6,743 yards, 132 slope from the Blues

Course:  Sitting in Denver, PA, Hawk Valley GC is a little over an hour west of the city off the PA turnpike.  William Gordon is the architect, who was one of the charter members of the American Society of Golf Court Architects and was part of one of the golden ages of golf course design.  In addition to Hawk, he built a couple courses at Saucon Valley CC, Meadowands CC and the Bucks Club, among others.  Hawk Valley opened in 1970, which is generally considered a dark era in course architecture, where most courses fell into a cookie cutter design scheme and only tried to distinguish themselves with overall length.  The contrast of eras, with Gordon designing a course when most developers felt course design was basically showing up and mapping out the irrigation systems, can be seen throughout the 18 holes.

I had played Galen Hall in the morning and came here for an afternoon round.  While Galen Hall exhibited bold design and exuded character, Hawk Valley stayed within a general template and provides steady, yet solid, golf.  You have essentially seen all of the holes at Hawk Valley at other courses.  Yet, the steady challenge, intriguing greens and nice bunkering make the course far from dull.

The Hawk is as unassuming course as I’ve seen, but it’s more charming than depressing.  There is no clubhouse; just a shack where you check in and pay for your round.  The grill is a simple room with a few bar stools and seating outside as well.  But the food and beer selection, along with the prices of both, make it one of my favorites I’ve been to in a while.

That shack with the white door?  Clubhouse.

After enjoying a nice lunch at my new favorite grill, I was able to go out as a single.  Unassuming, steady, solid golf with some pretty darn good greens was all in front of me, all of it making an enjoyable high value round.

The First is a 380 yard par 4 (from the Whites).  The hole dog legs left slightly while the fairway is wide yet tree lined.  Cross bunkers are at the mouth of either end of the green, just waiting to collect those off line approach shots.  It’s a nice starting hole.

The First

Approach shot territory

The Second is a 372 yard par 4.  The fairway climbs a little to the green, which is straight away from the tee.  While tree lined, there is rough off fairway on either side until you reach the trees, which makes the hole a tad wider than the First.  There are ridges that create quadrants on the green, making putting difficult depending on what quadrant you’re on and the location of the hole.

The Second

The Third is a 480 yard par 5.  The hole turns to the left a little while the green is elevated.  Tree lined, following the traditional parkland theme, with a nice-sized bunker on the front left of the green.  A nice scoring opportunity.

The Third

Second shot territory

Approach shot territory

The Fourth is a 160 yard par 3.  The green, while generously sized, has larger bunkers on both sides and a run off on the far side.  Also an easier hole, but the green is more subtle than looking at it appears at first blush.

The Fourth

The Fifth is a 360 yard par 4.  It’s a sharper dog leg left, with the green some what elevated.  Again, the green is fairly interesting here as well and most of the green side bunkers are on the left.  Like others, the fairway is tree lined.

The Fifth

The Sixth is a 490 par 5.  The tee shot is a forced carry over water, while the tree lined fairway seems to tighten up and descend to the green, which is set off the left of the fairway.  It was a nice par 5 that demanded more length and accuracy that it initially seems.

The Sixth

Approach shot territory

The Seventh is a 159 yard par 3.  It’s really a straightforward hole, but the pin position on the right side turned the hole from standard fare to quite interesting.  The green undulates and there is a nice little swale on the right side.  The bunkers flash on both sides of the green and are large, so accuracy is at a premium.

The Seventh

The Eighth is a 335 yard par 4.  The fairway is some what tight with trees, but there’s a lot of room beyond the trees on either side, which helped me immensely when my drive went left.  I still had room to hit the green though.  The fairway does end at a creek, then the green is elevated and rather generous.

The Eighth

Approach shot territory

The Ninth is a 355 yard par 4.  The hole bends to the left and a large bunker lies on the right side of the fairway, in case you hit through the fairway, like I did.  The approach shot is a forced carry over water, which gets a little challenging when you’re in said bunker and a little over 150 yards from the green.  I pulled off a great shot and hit the green, which had to be one of the most rewarding shots of the day.  So the hole does give you some temptation and risk reward.

The Ninth

Approach shot territory (from the bunker)

The front nine is rather traditional, but the greens are fun and there certainly was thought and intent put into the design.  I’d rank them 6, 9, 3, 5, 4, 2, 8, 1, 7.

The back nine is on the other side of the road and starts with the 470 yard par 5.  The back nine exhibits a bit more character and the Tenth sets that tone, which is a sharp dog leg right, tree lined and narrow.  Distance control off the tee is crucial for a chance to score well while shot shaping may be necessary if you get blocked out by the trees.

The Tenth

Second shot territory

The Eleventh is a 143 yard par 3.  While the trees frame the hole nicely, this par 3 is very similar to the Fourth; a green set straight ahead of the tee with flashing bunkers on either side of the green (and one on the far side).  This hole is less forgiving than the Fourth because of the trees, but it’s not as elevated.  

The Eleventh

The Twelfth is a 347 yard par 4.  The narrow fairway is defined by trees and dog legs left to the green while the fairway crests at the dog leg before going slightly downhill.  Just like the Tenth, it will be tough to recover from a poorly hit shot that goes into the trees and the tee shot must clear the turn to get a clean look at the green.  I enjoyed the green a lot, with the well shaped bunkering adding to its look.  It’s an effectively understated hole.

The Twelfth

Approach shot territory

The Thirteenth is a 380 yard par 4.  The hole switches back in the direction you came from on the Twelfth, which is uphill, and the green is set to the left of the fairway.  There is a reprieve from the trees, as the fairway is significantly wider all the way to the green.  I would call this a nice scoring opportunity hole.

The Thirteenth

Approach shot territory

The Fourteenth is a 320 yard par 4.  One of my favorite holes of the course.  The hole is all in front of you, with a forced carry over a creek off the tee to a fairway that climbs up and turns right to the green. The bunkers off the right serve as a warning to those trying to cut the fairway to the green.  For those less adventurous, you’re able to aim for the left side of the green and do some putting work to get to the hole.  The temptation of reaching the green and the risk/reward of carrying the bunkers is a great feature of the hole and executed well.

The Fourteenth

Approach shot territory

The Fifteenth is a 490 yard par 5.  At this point, we are well out of the trees and the course has taken on a transition by using the area’s hills and ridges, along with bunkering, to define the character of the holes.  The elevated tee shot on the Fifteenth leads to a fairway that goes straight to the green, with bunkers placed on both sides of the fairway.  Probably the most bunkers on this hole than any other on the course, with the vast majority of them on the left side.  The theme continues around the green, while there is an angled opening to the green, most approach shots will have to be aerial.

The Fifteenth

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory

The Sixteenth is a 395 yard par 4.  One of the effective design characteristics of the course is on fairways that are generally straight, the green is set on one side or the other, which brings in to play various trees or hazards and forces the player to consider his angles to the green.  A good example of that is at the Sixteenth, where the green is set off to the right, so the trees on that side will block out tee shots too far on that side.  The fairway runs from right to left to right as well, which complicates the aiming points since bunkers on the left will collect shots too far in that direction.  A nicely designed hole for sure that takes advantage of the natural features.

The Sixteenth

Approach shot territory
A look at the green

The Seventeenth is a 168 yard par 3.  Although the par 3’s are challenging, they all have the same template; straight away with bunkers on each side.  It’s no different here, but the tee shot is elevated so I suppose there’s a slight difference in that respect.  Less penal as well because it is wide open.

The Seventeenth

The Eighteenth is a 385 yard par 4.  The Eighteenth seems to capture the back nine in general by providing a tree lined fairway for the tee shot before widening significantly for the approach shot.  The green is generous, but there are surrounding bunkers that will complicate approach shots off line.

The Eighteenth

Approach shot territory

The back nine has a little more creativity and interest to it, providing a nice crescendo to the course in general at about the right time.  The diversity of landscape throughout the line, going in and out of the trees and utilizing hills and ridges, is nicely done as well.  I’d rank the back nine 14, 10, 12, 16, 18, 15, 13, 17, 11.

Generally, Hawk Valley is a solid straight forward course that provides a nice backdrop to focus on your game.  There are some design features that enhance this course in a lot of ways, but there is also some redundancy and templates that leave a lot to be desired, especially with most of the par 3’s.  The greens are one of the highlights, however, and even on those holes that are repetitive, the greens are the saving grace in keeping the round interesting.  Built in an era where architecture design was not generally regarded as all that important, one of the more well known architects of the golden era seems to have found a compromise between efficient construction and engaging character.

Gripes:  While it wasn’t an issue for me, I could seethes course becoming overcrowded and slow, as there is no course marshall.  They didn’t show up in the photos, but there are massive power lines over many of the holes, with detract from the scenery.  Also, I saw no hawks.

Bar/Grill:  It’s small, but I loved it.  Great food, great beer, great drinks and all at tremendous value.

Practice area:  There is a putting green, but they do not have a range or short game practice area.

Clubhouse:  One of the smallest I’ve ever seen.  It’s a clubshack.

Nearby:  Not too much, but I imagine if you’re real ambitious you could find some nearby restaurants.  I know a couple breweries are close by as well.

Getting there:  PA turnpike, route 222 exit and then about 5 minutes until you’re there.