Soon after Hamilton Farm was established in 1911, the owners constructed an enormous 50-stall equestrian stable, turning it into one of the most important horse centres in the country. Indeed today, it serves as the headquarters for the US Equestrian Team, which uses the facility for Olympic competition training.
Adjacent to the stables lies a rather unusual golfing configuration that was crafted in 1998 and it features an 18-hole championship course, called The Highlands, and a short 18-hole layout named The Hickory, which is the only USGA rated par three course in the country.
Challenging holes on The Hickory course measure between 127 and 229 yards and it’s a favourite destination for one of our most respected contributors, M. James Ward, who commented as follows:
“If one were to measure the greatness of a course simply through exclusiveness and total attention to customer service then Hamilton Farm would be high in the pecking order. The facility was created to provide a private oasis which would transport members and their guests from the 24/7 cluttered world that operates beyond its high gates. In that sense, Hamilton Farm most certainly accomplishes that.
For those who do get the opportunity to play The Highlands course, be sure to head to The Hickory par three layout. It's arguably among the very best in America. Too bad the main layout could not be as thought provoking.”
The Hickory is a par 3 course like no other. You will need your entire bag here. Quite possibly even your driver on a few of the longer holes. It's the only par 3 course in the US which has a rating and slope. If you play here regularly your game will improve. The green contours are fabulous. The bunkering is demanding just like it's big brother. The holes predominantly are longer. This is no pitch and putt. There are at least 4 holes which tip out at well over 200 yards. The rough is US open style deep. Maybe they just don't get around to trim it often or maybe they just like this little course to show it's teeth. I challenge you to play to your handicap here.
There's really only one word to describe the qualities of The Hickory -- bravo! Plenty of facilities have seen fit in recent years to add some sort of short course version to the main regulation golf offerings and I have had the opportunity to play quite a few of them. The one found at Bandon Dunes in Oregon (called The Preserve) is very good given the handiwork of Crenshaw & Coore, but that layout tops out at 13 holes.
The Hickory is blessed with rolling terrain and credit to architects Hurdzan and Fry for a wider variety of holes than usually found on short courses. Just keep firmly in mind that this is not some sort of chip'n putt garden-variety of holes. Long irons and even hybrids may be faced when circumstances warrant. You also face a plenty of twists and turns and the bunkering and green dimensions are all weaved well and quite varied.
How many short courses will you find people say they enjoyed more than the main layout? That's not a stretch of thought when coming here. Golf needs to provide "fun" elements that can inspire more people to play. Although access to The Hickory is strictly for members and guests it bodes well that other such comparable developments are happening with a number of them now in the public realm.
M. James Ward