Bear Trap Dunes Golf Club in Ocean View, Delaware: A family affair

OCEAN VIEW, Del. -- Perhaps it's the interesting history, or maybe just the good design of golf holes and welcoming clubhouse, but Bear Trap Dunes Golf Club seems to beckon all kinds of golfers, especially families.

The first 18 holes opened in 1999, and by 2001, there were 27 of them, rolling along the ample dunes that were available from Bethany Beach just three miles away on the coast. The course was designed by Rick Jacobson, a former associate of Jack Nicklaus. And the whole operation was the vision of Joshua Freeman, who also developed the Nicklaus-designed Bayside Resort Golf Club just down the road in Selbyville, Del.

In 2006, however, tragedy struck when Freeman died in a helicopter crash, leaving his widow, Michelle Freeman, to transition from stay-at-home mom to president and CEO of a company that not only owned and developed real estate, but also part of the NBA's Washington Wizards and NHL's Washington Capitals. Mrs. Freeman has been more than successful in her transition to CEO as she was recently named one of the Washington, D.C. area's top 10 influential women by one of the local magazines.

Since taking over, she has expanded the family's charitable foundation and done plenty to enhance the operation of the clubs, including Bear Trap Dunes, which is operated by Troon Golf.

Of her late husband, she said, "Josh Freeman was an inspiration to all that knew him and partook of his never ending high energy. With Josh, nothing was impossible and life was not worth living if it was not full of adventure."

That sentiment seems to permeate throughout the company and into the golf operation at Bear Trap Dunes, from the shop to the restaurant and a group of starters that may be as dedicated and golf savvy as any in the country.

Welcome to Bear Trap Dunes Golf Club

Whether you're a scratch player or a beginner, Bear Trap Dunes has a tee time for you. There are multiple sets of tees and three different combinations of 18 holes, but more than that, the club has several programs to make everyone feel welcome.

The club offers several programs, including the Get Golf Ready clinics that have become popular with new golfers. There are also camps and programs for juniors, an extensive lesson program and after 3 p.m., juniors can play free with a paying adult.

Once they get on the golf course, what they'll find is unique topography on the Delaware/Maryland coast.

"Bear Trap Dunes is visually unique because of its ample use of sand dunes -- adhering to the coastal area's natural terrain," Jacobson said. "Because of strategically placed dunes, grassy hollows, bunkers and water hazards, players will have to 'think' their way through each hole."

The result is a gentle course with ample amounts of water and sand. Play from the back tees (all three combinations are around 7,000 yards) and you've got a good, but fair test. Play up a tee or two and it's more than fair for any player.

Bear Trap Dunes Golf Club: The verdict

It really is a family feel at Bear Trap Dunes G.C., and with Troon Golf running the golf operation, it seems very well run.

Beyond that, the three golf courses are solid and interesting. Said one frequent GolfNow reviewer: "Bear Trap has a great layout. Although it doesn't cover a lot of acreage the dunes separate the holes nicely. You never feel like you are top of each other on the course. ... If you are in the area this is a top-5 place to play.

Inside the clubhouse, you'll find a good selection of eats, too. Troon Golf, in fact, has something called TroonFIT, a platform that raises awareness of the health benefits related to playing (more) golf and other nongolf fitness activities like tennis, swimming and running. There are several items on the snack bar's menu stamped with the TroonFIT logo to identify options that fit in with this initiative and lifestyle.

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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Bear Trap Dunes Golf Club in Ocean View, Delaware: A family affair