses cleared a wheat field and built the nine-hole course in the space of seven or eight weeks during the summer of 1901. Cost: $2,000. Much of the acreage was being reserved for growing income-producing wheat, but after the wheat was harvested, and the net from farming turned out to be quite modest, the board decided to forego that source of revenue and expand the course to 18 holes. For an outlay of only $850, and within just three weeks, nine additional holes were created.
The course measured 5,700 yards against a par of 72 1/2. At 3,010 yards, the outgoing nine was much the longer of the two, with the par 5 1/2 8th (575 yards) surely among the half-dozen longest holes in the district at that time. A glance at the scorecard today of the club’s splendid South course reveals that this penchant for the truly big hole is still alive and well at Wilmington: the third is 589 yards, the 16th, 612.
Less than a year after play began on the original nine, a “purpose built” clubhouse opened its doors. A handsome red-brick Georgian-style structure, pedimented and porticoed and columned, it was also supremely comfortable. Construction of a caddie house and stables, plus the expense of furnishing the grand clubhouse, brought the total outlay to $27,000. Clearly, shelter and socializing were a lot more costly than golf.
Membership categories consisted of resident (limited to men and including, by 1903, 12 du Ponts), associate (ladies only—more than 200 of them by 1903—and also including 12 du Ponts), army and navy, clergy, active, junior, and non-resident (“persons not residing within 10 miles of the clubhouse”—a number here from Philadelphia as well as down-state Delaware). What it all added up to was more than 500 names, the second largest such golf or country club membership in the Philadelphia/South Jersey/Delaware area in the first years of the new century. (The largest? Frankford Country Club, with some 50 more members than Wilmington.)
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