Wintertime projects at Cape Region courses

January 7, 2023

The Cape Region winter thus far is a study in stark contrasts.

After a period of Arctic blasts and freezing cold, this past week included temperatures in the mid-60s, bringing hundreds of golfers out to Cape Region courses.

The variable conditions also affected some wintertime maintenance projects that fill the months before the official start of the golf season.

Last fall, American Classic Golf Club near Midway began an interesting turf experiment with its tee boxes. 

At 14 tee locations on the nine-hole layout, the crew installed artificial turf as the tee box for wintertime play. 

The Fairway Hero Golf Hitting Mats measure 4 feet deep and 5 feet across. The mats feature three small holes on the left and right sides to place tees. Manager Britt Morrison noted the plastic turf also accepts tee insertions without using the holes.

The new mats attempt to deal with one of the effects of the club’s remarkable success in convincing golfers to play it. As Morrison noted, it was not uncommon during the past golf season to host more than 200 rounds a day. The course’s tee boxes are not large, and that hampered the ability to move the tee locations to less-damaged turf as much as they would have liked. 

Considering last summer’s drought conditions, the decision to install artificial tee boxes for winter play also made sense. 

Morrison said, “They’re working out pretty well. I think the customers understand why we did it and how that will help with next summer.”

On other portions of the tee box locations, the club also installed new sod to replace damaged turf. Golf Course Manager Austin Ebersole said they re-sodded at least one box area per hole and reseeded the remainder. He also said the warm weather convinced them to hold off for now on placing special blankets they normally use to protect the turf from freeze conditions.

Morrison said some of the new sod already had divots taken out of it, which means some golfers have a stronger sense of entitlement than they deserve.

American Classic is also updating some irrigation system elements. Pipes and valves don’t last, so a regular process of swapping out and replacing them is an annual chore. In addition, the staff overseeded and added new seeding on other parts of the layout.

At The Rookery near Milton, course builder/owner Chris Adkins said they plan to do a major upgrade of the paved cart paths. Several segments of the current pavement experienced cracking and heaving from tree roots underneath. In addition, depressed path areas led to water damage and erosion. 

Adkins also said they plan to enlarge and improve the practice range area. The last few years’ huge increase in rounds played at The Rookery impaired the maintenance staff’s ability to keep the range turf in good health throughout the season. 

On several days this past summer, the course restricted range use to artificial mats while the main grassed areas were aerated, newly seeded or otherwise recovered from thousands of divots.

If it can be safely designed, a larger teeing area for the range would better accommodate the existing demand.

We’re No. 52!

Golf Digest ran a story recently about golf handicap differences. The United States Golf Association gathered handicap scoring data from the World Handicap System for each state as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, combining the men’s and women’s handicaps to create a ranking for all 52 jurisdictions.

Mississippi led the country with a fine 11.8 average handicap index, followed by North Dakota (12.4) and Oklahoma (12.8).

Delaware normally markets itself relentlessly as the First State, but it didn’t come close to those other three states. In fact, Delaware’s average handicap index of 21.6 put it dead last in this ranking. 

There could be several explanations for the difference between Delaware’s golfing community and those from better-scoring states. 

Consider the fact that USGA’s records show the average handicap index for men is 14.2, while the average handicap index for women is 27.5. The Blue Hen State might just have many more women golfers posting their scores by comparison to those in other states.

It is also possible that Delaware has more senior golfers than less retirement-friendly states. Older golfers tend to watch their handicaps inevitably rise over time, sad to say.

Other possible explanations are perhaps less kind.

Best state golf course ratings

Golf Magazine recently published its listing of the best golf courses for each state, relying upon a 117-member panel and a variety of assessment approaches, including but not limited to the course design, its setting and the challenges presented to golfers of all levels.

Delaware’s list began with Wilmington Country Club’s South Course, host of the PGA Tour’s 2022 BMW Championship. 

Two Cape Region courses made the state’s top five. 

The Peninsula Golf & Country Club in Millsboro took the fourth spot, while Baywood Greens in Long Neck finished fifth.

I am not surprised. Congratulations to both.


  • 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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