There is not one ounce of pretention at Hidden Valley. The course welcomes all in true “come-as-you-are” fashion. I arrived early for my interview and was welcomed into owner’s Dan and Molly Nord’s home located just off the first tee. They offered me coffee and invited me to sit at their dining table.
The course is a lean operation. They have one employee who sets the sprinklers in the evening. The rest of the work is done by owner Dan, Molly and the rest of their family. Operating and maintaining a course is a huge task. Before purchasing Hidden Valley, Dan worked in landscaping and irrigation. Like many of us, he began to play a lot of golf with clients and became addicted to the sport. With a background in landscaping and irrigation he thought that he could take care of the grounds at a course. When Hidden Valley came on the market he jumped on the chance to practice his profession, live nearer to family and play all the golf time would allow.
If you’re a little more laid back about your golf experience Hidden Valley may be the course for you. Don’t worry about what you’re wearing; t-shirt and jeans are more than acceptable. When you arrive you will be greeted by people so friendly, you’ll feel like you must have been friends for at least 20 years (if you’re younger than 20 than they’re probably friends with your parents).
Originally built in 1929, Hidden Valley is one of the oldest courses in the area. The age of the course led Dan to remark “I feel more like the caretaker than an owner, the course was here before me and it will be here long after I’m gone.” Because the course is so old there are a lot of regular golfers who have been regulars for a long time. “A lot of our golfers are in their 80’s and 90’s, the course has been here forever and so have the customers.”
For a course that is relatively close to the freeway, and has been around as long as it has, Hidden Valley really is…hidden. With the exception of a few newer construction homes along the fourth fairway, your round is played in a very secluded setting. All of this leads to your round being relaxed in every sense of the word. The pace doesn’t need to be too quick, it’s quiet and secluded on the course, and you don’t need to play in a collared shirt and khakis. Part of that is location, and the other part is the mature trees.
Hidden Valley embraces sustainable course maintenance in several ways. When the course was built over 80 years ago it was seeded with local grasses, specifically poa annua (bluegrass). Because Hidden Valley is seeded with local grass, there is no need to use chemicals to eliminate unwanted grass varieties, which dramatically reduces the amount of chemicals needed to maintain the course. Because the grass has been at the course for so long it is naturally resistant to many of the local bugs and diseases which can harm grass; again, reducing the need for chemical treatments. Because of its age, the grass has also become incredibly drought tolerant, which makes the course a very efficient user of water. Dan has also installed Audubon Society certified birdhouses around the course. Rather than using chemicals, Dan uses birds keep plant-destroying insects in check.
The measures taken at Hidden Valley to let nature take care of itself means the course has almost no impact on the environment.
When you arrive at Hidden Valley and are confronted by smiling faces and a relaxed atmosphere it’s easy to assume that the course will be equally accommodating: it isn’t. Hidden Valley is an incredibly challenging course. It’s long, the greens are small and many are guarded by bunkers, the trees are tall, the rough is thick and the course changes elevation more often than a roller coaster. When you visit Hidden Valley be prepared to play your best or post some high scores.
The level of difficulty ramps up early with the par 5 first. Most players will not be able to reach in two, but laying up is also incredibly dangerous because of the pond situated about 50 yards in front of the green which swallows the left side of the fairway. This means you’ll be left with a substantial third shot into a sloping back-to-front green that is protected by thick rough on the left. Though the hole itself is relatively straight forward, it is laced with landmines which can blow up in your face at any moment.
Though holes two and three are on the shorter side, they both feature huge elevation changes which make gauging the distance much more difficult.
The fourth hole is the second par 5. The hole, like many others, features rolling hills through the entire fairway. There is a pond on the left side of the fairway about 175 yards from the tee, which makes landing your tee shot much more treacherous. Though the right side of the fairway is much more open, the fairway narrows quickly with mature trees on both sides. Even if you do manage to stay dry off the tee you may not have a clear second shot unless you manage to drive into a narrow corridor just to the right of the pond. The second shot is blind. If you do reach in two you’ll still have to navigate a very tricky multi-tiered green.
After the fourth hole the course becomes somewhat easier, although it may be best if you leave the driver in the bag for the rest of the round. The holes are straightforward, but you can quickly find trouble with even the slightest miscue off the tee. Any shot hit into the trees is devastating. Although many of the greens are within reach it’s best to avoid temptation unless you feel completely in command of your driver.
Hidden Valley cultivates an incredibly friendly and laid-back atmosphere in their clubhouse, and it’s a good thing they do. You’ll need to feel good about yourself going into an incredibly difficult first hole on what is a very challenging course. Regardless of how you play, you’ll see the same smiling faces as you leave, which should cheer you up in preparation for your next round.