Architect’s Comments


Hole #1

This is a comfortable warm-up hole to start the round. It isn’t overly long. The fairway bunker is wide right. Just hit reasonably straight and it’s only a short iron to the green.

Hole #2

The tee says hit it to the left side of the fairway. It’s a little longer than the first hole and is lined by tall trees. There’s a fairway bunker on the left that catches wayward drives yet saves a shot from the trees.

Hole #3

This is a medium length par-three with a big green. Check the color of the flag because the green is 110 feet deep. That depth represents a two to two-and-a-half club difference.

Hole #4

The cart drive or long walk from the third green to the fourth tee wasn’t an accident. It’s your only good view of the river. The original owner wanted nine holes to cross the river but environmentally that wasn’t possible. I really like the fourth hole; in fact, it’s one of my favorites. It’s a fairly long par four with a ravine in front of four of the tees but there is a forward tee on the other side of the ravine. There’s more room on the left side of the fairway than you realize. There’s a slight valley in front of the green, about three feet deep, that kills short shots. Call it my “Little Valley of Sin.”

Hole #5

This is a medium length par-five with a tight landing area coming out of a chute with sand on the left and a pond on the right. The green is reachable in two big hits but there’s a waste area and sand on the right. The green is six feet higher than the fairway level. A smart lay-up leaves you with an 80-yard shot.

Hole #6

First of three successive doglegs, this is a good hole for a fader. You’ve got a long second shot but there aren’t any greenside bunkers.

Hole #7

It’s the picture hole. I don’t think anyone has hit the green in two yet. I thought someone would do it the first year but I lost a bet with the pro. It’s a true three shot hole: driver, 5-iron, 7-iron, or whatever it takes to get on the green. There’s water right and left in the second landing area. But there are no bunkers in front so as to allow a run-up shot.

Hole #8

I really like this par-four. The sand on the right sets off the water on the left. With a wide landing area, you want to be on the right side for the approach to the green. Beware not to miss it left with a bunker and a ravine behind it. There’s a grassy hollow on the right side from which it’s easier to get it up and down.

Hole #9

Everyone loves a drop shot par-three and this one is to a small green. If you’re on the green you’re not far from the cup. There’s a trout-shaped bunker left of the green that the original owner planned. Alert to stage-minded golfers: you might have an audience – the clubhouse patio is on the other side of the river.

Hole #10

This is a nice warm-up hole for the second nine, a short par-four. You’re heading into bear territory. I haven’t seen one but I did see tracks. It’s a wild piece of property, nice and peaceful. Get your birdie here.

Hole #11

This is a medium length par-five with a pond on the right side of the landing area and a big pine on the left. The fairway narrows in the second landing area with trees on both sides. There’s a strategic bunker short right of the green. If your shot’s coming in hot, it saves you from going into the woods.

Hole #12

A sharp dogleg left, it’s a lay-up hole because of the ravine. A three- or four-metalwood or long iron is recommended from the tee. The fairway levels out more on the right side. It’s a short hole but with an added test posed by an up, down or sidehill lie for the second shot. The green drops off on the left side and there’s a lot of break to it. You’re either on it or off. Requiring first a smart and well-struck tee and then a second shot over the ravine, I’m pleased how this short par-four turned out.

Hole #13

An uphill, long par-three with a tiered green. Just hit it hard. Not many people are long here so take enough club.

Hole #14

A big landing area off the tee. A tee-shot to the right side of the fairways shortens the hole but you’re also playing with more water on that side. In fact, the water fronts the approach shot, one of the few forced carries on the course. It’s a long green, lower in the back, with a couple of breaks in it.

Hole #15

This is a three-tier, diagonal green. There’s a deceptive bunker short of the green but the putting surface is a club to a club-and-a-half behind it. Focus on the green, not the bunker.

Hole #16

From the tee you have a carry over a waste area. There was going to be a pond but we discovered there’s an underground river and we couldn’t put a liner down there. If you look closely, you can see water movement straight to the river. Hit to the bottom of the hill and you’ll have a blind shot to the green. As a trade-off to the blind shot, the green is set in a punch bowl area and shots funnel toward it. The longer-hitting golfer can get on top of the hill and only have a short pitch.

Hole #17

Another picture hole with a huge sandy waste area all the way up the left side. It’s all native sand and we just exposed it. Everyone plays away from the sand and winds up in the trees to the right. There’s more room in the landing area than you think. It’s intended to be played as a waste area but some years it was played as a regular sand bunker. There’s another waste area short and right of the green but true sand bunkers by the green. It’s not a hard hole. Just don’t stray.

Hole #18

The 18th is an intentionally milder par-four. I wanted golfers to end their round feeling upbeat, getting their par and wanting to come back. It’s a dogleg left and the long hitter can go down the left side leaving a shorter approach but there’s a wetland lurking that way too. There’s a lot of room on the right with target bunkers. There’s a little hill in the landing area, hit it and get 10 extra yards of roll. A lot of people feel they have to drive it here as long as possible. Instead, aim for the target bunkers, keep it short of them, and you only have a short iron to the green.


I really like Hidden River because, if played from the correct tees, it offers a demanding but fair test of golf amid beautiful surroundings. Too many golfers play at 6800 yards and that’s wrong for 90% of them. I made sure it was playable too with minimal forced carries. I truly believe it’s one of the most unsung courses in northern Michigan, and I’m always happy to hear it’s very popular with local golfers.

–W. Bruce Matthews, III