Hidden Hills used to be the site of the Greater Jacksonville Open, a tournament that takes place today in Ponte Vedra and is referred to as The Players Championship (heard of it?). Thus, this Arnold Palmer Signature Course has seen the likes of most major golf pros since the 1970s, but in 1986 this course was re-designed by Palmer to become one of the most challenging and magnificent courses in North Florida.
The first thing you’ll notice about this course is that it doesn’t look like it’s in Florida. It lives up to its name with incredible rolling hills and elevation changes throughout.
Hidden Hills starts off strong and can be a little intimidating. The large and mature pine trees and the presence of water on every hole will have you second-guessing your typical habits.
At hole 1, water runs to the left and leads down to a double-tiered green that slopes right to left. So despite the water, favor the left side; in fact, favor left for hole 1 & 2, but try a straight middle shot on hole 3 until you're near the green; then favor left again).
By the time you hit hole 5, you will actually be at one of the highest points of elevation in Duval County and you’ll be facing an awkward putt unless you hit below the hole so you can aim uphill. After the most stunningly picturesque hole 8 at Hidden Hills, you are going to meet your first fairway bunkers on hole 9.
The green on hole 9 is elevated so if you come up short, a chip shot won’t work. Bring a lob wedge and try using a flop shot here. Or, you know, you could just make the green!
Hole 10 will give you a bit of a break, but by the time you’re at hole 11, hold your breath, this one is going to be the most challenging and it’s also the most favored hole at Hidden Hills. This par 5 hole needs a 210-yard carry over water. Yikes! There is no room to be short (you’ll have to re-tee) and you are hitting to a beautiful elevated island green (which is pretty level); so try to get in a position for a short iron to the green.
After hole 11, the course eases up. You have now found your bearings, gotten used to the water and trees, and you’ll find that the game starts to really fly on this smooth course. Make sure to pack a lot of clubs & balls. You will need to vary up tee box choices and on the last hole, try out a fairway wood instead of a driver. Look for the perfect place to stay near this course.