Scrap the gimmicks and rekindle your love for old-school course architecture at Ed Oliver Golf Club. Located on the original site of the Wilmington Country Club, the venerable layout has been a fixture on the Delware golf scene for more than 100 years.
First designed by Wilfred Reid, the course was reworked in the mid-1930s by Alfred Tull and later by Ed Ault in the early '70s. The course was renamed a few years later after the local golf phenom of the 1940s, Ed "Porky" Oliver, who once was a caddie at the facility.
With the exception of the stone chimney located in the signature 18th hole, no one knows for sure how much of Reid's original design remains. But it is apparent that each architect who tinkered here left the natural contours of the property untouched. The course moves effortlessly across the terrain and will remind you at times of a walk in the park and at other times a stroll over the battlefield of some long-forgotten war -- all the while reminding you how much you detest the pre-fabicrated, cookie-cutter layouts too often built today.
Ed Oliver is characterized by its tree-lined fairways, but it is perhaps best known for its beautiful landscape and manicured greens. The course, which is adjacent to the University of Delaware campus, also affords golfers breathtaking views of the Wilmington skyline.
At just over 6,100 yards, length is not what drives this par-69 layout. Instead, it is the variety of hazards and quirky design schemes which makes a round at Ed Oliver truly memorable. As mentioned, trees that hang precariously over the edges of the fairways and sometimes drape over the corners of the greens serve as the course's first line of defense. The second line of resistence are the deep, cleverly designed bunkers and traps. And finally, what sets this layout apart from most contemporary courses is its odd-shaped mounds, subtle indentions, awkward fairway slopes, false fronts, hidden crevices and just about every other bump in the road more than 100 years of change can produce.
Golfers know they're in for a true test when they step up to the first tee, a 388-yard par 4. A solid drive downhill to a fairway that bends softly to the left sets up a white-knuckle approach over a creek to a green complex surrounded by sand. Miss is slightly right and your ball will likely carom off the tall tree that stands guard just off the green.
Thus begins a succession of holes that will make your heart skip a beat or two as you uncover each nuance the course has to offer. And that's what makes Ed Oliver so much fun to play -- if, mind you, you appreciate classic golf architecture.
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