Hidden Valley Is All About Striking Contrasts
This unusual Norco course is brown and green,
up and down, a walk in the park and a hike in the hills
By Eric Tracy
a picture is worth a thousand words this one here should begin
to give you an idea of the wonderful contrasts at Hidden Valley
in Norco. In choosing the 24 courses on the Southern California
Golf Tour I wanted each one to tell a story. Hidden Valley's
story is about its exceptional presentation. Hidden Valley
is the brilliant eye-candy. Every where you look you get a
visual image that's unique. And by the way, the course is
as challenging as it is visually stimulating.
wanted to golf in Scottsdale, Ariz.? Hidden Valley could double
as a Hollywood movie set for that desert oasis. Sequestered
in the city of Norco, known as Horsetown USA, Hidden Valley
was created amidst natural bedrock to give it an inland desert
mountainous feel - if that makes sense. When you look at the
scorecard you'll notice right away Hidden Valley is really
an 18-hole experience - very few holes are near each other.
Getting to some holes requires a nice jaunt in your cart as
you set out to find the next hole after finishing the one
before. The designer, Orange County-based Casey O'Callaghan,
is making his mark building courses that are sensitive to
the existing terrain with a lot of attention to detail. He's
in the process of doing the same with Tom Lehman for a course
in Mission Viejo called Arroyo Trabuco and he's got projects
in Bakersfield and Temecula scheduled to break ground in 2002.
Course GM Jason Wood says a good number of Hidden Valley golfers
gravitate from Orange County because the fees are often $50
less than those they're used to seeing. And the new toll road
- the 241 - makes access much easier from South Irvine.
MY FAVORITE HOLES:
- No. 5, 217 yard par 3 (5 handicap): From the whites,
this par 3 is actually the No. 1 handicap hole - how often
do you see that? -- basically because there's no room to
push the tees back into the mountainside to make it a par
4 and everyone has to clear about 170 yards of ravine to
close to the green. It's a legitimate psych-out.
- No. 6, 492-yard par 5 (7 handicap): The key off the tee
is to be neither long, short, right nor left. How's that
for a recommendation? Smack it up the hill and over another
the nature-made gully to a place where you hope a second
shot is doable. Then make a hard left to a heavily-bunkered
green. You'll need more than luck.
- No. 9, 462-yard par 4 (1 handicap): This one pretty much
sums up every kind of challenge you'll face here, from the
need for a monster drive to clear the first-sage alert of
shrubs and canyon then having to lay it up for the second
shot knowing (but not seeing) there's a mass of more environmentally
sensitive area ahead that'll prevent your ball from rolling
up (and mostly rolling into the brush that you can't go
into). Then for your third shot try holding a fair but typical
hard and fast green. And if you're doing this in the early
afternoon, there's the wind factor.
- No. 12, 362-yard par 4 (12 handicap): This is supposed
to be one of the easiest? A double carry uphill from the
blacks mentally messes with you right away. The second shot
downhill should be a midiron if you do the math, but it
can easily bounce off the green and into the canyon behind.
If you typically play "bogey golf" this hole can easily
have you playing "double-bogey golf".
- No. 15, 574-yard par 5 (8 handicap): Hidden Valley's
signature hole which you see when you make the circular
turn on the street before you get to the clubhouse. However,
what you see is only the bottom portion of this hole's turn.
The tee box is way-around the hill and about 200 feet straight-up.
At least the fairway gives you a break, rolling toward the
hole from most angles after you get around the bend. Another
beauty rock formation gives you something else to think
about as you take your second shot.
WILDLIFE ALERT: Every fuzzy little critter you could
imagine is scurrying, sprinting or soaring around Hidden Valley.
Cotton-tail rabbits and road-runners are most obvious, but
there's also some endangered golden eagles and red-tail hawks
nesting around. A very interesting collection.
COOL PERKS: This course, for what it's worth, has
the best looking scorecards, truly postcard quality. And,
there's a free shoeshine stand in operation on the weekends
between the pro shop and dining facility. Hidden Valley is
also the only course on the tour that sells a CD of screen-savers
for your computer. I got one and the pictures included in
this review are from the screensaver.
NUMBERS GAME: "You gotta play the black tees to get
the real Hidden Valley experience,'' said one of the pro shop
guys before I headed out. But to make things fair and much
more enjoyable for you and everyone behind you, they've got
a legend on the scorecard, telling you which of the five tee
placements are best suited for your game based on your handicap.
Stick to it because the blacks are really for those with a
'cap of 7 or under. The distance overall between the blacks
and reds is more than 2,000 yards.
GOOD EATS: Because of the Hidden Valley's location,
at the far end of a series of new housing developments, there's
not much commerce in this mostly residential area. The word
is spreading that if you're looking for a very nice lunch
with a wonderful view or a quiet, romantic dinner prepared
by some very talented young chefs, check out Split Rock Grill.
Hidden Valley also does a terrific job with corporate and
charity events and can provide breakfast, lunch and a sumptuous
awards dinner. They offer quite reasonably priced tournament
packages and Darren Bollinger and his tournament staff do
a very nice job.
SUMMING IT UP:
Valley doesn't post a warning label, but it should. This is
not a "hit and giggle" walk in the park. You'll find out fast
flat lies are few and far between if you don't place the ball
well. The on-board Pro-Link computer will tell you the distance
of your next shot but thinking it out is up to you. Simply,
you've got to be up for a challenge to get this one right,
and those who've played it say it takes at least twice around
the track to get a feel for which holes you can score on and
those that will always cause you trouble. The white tees definitely
give the player an advantage - and most should play them without
fear of ridicule --or you could get so discouraged you'll
miss the point of enjoying the unique beauty that is Hidden
Valley. Make the trip, you'll be really be hard pressed to
find anything like this place anywhere else on the Southern
California Golf Tour.