By Peter Osborne
The 12-year wait for tee time is almost over at a public golf course in Middletown with rolling, Scotland-like hills, eight different water features and stunning views.
The Links at St. Anne’s, a Alan Liddicoat-designed course that’s been on the drawing board since 2006, will open with 12 holes by the end of June. The course will add four more holes by the end of July and two more by this fall. In the meantime, construction begins today on a pool house and family-friendly restaurant/pub next to the clubhouse.
The cost of getting the course ready for prime time will exceed $2 million, including construction of the building the pool house and restaurant and getting the clubhouse ready for events and the new golf shop..
“Every time I come here, it’s even better than I thought it would be. It’s going to be special,” said Buddy Reed, one of the founding partners of Fieldstone Golf Club in Wilmington and more recently the man behind the resurrection of Back Creek Golf Club in Middletown.
The course, formerly known as St. Anne’s and The Levels Course, has taken a tortured path to its current status. Reed purchased the property in November and found that the course had been framed out, with 11 completed holes, but had deteriorated after years of neglect. High-end homes border just eight holes of the course, and new construction is expected to start soon on a new phase.
“We’ll be developing our business plan over the summer, based on how the course plays,” Reed said, although he did say it will have a bagpiper on Fridays and strategically placed Adirondack chairs to highlight the views. “Unlike many courses where the 1st, 9th, 10th, and 18th holes start or end near the clubhouse, this one is designed to be a “walking course where you just keep going.”
The two courses — Back Creek and The Links at St. Anne’s — are very different, but there will be some opportunities to leverage the strengths of both, said Back Creek Managing Partner Frank Horton. Where the new course has the pool and banquet facilities, Back Creek has a high-end restaurant.
As for the courses themselves, Back Creek has a more forgiving, spacious fairway that allows for more mistakes off the tee, while The Links at St. Anne’s will be more challenging because of the water and likely carry a higher greens fee.
“Back Creek was closed to the public last year for 40 days because of different events,” said Horton, whose course was recognized by Delaware Today magazine (a sister publication of the Delaware Business Times) as Best Public Golf Course (Upstate) from 2016-1018 and Best Restaurant Middletown in 2016 and 2017. “If we had had somewhere to move those events elsewhere, it would have meant an additional $200,000 in revenue.
“We’re way ahead of schedule” thanks to the weather, Horton said as he stood in the 200-person clubhouse ballroom overlooking four brownish holes in different stages of completion. “The first overnight low of 50 degrees plus, all this will change color.”
“It’s hard to see it now, but the beauty may exceed the golf, which is going to be tremendous,” Liddicoat said. “Between the colors, the shadows, the water, and the views, my goal – after I laid out the houses – was how can I make it beautiful and artistic, rather than just a golf course.”
The course’s USGA rating is not yet finalized but early indications are that it will rank near the top of the DBT’s annual Golf Course ranking in its Book of List.
The club was last in the news in August 2008 when Saint Annes Club LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At the time the club consisted of The Estates at Saint Annes, 465 luxury homes, and the 193-acre golf course that had not yet been started.
For more information on The Links at St. Anne’s, you can go to its new website here.
You will be able to read a more in-depth story on The Links at St. Anne’s in the April 2, 2019 issue of the Delaware Business Times.