Some of the world’s finest golf courses are located in New Jersey State, including the long-time world No.1 Pine Valley, so any new course needs to be something special to compete at the highest level. Hidden Creek Golf Club has the potential to move even higher in the rankings but few people know about the course and fewer still have played it.
Set amidst pine, oak and maple in southern New Jersey, Hidden Creek was the brainchild of its owner Roger Hansen, grandson of the Norwegian construction magnate Ole Hansen. “Giving back to the community” is a core value of the Hansen organisation and in true American style, Hidden Creek Golf Club is an exclusive, members only club.
Opened in May 2002 and designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the course is routed across 750 acres of magnificent heathland. The topography of the land is pleasantly undulating with interesting elevation change to lend appeal. From the tips, Hidden Creek measures close to 6,900 yards, but with a number of forward tees at the disposal of members and their guests, length is not an issue.
The best word I can use to accurately describe Hidden Creek is "subdued." And that is a compliment to the extremely talented architectural duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. There are a number of courses in the greater Atlantic City area that opted to forego simplicity and believed that inclusion of every forced item would constitute a sound design and worthy layout. That did not happen at Hidden Creek.
Coore and Crenshaw opted to use the land in its most natural form. Instead of having a finished product standing apart from the terrain -- Hidden Creek is blessed to work in total unison instead.
The "less is more" mantra does not mean the course hits all cylinders at a high level. The outward side is rather ordinary with a few exceptions. The par-3 4th is a work of art. The movement of the land and the manner by which the lone greenside bunker plays a pivotal role should be a case study for other architects to examine on how to create a hole without going over-the-top in an unnatural bombardment manner. The short par-4 8th is a good hole but there's not enough bite to keep the strongest of players from firing away with impunity.
The inward half of holes picks up the pace considerably. The movement is an ongoing mark of distinction -- there's no pattern -- always changing gears and making players adjust accordingly. The short blind uphill par-3 11th is a great counterpoint to the likes of the aforementioned 4th. The par-4 12th is a quality long two-shot hole that surrenders par in a miserly manner unless top tier execution is carried out.
The green shapes and contours are also neatly tied together -- not outrageous to the point of excess, but always putting a stamp of approval for those capable in hitting precise approach shots.
As a resident of the State I am proud to say New Jersey, despite its small size, has a stature that is truly blessed in the depth of its golf offerings. Hidden Creek is a quality layout and worthy of attention. Is the course top ten material in the Garden State? Not quite so in my mind. The front nine is not of sufficient character to earn that high praise. Nonetheless, any trip to the greater Atlantic City can count on very few sure bets but Hidden Creek is most certainly one to enjoy if blessed with the opportunity to play it.
by M. James Ward
The greens here are fantastic. Great bunkering too. I had high expectations from hearing how great this Coore and Crenshaw design is. The front 9 didn't live up to my expectations. It was very good, but not great. The back is better.
Another spectacular effort from Coore & Crenshaw built in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Wide fairways lull the unsuspecting golfer into thinking the course may not be a big test. Wait until you get to the greens. The first green sets the standard for the rest of the course; fast with lots of undulations. The fourth hole, a reverse Redan hole, is one of the most challenging on the course and one of the best renditions created on any course. The driveable par four eighth offers a chance of an eagle or an eight. On the par three up-hill eleventh hole you may not see your ball land, but it is an exhilarating shot. The difficult twelfth plays long and uphill, followed by the tricky thirteenth with its wild green. An under-appreciated course in a state blessed with a lot of good golf, Hidden Creek is a hidden gem and a spectacular and fun day’s golf.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
Hidden Creek is one of the earlier efforts from Coore/Crenshaw with all their trademark features. Every hole stands by itself with large characteristics. Expansive wide fairways leading to enormous greens – some people think these greens are a little too large, and I tend to agree. From the tee, there are many plateau fairways, which emphasizes C&C’s ability to identify and utilise the spines and ridges that roll across the property. There are beautiful bunkers on this course. I especially liked the diagonal fairway bunker complexes which test your depth perception, in addition to the treacherous traps that wrap themselves around the putting surfaces and sit well below the green-level. As mentioned, the scale of this course is eye opening, however credit is due to the subtleties around the greens, especially the sprawling aprons.