Hidden Greens – No Gimmicks

By Steve Manthis

Say what you will, but I’m kind of a purist when it comes to most things regarding golf. One of my biggest pet peeves regarding golf today is the number of golf courses that seem to have been designed by people who don’t know anything about golf. There are far too many courses out there that have all sorts of gimmicks and force “signature holes” into their layouts. I don’t mind hard courses. In fact, I like the challenge, but if a course is made up of tricks, layups, long commutes between holes and blind shots, I don’t really want to come back.

With that in mind, if you’re looking for a fun and challenging course (with no gimmickry) at a great value, drive to Hastings and play Hidden Greens Golf Course. The golf course is actually located just a few miles south of Hastings, just east of Highway 61. The original 9 holes were built in 1976 by the father and son team Leonard and Al Swanson, and the back nine was completed in 1985. Today, the course is still owned by the same family, with Leonard’s grandchildren running the place. Interestingly, Leonard and Al built the course with their own farm equipment, and I have to say they did a far better job laying out Hidden Greens than many new courses have done.

There’s nothing flashy about Hidden Greens, just some good golf and some great views. Built on a state game refuge, Hidden Greens seems many miles from anywhere, and the only disturbances to be found are the wildlife. During my round, I saw the usual geese and ducks, but I also saw two deer and four turkeys! You won’t see any houses or hear any highway noise while playing, and I found the peacefulness of the place to be quite enjoyable.

As for the course itself, it measures about 6,000 yards from the regular (white) tees and an additional 300 from the back tees, but that’s not to say the course is easy. It’s definitely not. Most holes have some bend or angles to them, and the mature trees put a premium on accuracy off the tee. One of my favorites is the short, par four 8th where you have to hit over the same creek twice. It’s just 290 yards, but fun to play.

Two other short holes, numbers 14 and 15, are very representative of the course. Each one is about 300 yards, with 14 being a sharp dogleg left, and 15 a more gradual bend to the right. Keep your tee shot in the fairway and you might have a good chance at a birdie; mishit your tee shot, and you’re looking at a punch out back to the fairway. Of all the holes, however, #16 provides quite a challenge. At 400 yards with a pond protecting the green, it’s easy to see why it’s the hardest hole on the course.

With gas prices as they are, many people from the metro area might think Hastings is just too far away to play, but they’d be wrong. It’s only 15-20 minutes or so from St. Paul, Apple Valley and Woodbury. Sure, you can find courses close to wherever you live, but you probably can’t beat the prices at Hidden Greens where 18 holes plus a cart costs just $44 on the weekend. The few extra bucks you might spend on gas can be offset by the price of the round. To walk the course is just $29, and that’s another of the course’s good qualities; it’s very walkable. There are no big hills, and the distances from green to tee are very reasonable. Recreational golfers looking for some exercise will find Hidden Greens to their liking.

To find the best deals, check out their website: www.hiddengreensgolf.com. Like most courses this year, they have a little winterkill, not much, and it’s getting better every day; nevertheless, the greens were in really good shape.

As a family-owned and run golf course, the staff is very friendly; one of the maintenance crew even stopped his mowing to point me in the direction of my errant tee shot. And, to emphasize the hospitality of the staff, you can’t find a better rain check policy anywhere. If you get rained out anywhere on the course, even on the 16th hole, they’ll give you a rain check for a full round (carts fees will be pro-rated). If you find yourself in the Hastings area, whether it’s your first time there or not, make your way to Hidden Greens. It’s worth the drive.

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