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On a beautiful fall afternoon, we visited Hidden Greens Golf Course in Hastings, enjoying the drive down south on Hwy 61, then turning East for the half-mile drive to the clubhouse.
We were met by the friendly starter in the clubhouse, who welcomed us, checked our group in, and got us quickly onto the course, along with the admonition: "Let's Enjoy Golfing!" There's a lot here to test your skills.
Hidden Greens was established 35 years ago, and currently is set up as a 6300 yard course cut out of a mature oak and pine forest in a state game refuge, making use of its rolling terrain, natural ponds and streams winding through the course, along with a few strategically placed traps. You'll quickly appreciate the notes and strategy suggestions provided for each hole on the scorecard as you plan your attack.
Approaching the greens, you'll sometimes find that not all paths are equally promising, as strategically placed large oaks, or a cluster of small trees, a meandering creek, or a larger-than-life bunker has suddenly obstructed your line of play. And the greens are often quite large, ranging from fairly flat to deftly sloped, and have a tendency to run fast. Imagine - all this fun in one beautifully well-maintained layout.
The signature hole is the 413 yard # 16 and offers distinct challenges as a large lake lies 280 yards from the tee, forcing the fairway to bend around it's right edge. Place your tee shot to the left side and you'll have a 150-yard plus approach shot staring at you, virtually all over water. Alternatively, should you choose to place your tee shot towards the right, the threat of the lake is diminished, but you'll have to deal with a 60 foot tall oak tree in your line to the green. A really challenging par-4 hole, unless you've elevated your short game to regularly finish the hole with an accurate approach shot and one putt.
For someone with more limited skills, like us, you can find satisfaction and success on #7, an attractive 152-yard par-3 hole from an elevated tee. Here your challenge is to select the right club and swing to master the crosswinds while completely ignoring the creek which crosses the fairway, and the large traps on either side of the green.
You'll get to see that creek again on 291-yard 8th hole. You'll fit your tee shot to land across the creek - a distance of only 140 yards along the right side, and 200 yards along the left. At 184 yards, the fairway doglegs left, and your approach shot will have to be accurate, as the creek winds back across the fairway, just in front and along the right side of the green, while the woods creates an issue with any approach hit to the left side or long. Loft it high, and stick it near the pin!
You'll learn a lot on your first round at Hidden Greens, and likely do better when you return. Need extra help...Mike Pine offers lessons for adults, juniors, and ladies. In addition, the course offers a 20-stall driving range, two practice greens, and a practice bunker. Check the website for photos, an aerial sketch of the course, and strategy hints for each hole. Be sure to visit the clubhouse or relax by the firepot with reasonably-priced bar food and drinks. You'll enjoy Hidden Greens - it's affordable, peaceful and challenging.