When you talk about golf at
the Jersey Shore, three courses stand out in my mind for their unique and distinctive
One of them is public, Twisted Dune, which I was drawn to from the
first time I
played it, soon after it opened in 2001. It’s so different, even from other
sandy, shore courses; Twisted Dune looks
like it was carved out of moonscape, or sandscape. (Bausch Collection photos).
The other two are quite private:
GC, in Galloway, a 1995 design by Tom
Fazio, known for his big-budget, big-canvas courses, which design aficionados
tend to either love or hate. The third
is Hidden Creek GC, in Egg Harbor
Township, a 2002 collaboration by the darling duo of course design, Bill Coore
& Ben Crenshaw, heralded as the masters of minimalism and golfing purity.
To me, Twisted Dune (Bausch Collection) and Galloway National have
a similar feel -- raw and brash, and they both constantly dare you to make a
mistake. At either place, a good
round can go wrong in a hurry.
feels different. (Bausch Collection) Although Coore & Crenshaw have given it some of
the most visually arresting bunkering you’ll see anywhere, Hidden Creek is an altogether smoother, gentler ride. At no time does it gut-punch you the way
Twisted Dune and Galloway National can.
That doesn’t mean easy. From the Championship tees, Hidden Creek plays 7,023 yards, par 71,
with rating/slope of 73.5/136, which
is testy but not brutal; of course, for most golfers, Hidden Creek is plenty from the member tees, which play 6,562 yards and 71.6/131. (Scorecard).
For the eighth straight year, it has made Golfweek’s
list of America’s
Top 100 Modern Courses, this year ranking 82nd.
Hidden Creek’s 750-acre property boasts some surprising elevations for being in the
middle of the Pine Barrens. It also
boasts fairways are generous to a fault and green complexes that are enormous, with
all kinds of swales and troughs and subtleties that can only be learned over
If you’ve never played or
visited Hidden Creek, now might be
your best opportunity. Until the
end of October, the club is offering 40 percent breaks off its initiation fees
for full golf members (normally $15,000) and national members (normally $9,000). National member status is available to
anyone who lives on the Philadelphia side of the Delaware River and north of I-195,
which cut across New Jersey from Trenton to the shore. (Contact the club’s membership
office for full details.)
It was clear when it opened at
the height of the golf boom in ’02 that Hidden
Creek was not going to be just another mid-level entrant in the private
Conceived and developed by Roger Hansen, president of Ole Hansen and Sons, the idea was to
create a high-end, golf-only club, to be filled out by locals and national and
Philadelphia-area members who had vacation homes at the Jersey Shore. As a member of Pine Valley, the ultimate in such clubs, Hansen had all the inspiration he needed. Because Hidden Creek is so secluded, several years ago Hansen even added a comfortable Lodge to accommodate
These days, with the economy
in the tank, people who can afford one golf club membership, let alone a second
at an upscale club like Hidden Creek,
are at a premium. But if a recent
round at Hidden Creek is any
indication, they are hardly cutting back on the service, amenities or the
expense to keep the course in top condition.
opens with the closest thing to a cream-puff
par you are going find on the course -- a 392-yard wide-open, slightly uphill,
slight dogleg left, with a mid-iron into the green into a large, open green. If you struggle here, it doesn’t
bode well for the rest of your round.
After the 2nd, a 374-yard
par 4 with terrific fairway
bunkering, and the reachable par 5 3rd, with more impressive fairway
you come to the 202-yard 4th, the first par 3 of the course. With
its elevated tee, huge bailout area short of the green, and large, sloped green
that runs away from you, it is the most visually
arresting shot so far in the round, not to mention trickiest tee shot.
No hole typifies the overall
look and feel of Hidden Creek any
more than two mid-length par 4s, the 381-yard 5th and the 426-yard 6th. Here
you can see the open fairway of the 5th, and the visually deceptive fairway
mounding, and a green that is virtually
unprotected by bunkers. The 6th
is another good example of how Coore & Crenshaw use
bunkers to frame what could otherwise be a featureless hole.
Thanks to an eagle, my new
favorite hole on the front nine is the short (273-yard) par 4 8th, which is drive-able
even by the likes of me. From the tee,
you’re looking at a slightly uphill fairway with a pot bunker front and
center. But if you can fly that that
bunker and the crest, on the other side is a downhill
slope that feeds your ball all the way to a large undulated, green as it
did mine, leaving me a 15-foot eagle putt.
After 10th a slight
dogleg left with yet another bunkerless green, you reach the 11th, perhaps
the toughest par
3 at Hidden Creek. Short at only 117 yards, it is
nonetheless uphill with front bunkers, another menacing bunker to the right,
and a nasty false front, and a slippery green.
12th is the No. 1 handicap hole at Hidden Creek, likely because it is unreachable in regulation by
higher handicap players, not because it is overly difficult (here)
and (here). The 374-yard
13th is as gentle as it gets, unless you manage to get in a
greenside bunker. The 182-yard
14th is the last of the par 3s (and the least interesting), if you ask me.
On a course that isn’t known
for doglegs, the 391-yard 15th stands out, because it turns
not once, but twice,
making an accurate tee shot essential for the best angle and clear shot into
The two finishing holes
offer a birdie opportunity at the reachable 488-yard par
5 17th, where the defense is yet more fairway
bunkers and an green complex that is less benign than it appears.
If I have a beef about Hidden Creek, it is that I think the par
5 9th would provide from drama as a finishing hole than does the
a 402-yard par 4 18th that has neither the visual
appeal or the oomph.
All in all, however, Hidden Creek is a delight from start to
finish. It impressive what Coore & Crenshaw have done, primarily
with eye-catching fairway bunkering and spare, yet masterful, green complexes,
and with little or no water.
It should also be noted that
Collection photos were shot late fall or winter, when the trees were not full
and green, nor where the was the fescue as tall and penal as it normally
is. In the warmer months, the
course looks more alive and daunting.
is as good as it gets at the Jersey Shore.