Hidden Creek Golf Club
NJ, USA

Thirteenth hole, 390 yards; In contrast with the rolling twelfth, the thirteenth (and fourteenth) are laid across the only flat portion of the property. In addition, the design team elected on this rare occasion to leave the trees close in to frame the green as opposed to having cleared sixty yards behind the twelfth green, for instance.  Nonetheless, the hole’s rich composition as provided by the golden fine fescue and numerous bunkers contrasted against the dark green pine trees closely knits the hole into the common fabric of the other seventeen. Why more clubs don’t pursue the vibrant, rustic texture as put forth at Hidden Creek is a mystery.  James Duncan sums up its playing attributes well when he writes, ‘Thirteen happens to be one of my favorite holes at HC, and a nice testament to the possibilities of flattish ground. It’s one of Jim Craig’s greens and one of the first he worked on after he got to the project. He came to HC straight on the heels of Chechessee, and I give him a lot of credit for instantly adapting to an entirely different style. The clearing sets up the shape of the hole, with the tight line to the dogleg on the right, and the wide swoop on the left. I remember Ben commenting that Ross used that idea a lot on his courses, and ever since that type of clearing has been a “Ross clear” in my field terminology. The green is superb. While it doesn’t have dramatic elevation changes it is characterized by the way it sits on an angle on a slight rise, relative to the line of play, by a couple of neat internal contours and the absence of any real back to the green. It just sort of drifts off. What I like most about the hole is that it’s not overly exacting or particularly difficult, but intent instead upon providing interest and fun. It has the kind of green that promotes a considerable variety of shots by the simplest of means, which, to our way of thinking at least, is one of the most attractive and elusive patterns of golf course design.’

In common with the great heath courses, Hidden Creek can be walked in under three hours, thanks to short green to tee walks such as here from the twelfth green to the thirteenth tee.

Though laid across flat land, the thirteenth is anything but straightforward to play thanks to the numerous fairway bunkers.

A tee ball that flies this central hazard and skirts left of the second bunker leaves the ideal approach angle.

Given that it is over flat land, the golfer isn't surprised to find that Coore used more fairway bunkers here than on any other hole to give it its playing interest. Eleven of the course's one hundred and one bunkers are found on the thirteenth.

Fourteenth hole, 200 yards; In an attempt to give every hole immediate visual impact, many modern architects in the past two decades defined the green to such a clear degree that it inadvertently became an easier target. Here, Coore & Crenshaw could have easily highlighted the green through the placement of mounds and bunkers. Instead, they kept the fourteenth green as an extension of the fairway with the green even slightly below its surrounds in spots and no bunkers down its long left side. From the tee, the golfer is hard pressed to determine where on this 51 yard (!) deep green the hole actually is. A simple yet effective hole where the architect didn’t get in the way of himself. The less is more principle applied here helps reinforce that the ground is one’s friend at Hidden Creek.

In a fine change up from the heavily bunkered hole prior, the simplicity of the fourteenth adds to the overall variety of the course.

Fifteenth hole, 410 yards; Harry Colt had a remarkable ability for knocking quality into each hole at his famous heathland courses around London. Be it St. George’s Hill or Sunningdale New or Swinley Forest, all the holes have something to recommend for themselves as the golfer is always given something to try and accomplish. Here the art form of shaping shots is alive and well with a draw ideal from the tee and a green that sets up perfectly for a fade.

The downhill fifteenth bends left at the 250 yard mark. The golfer who starts a draw at the scotch broom hanging over the bunker on the outside of the dogleg ....

 

...gains the best angle and shortest distance into the elevated green.

Sixteenth hole, 470 yards; Just as no two Coore & Crenshaw courses look alike, no two holes at Hidden Creek look alike either, which is no mean feat for property that isn’t dramatic. In fact, the only knock on the once excellent Pines Course at nearby Seaview Country Club was that one had trouble recalling the specific holes after the round. Not so at Hidden Creek. In the case of the sixteenth, it is made memorable and unique by a diagonal row of irregular mounds that bisect the fairway and by Jim Craig’s vexing green with its high point in the middle. Ian Dalzell describes the sixteenth as  ’perhaps the tightest tee shot on the course,  particularly for the longer hitter as the fairway pinches in at around the 240 yard mark.  A wide sweeping cut was made on the tree clearing on the left whereas the tree line is fairly straight up the right side of the entire hole.  The hole is bisected by some large fescue-laden mounding running straight across the fairway 295 yards from the tee.  They were placed there for functional reasons during construction due to the low and wet nature of the soils.  Today they play havoc with the player who has missed the fairway and is simply trying to punch out and advance his ball.  Bill and Ben love to deceive the eye, making you question yourself as you stand over the ball.  Here on 16 they did a nice job of that by placing a large skinny bunker that runs some 90-yards up the right of the final 120-yards of the hole.  It looks much smaller, which in turn seemingly brings the green closer to your eye and approach shots inevitably come up short.’

Irregular shaped mounds diagonally bisect the sixteenth fairway at the 295 yard mark from the tee. Creating such mounds without any hint of symmetry is a genuine art form.

Seventeenth hole, 530 yards; The drama that has unfolded for decades on the seventeenth at Muirfield in Scotland epitomizes the virtues of having a reachable three shotter late in the round, and this hole has similar qualities to help see-saw many a match. In a nice touch (the kind of touch that only occurs when the architect is on site for an extended period of time), a knob near the front left of the green was created that sometimes helps deflect a running approach shot toward the putting surface.

The golfer who can avoid the array of bunkers down the seventeenth fairway has a chance to pick up a shot on Old Man Par.

 

Since opening in 2002, Coore & Crenshaw continue to work closely with the Club in making sure that the holes play as they were intended. For instance, the second, eighth, seventeenth and eighteenth tees have been extended back so that the central hazards/ridges remain integral to the playing strategy of each hole. At the same time, new forward member tees have been added at the sixth, tenth and sixteenth holes.  These three holes remain very tough but at least the holes are now within reach of the typical member. After all, the purpose of Hidden Creek from day one has been always about enjoyment and variety as opposed to sheer length and difficulty. Credit both the owner for wanting – and the architects for delivering – such a course. In every meaningful respect, it is an ideal course upon which to enjoy a game on a frequent basis. As Dave Axland noted during his last visit from Friar’s Head, ‘Boy, something really went right here.’

Both golfers and deer enjoy the tranquil atmosphere at Hidden Creek.

The End