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Delaware's Three Little Bakers Country Club & Dinner Theater: More Than Just Golf

By Jay Mankus, Contributor

WILLMINGTON, Del. - Along the historic banks of Pike Creek lies one of the most unique country clubs on the East Coast. Located just south of the original Mason-Dixon Line and minutes north of where the famous Englishman, George Whitfield, used to preach to thousands of people, Three Little Bakers Country Club & Dinner Theatre calls this valley its home.

If you blinked for a moment, I did say country club "and" dinner theater, an obvious sign that Three Little Bakers is not your typical public golf facility. This semi-private establishment in northern New Castle County Delaware was founded in 1973 by Edmund B. Ault.

Formally known as Pike Creek Valley Golf Club, today Three Little Bakers 18 hole Championship course resembles a Florida condominium golf community, minus the flat terrain. While the sight of these homes may be an eyesore to some, it is also a sign of progress and growth.

Speaking of growth, finding the proshop among the many buildings at Three Little Bakers can be confusing. Between the three dining rooms and theater, you must follow the signs closely to the far right end of the parking lot where the proshop is situated. If you are wondering why the parking lot is so big, the 1,000 seat Serendipity Room may ease your mind.

Currently home to Christmas shows, Three Little Bakers Dinner Theater enjoys its busiest time of the year throughout this holiday season. Depending upon the time, day, or seat, tickets range from $20-$35, a relatively inexpensive event for family and friends. For show times, ticket information, and reservations call the Three Little Bakers Box Office at 302-368-1616.

The Serendipity Room at Three Little Bakers hosts a series of Broadway Musicals and Celebrity Concerts through the year. Some of last years series featured Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Little Shop of Horrors, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Glen Miller and the Four Aces, The Fabulous Greaseband, and "1964" The Tribute #1 Beatles Show in the World!

So as the lights come back on and the phone lines are restored after Y2K, you might think about calling 1-800-368-3303 to reserve seats for you and your loved ones in 2000. While the Dinner Theater is currently the only warm attraction available, Three Little Bakers Golf Course is also open year round.

Since its completion in 1973, the golf course at Three Little Bakers has always had great potential. Though the first holes bland appearance, a short 167 yard straight away par 3 from the tips, hides the true terrain of the Pike Creek Valley, don't be fooled!

Three Little Bakers 18 hole championship course will take you through a heavily wooded creek valley with rolling hills that are often found in river valleys. Years of development and construction of new homes surrounding these majestic slopes have taken away some of the aesthetic beauty, yet the severe elevation changes and serene backdrop of the final 7 holes makes this course worth your time and money.

While Three Little Bakers championship golf course lacks the pristine bent grass tees, fairways, and greens of nearby upscale facilities like Hartefeld National and Back Creek, Three Little Bakers is no slouch! Since the Three Little Bakers Dinner Theater took back the operation of the golf course in 1988, the course has been on an upward climb.

This progression continues today under the leadership of head PGA Professional Richard Matthias, who has seen his golf facility receive national recognition over the last 3 seasons.

Golf Journal recognized Three Little Bakers' 439 yard par 4 15th hole as one of the Great Golf Holes of Delaware in 1997. This was the first hole in Delaware ever chosen by Golf Journal. If the length of this 439 yard hole does not intimidate the average golfer, add Pike Creek which runs along the entire left rough and a slightly uphill fairway enclosed by a wall of mature trees that leads to a tricky green. For any golfer, number 15 is a truly great tough hole.

In 1998, Golf Digest gave Three Little Bakers 6,609 yard par 71 Golf Course a rating of three and a half stars out of a possible five. Not bad for a course that can get beat up by heavy play during the summer months, averaging between 35,000 to 40,000 rounds per year. The most recent recognition came last summer via the television.

FOX News of Philadelphia rated the 410 yard par 4 5th at Three Little Bakers among the top 18 toughest public golf holes in the greater Philadelphia area. From an elevated tee, players drive into a valley, guarded by a large pond down the leftside of the fairway.

This pond creates a slight dogleg to the left. If the sight of the pond on your tee shot does not rattle your confidence, your second shot over the edge of this pond to a green perched above the water will test how good your game really is. After playing this hole for the first time, you might agree with FOX News that number 5 is one tough test of golf.

Though Three Little Bakers has over a half dozen tough golf holes, the front nine is definitely the easier side. At 6,609 yards from the back tees, 6,165 from the middle tees, and 5,209 from the front tees, the yardage for each nine from all 3 tees appears almost equal.

However, the back nine contains 3 par 3's, the longest 3 on the course and the only 2 par 4's, under 400 yards from the back tees, which are both up steep inclines. Meanwhile, the 3 longest par 4's on the front, the 2nd, 5th, and 6th holes, are all down hill.

Despite this common knowledge about the degree of difficulty on both nines, if you only play the front nine at Three Little Bakers you will miss the heart of golf course. Since Pike Creek comes into play on only one hole, the 504 yard par 5 7th, the front nine lacks the aesthetic seclusion that the Pike Creek Valley provides on the back.

While homes come into play on 5 of the first 9 holes, 6 of the last 7 holes at Three Little Bakers are guarded by woods and Pike Creek.

Of these last 7 holes, the final 4 could be considered among the hardest finishing holes in the state of Delaware. At 439 yards, 583 yards, 205 yards, and 524 yards, these finishing holes all have subtle inclines. The par 4 15th, recognized by Golf Journal is followed by the 583-yard par 5 16th. A tributary of Pike Creek bisects the fairway in front on the green and runs down the right side of the fairway, then crosses back in front of the landing area for your tee shot.

Even from the middle tees, 554 yards will take three shots to get on this green since this is the lowest and softest area of the golf course. A forest of trees hugging the initial 200 yards will make your drive that much more difficult. Laying up short of the creek cross over is a smart play, leaving you with a short iron to an uphill green sloping severely from back to front.

The 205-yard par 3 17th is all about placement. Players are faced with an uphill shot over a creek to a large green set on a ridge. Steering clear of a thick groove of trees on the right and the 3 sand bunkers in front is essential to make par. However, if your club selection is too strong or short, you might find yourself staring at a 50 feet putt. Three putts abound here, but 18 is a gem so keep your head up!

The final hole, a 524-yard par 5 is all uphill to the clubhouse. Fortunately, this tee sits upon a plateau which aims you down into a valley filled with trees and water down the left rough. Though Pike Creek is behind you, I believe this is the finest view from a tee on the course. If you find the fairway off the tee, you will notice the valley climbs quickly, sloping up and to the left.

This green is reachable, but an uphill sidehill lie will make going for this green in two risky. Lay-up shots must stay to the far right side of the fairway, anything to the center or leftside of the fairway will most likely end up in the rough. A large narrow green, from front to back is guarded by bunkers on either side. If you can play these final holes even par or better, don't stop playing!

If I had to recommend just one public golf course for people to play while you are in Delaware on vacation or for business, Three Little Bakers would not be my first choice.

If you had two or three days and like to play a different course each day, I would recommend Three Little Bakers Golf Course along with Back Creek Golf Club and Hartefeld National. However, if you calculate all of the intangibles like price, food, and entertainment expenses, then Three Little Bakers is definitely a place for people to come and visit.

Even with the new prices for the year 2000, $47 Monday thru Thursday and $52 Friday thru Sunday, you can still play golf at Three Little Bakers and experience great food and entertainment at the Dinner Theater for under $100. While most public upscale facilities in the Greater Philadelphia area run anywhere between $75 and $125, Three Little Bakers Country Club provides golf and so much more!

Three Little Bakers Country Club

3542 Foxcroft Drive
Willmington, DE 19808
(302) 737-1877
Richard Matthias, Head PGA Golf Professional
Three Little Bakers Dinner Theater: 1-800-368-3303
Three Little Bakers Box Office: (302) 368-1616

Jay Mankus, Contributor

A former golf standout at Concord High School in Wilmington, Del., Jay Mankus graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in Recreation & Parks Administration. Before graduating, Jay spent time as an intern at a golf club in the east suburbs of Cleveland specializing in golf course maintenance and design.

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