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Frog Hollow Golf Club: Sister Act

By Jay Mankus, Contributor

Middletown, DE - From the creators of Back Creek Golf Club, the pride of Delaware, comes another impressive upscale facility. Architect David Horn and owner Allen Liddicoat have teamed up for the second time to build Frog Hollow, a links course filled with optical illusions.

These illusions are formed by greens designed to naturally flow into the contour of Delaware's country landscape. Collection areas surrounded by these greens blend into the scenery of each hole to create false fronts. False fronts are so common at Frog Hollow, you might start thinking a frog stole your ball and spit it out off the green.

I overshot several greens, 2 of them were short par 3's, the 166 yard 3rd and 154 yard 8th hole. When I found the green, I could not keep the ball below the hole. Only droplets of dew and freshly laid particles of fertilizer kept me from putting off Frog Hollow's large slippery greens.

The collection areas which surround all 18 greens at Frog Hollow are so vast, slick and undulating, hitting the center of the green is like finding a mirage in a desert. Bentgrass fairways adjacent to Frog Hollow's true rolling Bentgrass greens make these collection areas an easy prey for arrant shots. Moguls, swells and hollows surrounding each green absorb golf balls like a vacuum sucks up dust. Hence, the name Frog Hollow.

In essence, the collection areas at Frog Hollow is Delaware's version of Pinehurst #2. Players have several chipping options from these collection areas to severe sloping greens in various directions.

Whether you choose a putter, 3 wood, long iron or flop shot with a wedge, Frog Hollow's design will put your short game to the test. In other words, if you ain't got short game here, you won't be scoring either!

To help first time players, Frog Hollow includes an in-depth picture diagram of each green, the 3 different pin placements and surrounding collection areas on their scorecard. The back of Frog Hollow's scorecard contains a hole by hole diagram of the East and West Nines, highlighted by 6 water hazards and over 50 extrinsic bunkers placed throughout this layout. Once you can conquer the illusions, you will find Frog Hollow to be a relatively generous golf course.

Instead of having a traditional set up of holes 1-18, Cedar Lane, the main road leading into Frog Hollow Golf Club, divides the course in half. After building a tunnel underneath this road, the owners decided to create 2 separate nines, using their geographical location for names. Therefore, the East and West Nines were created.

Frog Hollow Golf Club is much less intimidating than its sister course, Back Creek, a 10 minute drive across the town of Middletown, Delaware. Once an obscure farm town, Middletown is now the center for upscale public golf in northern Delaware.

At 6,608 yards from the tips, Frog Hollow is over 400 yards shorter than Back Creek. Firm fairways and windswept greens at Frog Hollow will make the 6,124 yard white tees and 4,750 yard green tees play much shorter depending upon the wind conditions.

While Back Creek is a championship golf course set up for amateur and professional tournaments, Frog Hollow is more of an courtly country club like facility. Currently, Frog Hollow's proshop is held in a model home to the right of the first tee. Unusual, yes! Confusing, somewhat! Especially, when you drive up to a large parking lot with a clubhouse under construction. However, the guys at the bag drop point you in the right direction.

The interior inside this model home proshop is eye-catching. After a long awkward walk along a gravel path, Frog Hollow's temporary proshop is a masterful piece of decorating. Since there are several empty lots on 6 courts along the West Course, the proshop room should be added to floor plans as a special room. Husbands will love it, wives might not be too crazy about the idea.

Anyway, the big anticipation is for a permanent structure. Construction of Frog Hollow's Clubhouse should be complete by Spring of 2001. On the exterior, a red barn-like structure will blend into the communities farming heritage. Meanwhile, the interior will include a first class proshop, bar & grill, patio and full banquet facilities.

The talk of and in this club house after a round will likely be either the never ending rugged bunkering or the ever sloping greens. First, the bunkers while deemed rugged are more like finger lakes and funky shapes of sand. The best example can be found on the west course from the 177 yard par 5th hole.

There is a V-shaped bunker which guards the front of this green while water hugs the entire right side. The V in my mind stands for victory or in my case, the victim!

Most of these bunkers provide grandiose visual effects that are pleasing to the eye, except for the superintendent or maintenance staffer who actually has to rake these fingers by hand. Frog Hollow's fingers of sand average 1-3 feet in width and 2-4 feet in length. Obviously, some are larger, but these portions of sand create huge obstacles.

From these sand hazards, golfers are faced with awkward stances to fast, sloping greens. Players will grow accustom to one foot in the sand and one foot out. For every five greenside bunkers a player hits, you can bet on at least one lie where you will be standing in the sand to play a chip from the rough or vice versa.

Once on the green, players will have to wisely negotiate Frog Hollow's greens. I played the East course in a dense fog with particles fertilizer on these greens and they were still running at a 8, maybe 9 on the stemp meter. I can't imagine how fast some of these putts would be on a hot windy day.

One of the greens I wouldn't want to putt on during a dry day is the 209 yard par 3 6th hole. The signature hole of the East Nine, the sixth green is surrounded by water on 3 sides. In fact, it appears from the tee that you are shooting towards an island fairway with a green. Cattails and native grasses dress the backdrop of this hole with elegance.

However, when you reach the green, elegance is the last thing in your mind. A mountain chain of sorts runs through this green, dividing it into 4 sections. At 36 paces long, this is one green you definitely want to be sure of your distance and wind direction. Any mistakes in your calculations might result in a 3 or 4 putt.

If you are curious, the 8th green, the last of 3 par 3's on the East side, is 46 paces long. This is the deepest green at Frog Hollow. Oh, by the way, this green also has 4 tiers. Putting from the front or back of this green is like playing chutes and ladders. Just use your imagination!

The East / West Nine Breakdown is unique. The East course is short, 3080 yards from the tips, but tighter than your typical links style course. It's what I call residential links golf. Four par 4's, 3 par 3's and 2 par 5's meander along the outskirts of 14 circles.

This residential golf community is fully developed with large neutral colored estates. These tan, white and gray homes seem to create a gloomy background to a golf course in magnificent shape. In fact, unique homes like the one with a rose garden in back to the right of the 9th green stand out like the sun.

Unfortunately, this residential links nine does contain the worst designed hole on the course, the only bad hole at Frog Hollow. The 7th hole, a 380 yard par 4 dogleg to the right doglegs around 2 homes.

Since the local rules prohibit you from obtaining balls that go out of bounds, i.e. someone's property, white stakes at Frog Hollow are played as lateral hazards. However, any drive that is short right or into the water off the tee, must be played way left to prevent hitting one of these two homes which overhang this dogleg.

Meanwhile, the par 36 West Course is a beast at 3,528 yards from the tips. However, expansive fairways, large unkempt dunes occupied with wild vegetation and less developments make for a wholesome links course that even a Scot would be proud of.

The 11th hole does run along the sewer system for Frog Hollow's golf community, but it is so well hidden only a light smell will briefly interrupt your round.

The West Nine is home to two classic links holes: the 390 yard par 4 3rd and 450 yard par 4 6th. From a slightly elevated tee, native grasses and moguls hide a portion of your landing area down the right-side of number 3. Small trees and shrubs line the left rough while large shore-like dunes on the right seclude this hole from the rest of the course.

As you approach the 3rd green from the fairway, it is clear that this is the best visual hole at Frog Hollow. An expansive rugged bunker stands elevated above the 3rd green with another bunker short right.

A narrow long green seems to be raised above the earth. Yet, this optical illusion will fool all first timers because it is actually slightly sunken into the earth between both bunkers. This hole has everything: aesthetics, shape and trickery!

As for the 450 yard 6th hole, it is one of the best designed links holes I have ever played. It's long, it's wide and it makes sense. Generous fairways, the widest of all the fairways at Frog Hollow, provide a field of dreams of sorts for the longest par 4 at Frog Hollow.

Like Number 3, large dunes on either side of the rough create a solitude presence. The 6th hole is also void of any bunkers. The absence of sand may be this hole's greatest asset.

At 417 yards from where most men will tee off, players can not see the green which is hidden by four large mounds. The fairway zig zags around these mounds to a blind green which sits so perfect upon its location that it's hard to decipher where it starts and where it ends.

Though this illusion is not as severe as number 3, the 6th hole requires 2 good shots and some fancy footwork around the green to make par.

Frog Hollow Golf Club is a good test of golf, which will require plenty of footwork since carts must stay on the path at all times until the turf becomes established. Though it is nowhere near the layout of Back Creek, Frog Hollow is in excellent condition for a course that has only be open for 4 months. Come to Middletown, Delaware to play golf and decide for yourself which links course suits your game better.

Frog Hollow Golf Club
1 East Whittington Way
Middletown, DE 19709
Web: www.froghollowgolf.com
Ron Brown - Director of Golf Operations

$62 Friday - Sunday
$48 Monday - Thursday

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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