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Owner/Architect strikes again with Frog Hollow Golf Club

By Kiel Christianson, Equipment Editor and Senior Writer

MIDDLETOWN, Del. - When Allen C. Liddicoat opened Back Creek Golf Club in 1997, he did what good businessmen do: He saw a need and carved out a niche for himself. The need was for mid-priced daily fee golf in the Mid-Atlantic. When he designed the course himself, he did what very few first-time owner/architects do: He laid out a course that spent two years on Golfweek's list of Top 100 Modern Courses in America.

Fast-forward to 2000. This time Liddicoat once again did what good businessmen do: He solidified his dominance in the mid-range daily fee golf course market by opening Frog Hollow Golf Club. And, once again, he did what very few second-time owner/architects do: He produced another solid layout that offers golfers from New Jersey to Philly and beyond a great round of golf for less$50.

Frog Hollow shares some unmistakable similarities to Back Creek, most noticeably the homesites bordering the fairways, the gently rolling farmland on which it's built, and a general lack of trees. Yet Frog Hollow is far from a carbon clone of its older sister. A deep tree-filled ravine encircles the acreage,giving one side of several fairways a feeling distinctly different from the rest of the property.

Another difference is the facet of your game that each course tests. According to Mike Holmes, Director of Golf, "Frog Hollow is tighter off the tee. You must hit spots. On the other hand, from 75 yards and in, you can miss left and righton most holes and still survive."

Holmes also points out the different green designs. "At Back Creek, the greens are broad and tiered. Here, the greens look big, but they're deceiving. The undulations limit pin placements."

It is in these green complexes - and the green complexes only, really - where Liddicoat's inexperience in course design is apparent. Some greens are in essence two or three greens, comprising two or more quadrants separated by steep peaks. Compared to the classic Donald Ross "domed" greens, these are "tented" greens, with ridges so severe as to be unable to hold a ball when the turf is closely shorn. Not only does this cut down on pin placement options, it borders on being tricked-up. A putt from one quadrant to another is, basically, all luck in fast conditions.

It is easy to overlook the more extreme greens, however, since all rookie architects fall into this same trap. And if irons are played accurately, the peaks and slopes of the greens will not be an issue.

How it Plays

At just 6,608 yards from the tips, this par-71 track could be overpowered, unless conditions are wet or windy. And given the water in play on five holes, the ravine bordering six or seven holes, and the occasional back yard, big hitters had also better be accurate. As at Back Creek, the local rule is that the white stakes demarcating yards from course are played as a lateral hazard, rather than OB. "Unless we're hosting a tournament," says Holmes, "it just helps keep up the pace of play."

The two nines are labeled East and West, to allow for more tee times. The 9th hole of the West Course, however, a 570-yard par-5, is really a fine closing hole compared to the 369-yard par-4 No. 9 of the East Course. Only three par-4smeasure over 400 yards, which makes for a lot of decisions off the tee. The sand bunkers are deep, with fingers sprouting out in all directions. Finally, all greens possess bailout areas, mown tightly ("chipping cut") to allow you to keep out of danger but also forcing you to exert some imagination and skill in your short game.

On the East Course, the 209-yard par-3 No. 6 is a great wagering hole. The tee shot over water to a green fortified by more H2O right and left, creating almost a peninsula green. The 380-yard, par-4 seventh hole is also memorable interms of design. The tee shot is dead straight, with the aforementioned ravine lurking ominously to the left. The club of choice is fairway wood here (especially fromthe middle tees), because nothing more than 260-270 yards is required. The second shot is played at a 90-degree angle over a yawning morass of amoeba-likebunkers to a partially occluded green. This is one hole that requires you to play it a few times to get the hang of it.

On the East Course, the 209-yard par-3 No. 6 is a great wagering hole. The tee shot over water to a green fortified by more H2O right and left, creating almost a peninsula green. The 380-yard, par-4 seventh hole is also memorable in terms of design. The tee shot is dead straight, with the a fore mentioned ravine lurking ominously to the left. The club of choice is fairway wood here (especially from the middle tees), because nothing more than 260-270 yards is required. The second shot is played at a 90-degree angle over a yawning morass of amoeba-like bunkers to a partially occluded green. This is one hole that requires you to play it a few times to get the hang of it.

No. 8 demands a tee shot over water to a narrow, snaking fairway. Woods guard the left side, and water fronts the green, also on the left. Some tall timber also stands watch at the front right of the green, so once again, accuracy isat a premium

The Deal

Golf in 2003 has flatlined: As many people give up the sport every year as those who take it up each year. If we (meaning people who love golf) have any interest at all in seeing the game grow and thrive, then we need to recognize the critical importance of affordable, enjoyable, accessible golf. Allen Liddicoat has done his part.During peak season, $49 on weekdays or $63 on weekends will get you a first-rate roundof golf (cart included). More impressive, for just $88 weekdays or $108 weekends, you can play BOTH Frog Hollow and Back Creek.

This has to rank as one of the best deals in the Mid-Atlantic.Given the diversity of golf, attractions, and lodging available in the northern half of Delaware, residents of the Philadelphia-New York corridor might even consider making The First State an option for a multi-day golf trip

Course Information

Frog Hollow Golf Club
1 East Whittington Way
Middletown, DE 19709
Phone: (302) 376-6500
Web: www.froghollowgolf.com
Director of Golf: Mike Holmes
Par: 71
Yardage/Rating/Slope: 6,608/72.1/128, 6,124/69.7/126, 4,750/63.4/114
Rates: $48 weekday, $63 weekend (incl. cart); twilight rates; $88/$108for Back Creek + Frog Hollow

Scorecard

Conditions: 3.5
Service: 4.0
Value: 4.0
Design: 3.5

Kiel ChristiansonKiel Christianson, Equipment Editor and Senior Writer

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.


 
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Dates: March 1, 2018 - November 30, 2018
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