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A Hidden Gem in the Valley

When you pull into the campground, and proceed to the barn to pay your greens fees, you immediately feel yourself shedding the day away as relaxation overcomes you. ​The short drive or walk to #1 brings you past the practice green. Roll a few putts while you're waiting to tee off, or step up and swing a long iron into a narrow fairway that doglegs to the left. This is followed by an inviting par 3 on #2, and by the time you arrive at the tee box for #3, you should be fully engulfed in the wooded surroundings that give Hidden Valley its name.

The course is as narrow as it is peaceful, which can make for a long day if you're hooking or slicing your tee shots. But despite the lack of room for error, The Valley is a very enjoyable course. You'll almost always find the fairways and greens in tip-top shape, and when compared to other, more expensive courses, you notice the great value that this course has to offer.

Continuing through the front nine, #4 is a bomber hole - grip it and rip it! A tricky par 3 follows. This hole was recently added when the original 1st hole was removed. This par 3 looks much easier than it is, and chances are that if you go for the pin, you'll end up near the hazard to the right. Aim far left and a little short and let the small hill beside the green do the work for you. Par is a good score here. A short and straight par 4 follows, bringing you to the signature hole on the front nine, #7. This picturesque hole has your tee shot sailing over a small pond to an open fairway that bends slightly to the right. If you're brave, maybe you aim over the trees on the right to cut the fairway down some 50 yards. Either way, this is a fun hole to play. What follows is a long par 5 that is reachable in 2 on only your best days. #8 should take 3 shots to reach an elevated, two-tiered green, enjoy. The final hole up front is a short par 4 with a super narrow tee shot. The hole then doglegs hard right and uphill.

When you finish, you'll need to proceed to the other side of the campground for the back nine. Wait....what???

You may not think of golf when you think of a campground. It’s probably the thoughts of cold beer or s’mores around the campfire that come to mind, but that’s about to change...

Hidden Valley RV and Golf Park in Derry is a hidden gem among the golf courses of New Hampshire. Nestled into the woods of East Derry, just west of the Sandown border, Hidden Valley is a welcoming retreat for any family looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city-life for a weekend or longer. But it also has an executive 9-hole par 3 course as well as a championship 18-hole course.

When I was a younger, we would spend our entire summers here. My family would turn our campground plot into a temporary abode for the dog days of summer, and we loved every minute of it. Even if we lived just a few miles away at the time, Hidden Valley seemed like it was worlds away from our daily grind. ​The campground owners were some of the nicest people, and sisters Cathy and Laurie are still there today. It was during our final summer there when Cathy and Laurie’s father, original owner Ed Simonsen, began to turn his airstrip (yes, he landed planes there) into what would become the par 3 course. I can actually say that I played on that course during its first days of life, long before it was ever open to the public.

That was in 1996. Fast forward to today and Hidden Valley has the par 3 course, along with a full 18-hole championship course that boasts USGA course and slope ratings of 67.8 and 124 respectively. This didn't just happen overnight, it was a progressive work. In 1999, the par 3 course combined with the front nine to create the original 18-hole course. The back nine was later added in 2006 to complete the championship course that is there today.

I have personally been able to see this course grow from its inception into what has now become a local favorite for both the laid-back atmosphere as well as challenging layout. There are not many folks that can say that about any golf course!

Yes, the back nine is in the back of the campground. A dirt cart path takes you on small ride through part of the campground where you'll get a friendly wave from some campers and notice the unmistakable smell of a campfire. As you approach the 10th tee box, you can see the campground's beach area across the pond to your left.

The back nine at Hidden Valley is a little more open than the front, at least the first few holes are, but you still need good accuracy to avoid the thick woods that line this course. Hole #10 has a narrow berth that leads into a fairway that flows to the right slightly and has a lateral water hazard right around 200 yards out. It's a par-5 that usually requires 3 shots to reach the green. #11 offers the same water hazard at about the same distance from the tee as #10. If you choose to lay up, your approach shot will look fantastic, especially from the top of the hill on the right. Next is a long, uphill par 3. If you stick the green, kudos to you. Par's a good score here. After a short drive, you reach the tee for the longest hole on the course, a 530yd par 5 that seems to play a little longer due to the tight fairway and slight dogleg left off the tee. Another 3-shot par 5, this hole can decimate you if you don't play it correctly. Save par and save face and move on. #14 has a blind tee shot, that leaves an uphill wedge to the green. A relatively easy hole to play, with birdie being a very make-able score.

By now you'll probably need to visit the watering hole. An orange Gatorade bucket offers cold, fresh water after you finish #14. This particular water jug is always full and ice cold unlike many other courses!

Hole #15, like #12, is one where you need to decide on your club for the tee. A short iron leaves a long approach, and a driver brings a marsh into play. Either way, stay left to leave yourself with an approach to a green that appears to be encased in the surrounding woods. Next up, what may become your favorite hole, #16 is an easy par 3, aim for the flag and go for it! The most drastic dogleg on the course belongs to #17 as it bends sharply at about the 190yd mark. Hidden Valley’s final hole brings all of the course characteristics together for your finish. #18 has a tight, blind tee shot, with a small lateral water hazard, and a narrow fairway. It may sound intimidating, but a good, accurate tee shot leaves you with a very nice downhill approach to a receptive green. It's always nice to walk-off your round with a birdie, and it was nice of Mr. Simonsen to give us a good chance of that.

Any length of stay at Hidden Valley is sure to be peaceful and tranquil, if it's for a weekend, a summer, or just for a round of golf. When you're checking in at the office or paying your green fees at the pro shop, you'll be greeted with a friendly smile every time and made to feel welcomed. So, enjoy your time at "The Valley" and remember, it's fun to play in the sand, just make sure it's at the beach and not in the bunker!