In the Swing of Things
Hickory Valley Golf Club offers a challenge to players of all skill levels
by Phil Gianficaro

For many, golf is more than a pastime—it’s a passion. Extremely skilled players welcome the demands of a challenging golf course, one that may, for example, feature undulating greens and an array of bunkers and hazards; that is, a golf course that offers a true test of one’s skills. Of course, even golfers who are not at the top of the list to join the PGA circuit are passionate about the game.

Often, players of varying degrees of ability are left to go to different golf clubs to enjoy a round but, at Hickory Valley Golf Club, golfers of all skill levels will find a fun and challenging game.

Located in northwestern Montgomery County, located a short drive from Philadelphia, Allentown or Reading, Hickory Valley is a picturesque daily fee facility that offers two distinctly different 18-hole courses. The Ambassador is the older, shorter course; The Presidential is the newer, longer, more challenging course. Full, associate, range, weekday and senior memberships to the club each offer access to both courses.

“Each course suits the skill level of a particular golfer,” says Dave Hassinger, who has been general manager at Hickory Valley for the past four years. “The Ambassador is shorter, at 6,450 yards, and with [fewer] hazards in terms of sand traps. Newer players and seniors especially like this one. It’s challenging enough, but not too challenging.

“The Presidential is longer—6,697 yards—and challenging, especially the back nine, which was added in 1996. It’s ‘links’ style, so you have to place your shots well, and there are wetlands and bridges and mature trees.”

Hickory Valley’s two courses play like night and day. Called “The Elder Statesman,” The Ambassador was built in 1967 and has been ranked a three-and-a-half-star course by Golf Digest. Noted for its natural beauty, the par-72 course weaves its way down impeccably conditioned fairways, through massive 70-foot-high hardwoods, to gently rolling greens that slope from back to front and are among the smallest and smoothest in the region.

Among The Ambassador’s more challenging holes are the No. 9, a 610-yard par 5, which is a dogleg left over a pond, and No. 13, a 465-yard par 4.

“Golfers tell me they love The Ambassador,” says Steve Holauchock, who has been club professional at Hickory Valley for 12 years. “They like the challenge of it, even though it’s not as challenging as The Presidential, and they always say the course is in great condition. Inexperienced and senior players like it because [they] don’t have to hit it as far. It’s a terrific course.”

For players who prefer a course that will test their mettle, there is The Presidential. The course, rated four stars by Golf Digest, was designed by Ron Pritchard, who also designed the TPC at Southwind in Memphis, Tenn., which hosts the FedEx St. Jude Classic and, each June, the PGA Tour.

The flagship course at Hickory Valley, The Presidential incorporates nine of the original 27 holes and takes golfers through an abandoned nursery over the newer nine holes. Players will delight in the course’s variety of hole designs. The signature hole is No. 2. The 450-yard par 4 features a gentle dogleg to the right that requires players to hit a long and accurate tee shot to set up a carry to a bunkered green framed on the right by a large pond.

Perhaps it’s on The Presidential’s back nine where players will find the greatest challenge. The course tightens up somewhat, as the layout proceeds through tall, mature hardwoods to greens that require pinpoint shot-making ability. The closing three holes here are among the finest finishing holes in the region.

“The Presidential also has two par threes,” Holauchock notes. “And if you’re short, you’re in the water. They’re really good holes. It’s a great course.”

As Hickory Valley is a 36-hole course, golf leagues benefit.

“We’re able to rotate four nines because of this,” says Hassinger. “Another thing is, we can shotgun up to 250 at one time on both courses for large outings. That’s something other courses can’t do. It’s a niche we have, and it seems to work out well.”

Yet another benefit to golfers playing Hickory Valley is Holauchock himself. The 58-year-old, who is also director of golf operations, offers golf lessons to players of all skill levels. He has worked for Golf Digest magazine as an associate instructor throughout the country.

Prior to joining Hickory Valley, Holauchock worked at Kimberton Golf Club, Golf and Sports Inc., Meadowlands Country Club and White Manor Country Club. He began his professional career in 1981 at Radnor Valley Country Club in Villanova.

Holauchock has won several professional events and is a two-time local qualifier for the U.S. Open. He also twice participated in the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament.

“Steve knows everything there is to know about golf, and we’re lucky to have him at Hickory Valley,” says Hassinger. “He’s rules certified, was on the pro tour, has been in the business more than 30 years and is a great teacher. He is also personable and efficient with setting up outings and fundraisers. He’s a great ambassador for this club.”

Hickory Valley also has an outdoor pavilion with seating for more than 300. The pavilion, which overlooks the course, features a patio below with umbrella tables. Players can also enjoy the Masters Lounge, which offers seating for an additional 100 players; a beverage cart service on the course; onsite professional catering, with food packages for before, during and following play; and a fully stocked golf shop.

“We have over 40 outings a year, all corporate and charitable events,” says Hassinger. “We put on our own tournaments, and we’re hosting a kids’ event for the PGA Philadelphia Section in June for the first time. In 2009 and 2010 we hosted the Pennsylvania State Amateur Championship.”

Hassinger is certain Hickory Valley’s distinctly different golf courses, the expertise and demeanor of Holauchock and the course’s amenities have solidified the club’s reputation as one of the finer courses in the area.

“The courses are well maintained, and our employees are friendly,” Hassinger says. “We’re always going to put our best foot forward to make the experience here enjoyable for everyone.”

In other words, it’s their passion.

Hickory Valley Golf Club
1921 Ludwig Road
Gilbertsville, PA 19525