In mid-June, Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club will hit a landmark 25 years as Bethany Beach’s only private golf and country club. With a newly renovated clubhouse, recently touched-up tennis courts and one of the most exquisite golf courses in the region, it’s no wonder that one of Bethany’s greatest treasures is turning some heads.
“I’m very proud to be here as part of this club,” said golf pro and general manager of Cripple Creek Brian Trout, now in his fifth year at the location. “We’ve seen a lot of improvements in the past few years and have undergone a big transformation. It all revolves around this 25-year anniversary. Not many clubs can say they’ve held this strong for this amount of time.”
In addition, the course itself has had almost every bunker renovated, tee boxes rebuilt, improvements made to drainage and strategic tree removal to improve greens and surfaces. During the last annual visit from a United States Golf Association (USGA) chairman, the course was remarked as being “the best they’ve seen in 17 years.”
This season, the club plans to host a variety of golf tournaments, including the men’s and women’s state amateurs in the last weeks of June and the USGA Fall State Classic, an honored tradition at Cripple Creek. The club also continues to play host to a multitude of charity events this year, such as the Progress for Prostate, Rally for the Cure and Quiet Resorts Charitable Foundation tournaments.
“We host everything from the AARP Southern Delaware Chapter events to tournaments for the Delaware hospice,” said Trout. “We want to stay active in outside functions to gain exposure for our club while giving back to community.”
Cripple Creek has recently teamed up with USGA to present the First Tee Program, which helps jump-start the sport of golf at a young age.
“It goes back to being family-oriented,” Trout said. “Our junior program has grown each year since it’s been up.”
A junior tournament is scheduled to be held this June, including young golfers from the Philadelphia area, too. The club also serves as the home course for Indian River High School’s varsity golf team. Involving the youth is a key component to making the club more family-oriented, Trout noted, and classes and lessons are available on-site.
Trout, who served as the pro at the Wilmington Country Club for six years, was welcomed to that post at Cripple Creek before being made general manager of the club.
“Brian has done an outstanding job moving our club forward,” said Board Chairman and current Club President Bill Clarke. “Our membership can’t rave enough about what this man has done, and it’s definitely helped improve our status.”
Currently, Cripple Creek has approximately 350 members. With a stunted economy, housing in the golf community may be slow to fill up, but Trout noted that there are ways to work with that.
“The attrition we’ve had, in terms of our membership count, is directly attributed to the economy and the market,” he said, “not from our maintenance or upkeep. Everyone, from private to public clubs, has had to find ways of being attractive.”
New alternatives for those wanting to join the club are being offered at Cripple Creek.
“We’re stemming our influx of members by offering new membership options,” he added. “One of our biggest and most successful options is a monthly payment, steering away from the structure of having initiation fees. We’re doing what we can to expose the club more. Our goal is to get new members and communicate the fact that we’re here.”
Past Club President Don Pharr said he is pleased with the variety of golfers who make their way onto the links.
“We have a very eclectic membership,” he said, “and that’s an important part of Cripple Creek. You can play with a wide selection of members in age and skill, and people appreciate that. We’ve got some that live right here and others that come in from Bethany and Fenwick, or even from out of the area.”
Trout is hoping that the club’s location can play into drawing more members, too.
“Being at the beach should help,” he said. “After a stressful economy, golfers are going to need to relax. We hope they’ll get out on the course and take a break from their problems.”
The warmer weekends of the past month have even seen a few more golfers than expected.
“A few weeks back, our driving range was mobbed,” Trout noted. “It just goes to show you that people have the itch and are dying to get back out there. The long winter didn’t help, but, hopefully, we turned a corner now.”
Cripple Creek has operated as a secondary club for members from the big cities, he added, allowing them to retreat to the beach in the warmer months.
“We’ve heard that Cripple Creek has been Bethany’s best-kept secret, but we don’t want it to be a secret,” Pharr said with a smile. “We’re proud of what we have here.”
“Our aim is to make Cripple Creek the place to be,” Trout added. “We offer the private club experience, and members are treated as they would any other club. It’s a very welcoming and comfortable environment.”
For more information about Cripple Creek or membership information, contact the clubhouse at (302) 539-1446 or visit www.cripplecreekgolf.com.