Vallejo's Hiddenbrooke Golf Club is more than meets the eye
VALLEJO, Calif. - It's easy to get lulled into a false sense of serenity when playing Hiddenbrooke Golf Club for the first time.
If you catch this Arnold Palmer design in the early or late afternoon light, the colors of the fairways, greens, wispy fescues and tan hills are somewhat mesmerizing. But at every corner, danger lurks, whether it's in the form of a dogleg, sloping green, imposing water hazard or a grove of trees.
Amazingly, you hardly notice the houses in this development located within a half hour of San Francisco and Oakland. They are set back far enough that they don't detract from the splendor of the golf course, which has received a five-star rating from Golf Digest. And the homes certainly don't interfere with golf shots. And at Hiddenbrooke Golf Club, which hosted the LPGA's Samsung Championship from 2000-02, you'll get to hit a great variety of shots.
No two holes alike at Hiddenbrooke Golf Club
"I think what people really like here is the great variety of holes," said Siegfried Wroebel, head golf professional at Hiddenbrooke Golf Club. "The ladies really enjoy it because they think it's a fair golf course."
Indeed, there are five sets of tees, and the more forward tees make the course straightforward to navigate. But move back to the tips of what might seem to be a benign yardage at just more than 6,700 yards, and it's all the golf course you want.
It's also a very memorable golf course. Each hole is unique with its topography and views of the valley and hillsides below. Throughout, you'll find babbling brooks and picturesque lakes and ponds, which often come into play. Those who can shape shots will have plenty of opportunity to work the ball both ways. And the par 5s, in particular, present some risk-reward opportunities.
Hiddenbrooke Golf Club's first par 5 is the fifth hole, which has water all down the left side as well as fairway bunkers. At 539 yards one tee up, many players might think about reaching this green in two, but you almost have to hit a perfect shot to avoid the lake or high grass on the right.
The better bet is the par-5 12th, which may be one of the prettiest holes on the golf course. At less than 500 yards from the tips, it's reachable in two, but the green is perched high around a corner with four foreboding bunkers cut into the side of a hill. Find the wrong place in one of those bunkers, and par is a challenge.
Speaking of challenge, Wroebel believes that the long par-4 eighth, with its narrow fairway and hazard down the right side, is one of the most difficult holes on the golf course. There are also a couple of greenside bunkers and a fairway bunker left on this 440-yard dogleg right, which means you've got to thread a couple of shots.
Hiddenbrooke Golf Club's par 3s also have some bite. For example, the 17th, from the back, is a 227-yard monster over water.
Hiddenbrooke Golf Club: The verdict
Once you start getting into your round, it's easy to see why Hiddenbrooke Golf Club is one of the Bay Area's favorite public facilities.
There's plenty to look at and lots of challenge for every level of player. High handicappers might get frustrated, however, because there are plenty of opportunities to lose balls in the high grass and hazards if they spray it.
Some golfers who have played the course also think the greens are difficult. But while there is a good bit of undulation, they are not particularly tricky and generally not maintained to slick conditions. In fact, because of the movement, they're really not that difficult to read.
Practice facilities are also top notch with range, putting and chipping greens as well as practice bunkers situated between the nines.
Individual lessons are available from the professional staff as well. Hiddenbrooke Golf Club's split-level clubhouse is also one of the more unique designs you'll find anywhere, and the facility boasts a more than adequate grill.
April 15, 2010