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(Hickory Course)

Gladstone, NJ

Originally, the concept of the par-3 course at Hamilton Farm was for it to be played with antique hickory shaft clubs available in the golf shop. The idea was to establish a tradition where members and guests could experience the pleasure and pain of playing with clubs from the golden age of American golf (1910 - 1929), and on a short, less demanding course, so it would be pure fun. The greens and tees were to be designed exactly like those on the big, or Highlands Course but simply without the length of holes. The result is what some raters and critics are calling "the best  par-3 course in the world."

 

The parcel of land Hurdzan/Fry had to work with could not have yielded full-length holes because of all the limitations we had. The site was bisected by a public road, a protected stream, and some of the most valuable wetlands on the farm. Then there were the problems that the available land had to allow for the USETC training and competition areas. The parcel was small and odd shaped, some development lots were required, the topography was steep, and the woods were mature and deserved to be protected. So the only way to integrate golf into the site was with par-3 holes.

The total maximum yardage of the course is 3,080 yards, with holes ranging in length from about 125 to 230 yards. Holes play uphill and downhill, over and beside ponds and wetlands, out in the open, in the trees, over deep ravines and gentle meadows to make each distinctly unique from its brothers and sisters. The thread that holds all of these pearls together is the bunkering - that wildly flowing, irregular, flashy bunkering such as MacKenzie is credited for at Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath and Cypress Point. If it is the trademark look on the Highlands Course, it is even more so on the Hickory course.

I believe what makes the Hickory Course so much fun to play is the infinite variety of golf shots it demands of the golfers. It is not just the tee ball, which can range from a wedge to a driver for average golfers, but more over it is the second shot, be it a long breaking putt or a chip from the fringe, or trying to escape a deep undulating bunker. The demands on the short game are like no other short course you have played.

During the summer of 2001, Tiger Woods stopped by and played a few rounds of golf with his buddy Michael Jordan, an honorary member of the club. They loved the main golf course, but had just as much fun on the par-3 Hickory Course.  In fact, I am told that they played the big brother Highlands Course once a day, and the Hickory Course twice a day because it was so much fun. I was also told that Tiger stayed a day or two longer than planned because they thought playing the Hickory Course would better prepare him for his next tournament. THAT is a compliment!

As Hamilton Farm starts to build its own unique traditions, perhaps the hickory shaft club idea will be resurrected and then the true genius and spirit of this awesome little course can be experienced.