This Is No Ash Heap
Seaford rescues a former DuPont playground and offers a bargain—as well as a quality layout.
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The first of Hooper’s moderately distanced par 5s is the second, where heavy brush down the left side of the fairway is in play off the tee. The small green is well-guarded by deep bunkers. The 146-yard par-3 third, while short, demands accuracy. Off-target tee shots to the left will roll into a tree-filled gully where, as Connor puts it, “pars go to die.”
The fairways of the old Tull design may be tight, but the lies are spongy, thanks to one of the few Delaware courses featuring Bermuda grass on the fairways. (They’re overseeded with rye in the fall and winter to maintain a green look.) It’s the Mandell nine where you can let the big dog hunt, but then the undulations Mandell added to otherwise table-flat acreage makes for more careful iron play. That’s especially important with so many of Mandell’s greens protected by deep-faced bunkers.
Mandell’s wider fairways come at a price, however. Created as a result of a state mandate that DuPont dispose of a Nylon byproduct known as fly ash in an environmentally safe way, the company decided that burying was the least expensive option. That produced more than 200 acres of moonscape that Mandell was able to sculpt into Seaford’s additional nine holes.
Wide open as a result of the reclamation, the holes are at the mercy of prevailing winds. When the breeze is up, Hooper’s wider fairways can turn out to be of limited value. Wind is a factor, especially at the fifth and at the 17th, a 533-yard par 5 that generally plays into the prevailing direction, thus playing a lot longer than its yardage would indicate.
Mandell’s first (Hooper’s fifth) is a 423-yard par 4 with a generous opening to the green on your approach. But any off-target hits may find you in the first of what could become a nightmare of deep bunkers that will run up your score in a hurry. Stay left when you approach this green.
Water doesn’t dominate Hooper’s, though it is present on many holes. At the par-5 ninth, a pond lurks along the right side of the approach to the green, which defends this slight double dogleg against most attempts to reach in two. Third shots hit too long will find a watery grave.
The long par-3 11th changes the challenge by demanding distance control—a ravine wraps around a long, deep green that will capture overcooked tee shots.
The 14th is a simple, straight, long 440-yard par 4 with a fairway bunker in play on the left. The approach is a longish 200 yards, with water along the left side of the green. It’s not the hardest hole in handicap ranking, but it can definitely play that way when the wind holds sway.
With a par-3 finishing hole, Hooper’s Landing may seem to be giving you a breather at the last. But at 219 yards, with a long, slender bunker guarding any roll up to the green and with a deep-faced bunker on the right, the finishing hole offers little resembling a gimme.
Golfers looking for a bargain will find one at Hooper’s, both in terms of price and quality of layout. With the biggest problems of renovation behind it, the staff can begin grooming Hooper’s into a dandy little gem of a course. Not bad for a muni. Not bad for an ash heap, either.
For more, visit seafordde.com.