Hawk Valley Golf Club

At Hawk Valley, beware the unforgiving greens

DENVER, Pa. -- They call Hawk Valley Golf Club ``The Hawk'' for short, but ``The Mean Green'' probably is more accurate.

We're talking some cruel, cruel greens -- oil-slicked Indy 500 kind of greens.

At a glance
Getting there: Take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Exit 21. Go to the first stoplight, then turn right onto Route 272. After one mile, turn right at the light onto Route 897 south; go two miles and turn left onto Lauschtown Road. After 1.5 miles, turn right onto Crestview Drive. The club is at 1319 Crestview Drive. Phone: 717-445-5445.

Greens fees: Weekends, $42 to ride. Weekdays, $22 to walk, $30 to ride. Senior rate $24 weekdays. Twilight rate (weekdays after 3 p.m.) is $24 including cart.

Carts: Mandatory until 1 p.m. Fridays and 2 p.m. weekends.

Spikes: Metal spikes allowed.

Amenities: Well-stocked pro shop; snack bar; putting green; new warm-up range; 19th hole; banquet facilities; Outings welcome.

Information accurate as of 8/16/2002

You might know the type. You barely touch that eight-foot birdie putt, just enough to get it rolling. But by the time it finally stops, you're slack-jawed over the 12-footer you now have coming back for par. Don't even mention the tricky three-footer just to save face and bogey.

"The strength of the course is definitely the fast, undulating greens," said head pro Kevin Donnachie.

There's nothing at all wrong with the rest of the course, which is only five minutes off Exit 21 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, in tiny Denver, Lancaster County.

Golf Digest's 4,200 Best Places to Play gives it three stars in the latest edition, citing player comments such as "supersonic putting surfaces," "good shape" and "good test, challenging but not a killer."

Hawk Valley is not a killer. It's a good, solid, well-maintained, mid-level course that has the potential to appeal to almost every level of golfer. It's a bit flat and a bit short, unless you play from the back tees. But it has a healthy enough mix of tight holes, open holes, doglegs and water holes to make it a workout for most players.
From the back tees, the Hawk measures 6,743 yards and plays to a 132 slope, which is no easy test. From the whites, it's considerably shorter at 6,189 yards, but still holds to a 127 slope, well above the national average of 113.

It's also far enough out in the country to have a much folksier, less-hectic feel than so many of the public courses in and around Philadelphia. That, too, can be quite appealing.
For my money, the biggest disappointment about Hawk Valley was the par 3s -- all are rather ho-hum shots with no water, wetlands or even looming trees to negotiate. But Donnachie pointed out that the par 3s get considerably tougher from the back tees, from which they suddenly stretch to 187, 205, 168 and 195 yards.

Hawk Valley, which opened in 1971, was designed by the prolific son-and-father duo of David and the late William Gordon, who also laid out the courses at Locust Valley Country Club, White Manor Country Club and DuPont Country Club, to name a few.

The elder Gordon also had a hand in remodeling Gulph Mills Country Club, Manufacturers Golf and Country Club, Philmont Country Club, Radnor Valley Country Club and Saucon Valley Country Club's Old Course.

Six years after it opened, Jim and Dot Fricke, who live on the property, bought the Hawk from its original developers. They have made a number of changes over the years, adding back tees on several holes and redoing the bunkers for the first 14 holes last year. The bunkers on holes 15 to 18 are scheduled for renovation in late fall.

The Hawk starts you off with the No. 1-handicap hole, a 380-yard, mild dogleg right that looks more ominous from the tee than it is.

A far more interesting hole is the par-5 No. 3, a slight dogleg left with out of bounds all along the right side, trees up the left, and a green that's slick and well-protected by a nasty, yawning bunker on the left front.

The other par 5 on the front, No. 6, is only 490 yards from the white tees, but it may be the testiest hole going out. It's tight, with trees lining both sides of the fairway, and it's over a crest, then downhill into a well-bunkered green. It's easy to birdie, easy to bogey.

From the tee, No. 8 looks to be an easy birdie hole. It's a downhill, short par 4, 335 yards, which means a short iron onto the green for most players. But No. 8 is one of those user-friendly greens, where a six-foot birdie putt quickly can become a three-foot bogey putt.

The most unusual hole is No. 10, an almost horseshoe-shaped double dogleg par 5 that's quite tight. Big hitters will be tempted to blow their tee shots over the trees and cut the first corner; all others play it up the left side, then up the left side again for a short iron to a green guarded by bunkers and trees on the right.

Another favorite among Hawk Valley regulars is No. 14 -- perhaps the most picturesque hole -- a short but sweeping dogleg right that's choked by six bunkers at the turn and around the green. Again, No. 14 is 3-putt country.

Don't say you haven't been warned.

Orginally published August 3, 1997