Hidden Glen is one of those courses that is really hard to play the first time. I came in to this round confident and playing really well (for me): My previous five rounds were 78, 81, 82, 85 and 83, and for the first time in my life I’m under a 9 handicap at 8.3. I’ve been thrilled and feeling almost unstoppable on the course. I’ve been hitting fairways and greens, and putting out of my mind.
All that came to a screeching halt at Hidden Glen Golf Club in Cedarburg.
I should add that I really enjoyed the course, and the conditions were nothing short of perfect. These lightning fast, multi-tiered greens beat me down, though – save for a one-putt birdie on ten, I never figured them out and three-putts were nothing if not regular.
Hidden Glen is a course where local knowledge is king, and there’s a lot out there to be had. While my golf game struggled mightily, I really enjoyed the course and think my next time on it will probably see me shaving ten strokes off the 95 I shot this time… Or more. Hopefully I’ll find out soon!
To the course…
The first hole requires a shot toward the right side of the fairway. A narrow, kidney bean shaped green resides on the long side of a pond that keeps the track’s opener from being your typical introductory handshake.
The second hole introduces the player to a few of the design elements they can expect throughout their round: Wide, forgiving fairways, concealed target lines and elevated, multi-tiered greens.
Anything right of the trap way on the left border of the second hole is fine off the tee – this par four comes down to what you do on the two-tiered green that rises from left to right.
The third at Hidden Glen is a classic Dye family risk/reward par four: Longer hitters are baited in to chopping off as much of the massive pond as they can to get closer to the green, while the smart player hits the high percentage shot down the left side fairway to leave a 150-yard approach shot.
From the combo tees we were playing, the green was a little over 300 yards of carry away, and the target areas for bigger drivers of the ball required carries between 225 and 280 yards.
With water left, long and right on the approach shot, being able to get the drive closer off the tee would certainly come in handy…
The fourth is a very nice island par three. Thin from side-to-side, the green is deep enough to allow for an extra club on the tee shot, which is important on a wide-open course where a 10 mph wind is considered a light breeze.
A tough par five, the fifth tees up over water with a fairway that runs from right to left and again rewards the long [and accurate] driver with both a shorter distance in to the green as well as a chance to get there in two. Shorter hitters will likely need to lay back and play long shots down the fairway.
The sixth, while short in distance, is quite possibly the hardest par three on the course. The green here is long from front-to-back, opening up a great variety of possibilities for lengths, but is really, really narrow from right-to-left.
The left side of the green (with the front pin we had) is crowned and falls off to a collection zone that reminded me of other collection areas from my past:
- The 14th at Bandon Trails: I handled this one well, leading to birdie:
- The 3rd on the Ocean course at Kiawah Island: I didn’t handle this one as well, hitting what I thought was a perfect 60-degree wedge in to set up birdie – it somehow rolled off the back and led to a ridiculous adventure and a snowman on my scorecard
So… Don’t go left on the sixth at Hidden Glen. Trust me.
The seventh is a long par four, playing around 480 yards from the combo tees. It’s a bit of a risk/reward hole (similar to a road hole), with small hills hiding the landing zone for players trying to bite off distance – sand traps protect much of that area, as well, adding difficulty to the approach shot if not carried.
The green on seven is receptive to long shots, running uphill from front to back.
As mentioned earlier, Hidden Glen is a tremendously challenging golf course for the first-time player. While the first bunch of holes introduce beginners to well constructed, tumultuous green complexes, it’s on the eighth hole that PB Dye’s design starts peppering the course with a rather new-age defender of par that will really disorient newbies: Blind shots.
The tee shot is to a wide, easy-to-hit fairway. From there, things get a bit more complicated – we couldn’t see the green until about 20 yards out, in fact. Nick gave me a line near the two furthest right pine trees in the distance, which turned out to be pretty accurate.
Ten foot tall grass mounds shroud the green complex, which runs uphill right-to-left from a sharp dogleg in the fairway. The mounds also hide six small bunkers.
Uphill and long, the par four ninth plays over water from 443 yards from the second tees in. The green is long but narrow from right-to-left, and if the approach is errant will potentially leave another blind recovery shot over mounding.
Elevated tees frame the tenth hole fairway nicely, which bends 90 degrees from left to right past the wasteland. Huge hitters can wail away here, but the farther right the tee shot is the more likely it is to find the massive tree or hazard in the bend.
The eleventh really got me. I had a hard time figuring out the distance to the treeline, or the dogleg, and had no idea what would happen if I was a little left. From the tee, it looks like a sea of fescue. When driving past it in the cart, though, there is a lot of sandy wasteland and bunches of fescue that are nowhere near as penal as I’d expected.
I was never comfortable on the tee, and pushed driver hard right in to the woods.
The second shot is well uphill to a short, elevated two-tier green that is much higher on the right side than the left.
Twelve is a tough par three, teeing up from 185 yards from the combo tees (237 from the tips and 210 from the first set in). There are no trees around, and considering it’s on a higher point of the golf course the tee shot will be heavily influenced by wind.
The thirteenth has probably the widest fairway at Hidden Glen, and probably one of the widest I’ve ever seen. While there are no major concerns off the tee – swing for the fences! – there’s a lot going on green-side.
A pond creeps up to the front-left in the approach area, and the putting surface is canted severely from right-to-left, toward the water and a shallow, narrow sand trap that separates the green and pond.
I hit a great tee shot on this hole only to hit a marginal at best approach that left me on the top shelf (right side of the green). I was happy to make five.
While the entire left side of the driving zone looks like a lost ball waiting to happen, the tee shot on fourteen should actually be fairly straight-forward. There are sand traps beyond all the fescue, but not as much tall grass as it appears from the tees. The right side is wide open.
A great tee shot on fourteen will allow for a long approach to a green that is fairly level and open. While it’s accessible, it is also incredibly sloped and long from front to back (another multi-tiered green complex).
With a front-left pin location, we could see the flag from the tee box on fifteen. This would be the only time we’d see it until walking up to scout our approach shots. The fairway runs about 280 yards before dropping off a cliff that leads to a blind, lowered green.
Water on the left side borders this recessed green, so pick a tree in the distance to aim at before hitting a wedge in but make sure to err toward the right.
The tee shot on sixteen should split the two trees nearest the right side of the fairway in the distance. A large bunker protects the left side leading up to its right-to-left dogleg, and the green is slightly elevated and tough to hit due to its massive false front.
Playing over water, the seventeenth cuts the northwest corner of a pond to a small green protected on the left by a serpentine trap and on the right by two small pot bunkers.
As is the case with all par threes at Hidden Glen, wind will inevitably play a major factor in strategy on the seventeenth.
Playing over 500 yards from all three of the longest tee boxes, a tee shot over water and then playing way uphill to a crazy small and significantly contoured green with a huge false front makes the eighteenth at Hidden Glen one of the most challenging finishing holes I’ve seen in a while!
I hit a ridiculously good tee shot on eighteen, leaving myself 210-220 in uphill. I hadn’t hit a fairway wood all day, but figured this was a good opportunity as Nick had already closed me out in our match play and this would not be a relevant score as my number of shots was starting to add up exponentially.
I missed a little short and left, leaving myself a downhill, side-hill flop that I skulled almost to the practice green. A typical view of the recovery shot if short on eighteen – completely hidden is the false front and right-side collection area:
One of the things I liked best about Hidden Glen is that the course truly requires players to hit all kinds of shots and clubs. There is terrific variety to the par threes and the conditions are absolutely immaculate – these were probably the fastest greens and fairways I’ve played this year.
The clubhouse is very nice, and the men’s locker room provides a first-class experience including its own bar. Their freshly fried potato chips were delicious and, as I’ve come to expect at private clubs in Wisconsin, they pour a good drink.
Because everybody asks me “What would you compare it to?” I spent some time thinking about it. I think Hidden Glen is for sure its own course, but at the same time if I had to compare it to one course it would be Hawk’s Landing in Verona, Wisconsin. The others that come to mind, to some degree, are Meadow Valleys at Blackwolf Run, Strawberry Creek and to some degree the Irish course at Whistling Straits. These are all regular tournament/championship courses, are rather wide and forgiving off the tees and are all meticulously kept.
Similarly to my own home club (North Hills Country Club), Hidden Glen is all about the golf experience. There are no pools or tennis courts, which I’ve come to realize are actually good selling points for avid golfers who’d prefer not to worry about additional costs and liability.
Just sixteen years in the making, Hidden Glen is one of the newest private golf clubs in the state, and I have to say they appear to be healthy and growing: Their membership is young and involved, and their course is beautiful, challenging and one that I’d love to get back to for a second glance with a little more local knowledge.
Location: Cedarburg, WI
Yardage: Tournament-7017, Championship-6621, Member-6255, Intermediate-5914, Forward-5278
Slope/Rating: Tournament-140/74.3, Championship-136/72.5, Member-132/70.9, Intermediate-130/69.3, Forward-127/70.8
Weekend Rates: Private (~ $100 guest fee)