Our group played Bear Trap Dunes in Ocean View, DE on Tuesday, November 11, 2014. This 27-hole facility is three miles west of Bethany Beach, and I’ve practiced here on many occasions while vacationing at the beach, but have never played the course until now. The operation is first class and the practice facilities top notch. Of the three nines, we played Kodiak and Black Bear and will reserve judgement on Grizzly for another time. The course is operated by Troon Golf and is semi-private. Rick Jacobsen (architect) used to be on the Jack Nicklaus course design team, and the course has that familiar Nicklaus look and feel off the tee. Many of the holes are framed by groups of three and four bunker configurations located at different distances on opposite sides of the fairway.
I found the layout pleasing to my eye and relaxed into a good ball striking day off the tee but my luck ended there. To score well, you need local knowledge off the tee and accurate iron play; I had neither. Missing in the deep and expansive greenside bunkers left awfully tough up-and-down opportunities, and once you hit the greens, we found them large, fast, fairly flat, and fair. Twice on the Kodiak nine, I hit perfect drives into fairway bunkers that I had no idea I could reach. If you are playing #6 and #9 with a tailwind, 3WD is plenty of club off the tee. Otherwise, I came away from a bad iron day thinking you could score better and put less pressure on yourself playing for the middle of most greens instead of flag hunting to precise yardages, as I attempted. A few of the holes like #5 on Kodiak are beautiful and play into a nice U-shaped backdrop of woods, but most of the holes were nondescript despite the very good course conditioning. One of my playing partners remarked that the Bear Trap experience reminded him of the time we Played Pinehurst #2. Very good golf course, but very few of the holes stood out; I have to agree.
Value (3.0 out of 5.0)
We played on an off season rate of $39 which included cart and range balls. For the course conditioning, service, and quality of facilities, this was an awesome value. I’d rate this as a $70-80 golf experience so why the average rating? They advertise their in-season rates at $100 – 135 for a weekend round which is exorbitant. If I’m paying that kind of money, I want memorable holes and a tremendous experience. Bear Trap was a very nice afternoon of golf on very good conditions with a quasi-country club feel, but not $135 worth.
Facilities (4.0 out of 5.0)
The clubhouse hosts the pro shop, locker rooms, full service grill (The Den), offices, and banquet space. It is a beautiful building. Conveniently located across the parking lot is the top notch practice facility. The range is divided into halves for members and guests and boasts excellent grass hitting surfaces (mats were out for the late fall, but they were in excellent condition, as were the range balls). They have a large and well maintained short game area and separate putting green with green speeds that were identical to the course. As mentioned earlier, I practice at Bear Trap regularly and could spend all day using the facilities. The rating would go even higher except most holes were in very close proximity to the local housing community. Nice homes but I prefer a little more solitude.
Customer Experience (3.5 out of 5.0)
Booking a tee time was easy and was done over the phone. Being November, they had anything I wanted. We did not utilize the bag drop and found out later that you couldn’t ride your clubs to your car upon completion of the round. Some courses are funny in that regard and are weary of liability issues with golfers driving in the parking lots. I found it more of a minor hindrance. The pro in the shop was very friendly and attentive and we had a very nice day on an uncrowded and well conditioned golf course. For this round I shot a 86 from the blue tees that measured 6,377 yards and played to a course rating of 69.3/127. Bear Trap Dunes is a nice golf course and the off-season rates made it a great play. If you’re down during the summer, I wouldn’t recommend playing here at full price, but go seek a lower cost high quality alternative like Eagles Landing in Ocean City, MD.