North Sussex course returns as Southern Delaware Golf Club

June 24, 2023

The restoration and renovation of the old Shawnee Country Club in Milford is well underway. Based on what I observed during a recent site visit, the work is progressing nicely toward a potential spring 2024 reopening.

I met with Bill Kupfer, the director of agronomy for the newly named Southern Delaware Golf Club. Kupfer said the new owners went through several possible titles before deciding on SDGC. 

Sounds fine to me.

Kupfer graduated from Cape Henlopen High in 1993. He joined the Coast Guard and served for 10 years, finishing as an E-5 boatswain’s mate. Always interested in golf, he enrolled at Louisiana State University, graduating with a degree in turf and turfgrass management. 

Kupfer held a series of course superintendent positions, with stints at The Villages in Florida, Glen Riddle Golf Club in Ocean City, Md., and most recently Wild Quail Golf & Country Club near Wyoming.

The 18 holes at SDGC/Shawnee CC originated during two very different construction periods. The original nine holes on the eastern half of the property were built in the late 1950s. The second nine holes opened in the mid-1980s and sit on the western half of the acreage. The renovation work now underway is in some respects driven by the significant age differences between the nines and the level of effort required to modernize them. 

Kupfer and his crew removed much of the greens’ top portions on the eastern nine, with major work elements including new drainage for the greens and adjacent bunkers. Work on the western nine’s greens may not require as much reconstruction, but all bunkers to be retained in the renovation require regrading and new drainage.

The groundwork is not limited to the golf course. The practice range redo includes new hitting bay locations closer to the eastern property line, making it possible to hit 300-yard drives that will not land on the fairway of the 11th hole. New range mounding and netting will be accompanied by rows of Leyland cypress, and new target greens will be installed.

They also plan to build a short par 3 19th hole in the open acreage near the fifth and sixth fairways. That gives SDGC the same management and use options currently enjoyed at Rehoboth Beach Country Club with its extra hole along Rehoboth Bay.

The new practice putting green will be south of the original location. A new pro shop will be installed in the building that formerly served the Shawnee swimming pool. The old pro shop will be removed.

The folks at Big Oyster Brewery have an agreement with SDGC to build a brand-new brewery on site, adjacent to the former clubhouse which becomes the hub of Big Oyster’s food and beverage services. The clubhouse has been gutted on the inside, but apparently its old bones will support the construction of a new brewpub that may be open by Christmas.

The main story about the course renovations revolves around the turf and trees, in addition to the work on the greens. 

Kupfer said they removed hundreds of trees, including white pine, oaks and maples. Hundreds more will be gone before they finish, and hundreds more will be “limbed up” to provide light and air to the fairways and rough.

Trees that formerly shaded several tee boxes are gone, which should make the turf on the redone boxes much happier. Others went because some treed areas separating fairways were too dense, making recovery shots difficult and slowing down the pace of play. Some of these areas will also feature pine needle spreads. 

Enlightened tree removal has been done successfully on many old courses that, like Shawnee, needed to be far less forest and far more golf course.

Kupfer also described a multi-year project to remove and/or limb up the areas adjacent to the meandering creek that bisects the property south to north. As he noted, creeks at many golf courses present a potential aesthetic bonus. This little tributary can be part of that conversation.

The turf will be completely replaced, including 777 Bentgrass on the redone greens and collars. The fairways and tees will be seeded with Oasis Bermuda, a cold-tolerant hybrid Kupfer said has a good track record in the turf transition zone where Delaware lies. 

Turf type tall fescue will make up most of the rough, with sodded zoysia grass in the bunker faces adjacent to the fairways and greens. Fine fescue will go in the “native areas” where golfers are not expected to be. Those spaces which will be part of the club’s application process for the Audubon Sanctuary Program. 

The irrigation system needs a lot of work, including new pumps and spray heads, except that most of the piping on the single-line design can be retained. A new Tour Links irrigation control system will give Kupfer and his staff improved timing and location options not formerly available. 

Exposed pipes near the 18th tees and other locations will be hidden from view or removed entirely, another practical yet aesthetic improvement. 

To make the spring opening goal, seeding of the greens must be finished between Aug. 15 and Labor Day. Kupfer remains confident they will meet that deadline.


  • Fritz Schranck has been writing about the Cape Region's golf community since 1999. Snippets, stories and anecdotes from his columns are included in his new book, "Hole By Hole: Golf Stories from Delaware's Cape Region and Beyond," which is available at the Cape Gazette offices, Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Biblion Books in Lewes, and local golf courses. His columns and book reviews are available at

    Contact Fritz by emailing

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