U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Hidden Creek: Thoughtful Design Awaits Competitors
September 23, 2015 | EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J.
By Tom Mackin
At 130 yards, it’s the shortest hole at Hidden Creek Golf Club, but the par-3 11th is likely to play a critical role in the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship. At least Bill Coore thinks so, and as co-designer of the layout with Ben Crenshaw, he should know.
“I think No. 11 has the potential to be a significant swing hole,” says Coore. “It’s a little baby par 3 pinching upward to the top of a hill with a very elusive little green. It would not be uncommon at all to see one player make a 2 and his opponent make a 5.”
Coore and Crenshaw, whose restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 earned accolades during the back-to-back U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in 2014, designed Hidden Creek Golf Club in 2002. The duo, with significant input from associate James Duncan, created a course reminiscent of the heathland courses found outside of London, such as Sunningdale and Swinley Forest.
“We thought that was a concept that would be fitting for Hidden Creek,” said Coore. “Low profile with not much elevation change. Instead of greens being perched up and on plateaus like Pinehurst, maybe we go the other way and put in low-profile greens, along with mounds, ridges and bunkers that in many instances would be higher than the greens.”
This is no bomber’s course, according to Coore. “Primarily because the course (which will play at a maximum of 6,864 yards for the championship) was not based upon length to start with,” he said. “It’s a course that is based upon the greens first and foremost, and the areas around the greens. And then backing up to the areas from where approach shots are played. The width of the fairways encourages play to certain portions of the fairways. That was far more integral to Hidden Creek, and probably all of our courses, than length.”
Speaking of greens, the one on the 414-yard, par 4 14th is 52 yards deep. “That green is so subtle but so difficult,” says Coore. “Even though it looks simple, it is so difficult to either putt, chip or pitch from the turf to the green and get it close. It’s just a hard hole to get your ball close to the hole.”
All of that is a prelude to the 526-yard, par-5 17th, a hole that Coore thinks will be reachable in two for most of the field.
“You could see people have reasonable chances to make eagles there,” he said. “Because of the hole’s appearance, people will think, here is where I can really make up ground and be aggressive. I think there will be 6s and 7s made there as well. I do think that of all the finishing holes, 17 has the most potential for a two-shot or more swing.”
If a match does make it to the 428-yard 18th hole, players will face a number of decisions.
“It’s a classic, old Eastern type of hole where you play over a valley to a hilltop, and then over another valley to the green set on another hilltop,” says Coore. “You will either have a beautiful lie at the top of the hill with good vision to the green, or the lie will be uphill. For very long players, they have to decide if they go over the hill and hit from a downhill, sidehill lie to a green that sits slightly above them, with a fairly daunting bunker at front right. It’s not the longest par 4 out there (that will be the 448-yard 16th). But it’s one that brings forth a lot of decisions.”
Coore thinks the course is wide enough and open enough that the wind should move freely and swirl in some areas. “I would hope that it is a factor, and hope as well that it would be a dry period so the ball is running in the fairways and the greens will be quite firm.”
The deciding factor in determining a winner will likely be the short game.
“If you look at Hidden Creek, or most any of our courses, the defense begins at the greens and the surrounds,” says Coore. “Those defenses take different forms with different courses, but it’s the ability to be somewhat creative. We have done courses where you could say that the demands are so great, that if you missed left, right or long, that you always want to play one club short. But Hidden Creek gives you different looks.”
Again, Coore returned to his contention that this is not a course one ought to try to overpower.
“Hidden Creek will yield good scores to really good play,” he said. “That to us is not just physically really good play, it’s thoughtful play. Different players will find different ways to proceed down the holes. We find that interesting.”
New Jersey native Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.