Come join the family at Hidden Lakes golf course

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — Hidden Lakes is one of those rare, family owned, family run golf courses that's as enjoyable for the atmosphere as it is for the golf. The regulars show up early, looking to get a cup of coffee and walk nine holes to get their day started.

Hidden Lakes golf course
Lee and Kathy Griffith look out over Turnbull Bay from the sixth tee box.
Hidden Lakes golf courseIsland Lake at  Hidden LakesHole No. 4 of Hidden Lakes
If you go

Walking is encouraged; no rush to herd the masses through with carts. No corporate marketing here, just a couple of new owners with big dreams.

Lee and Kathy Griffith bought the course three years ago from the previous owner who had lost interest. The course had gone inevitably downhill, and the Griffiths hope to both lengthen it and spruce it up.

Both husband and wife come from the corporate world, and owning a golf course had been a dream of theirs for years. When the opportunity presented itself, in this little coastal town of about 22,000, they jumped at it. It's a family affair, with Lee taking care of the outside and Kathy controlling the inside. Their son helps with the design.

"We're just having fun," Lee Griffith said. "We work together as a team. If we do this right, we're really going to have something here."

The course originally stared as an executive course. It's now a short, par-68 layout, but the Griffiths plan to lengthen it to a par 71 by this time next year, among the many other changes they have planned.

Hidden Lakes definitely has potential, with some very picturesque terrain to work with.

Hole No. 4 plays along the backwaters of Turnbull Bay, where kayaks and canoes glide by. So does No. 5, which is a par 3 the Griffiths plan to turn into a par 5 by lengthening the hole into the live oaks and natural vegetation, and elevating the tee box to afford better views. No. 6 is a short, 300-yard par 4 they plan to turn into a dogleg left.

These three holes form the scenic core of the layout, with moss-draped live oaks and the sort of atmosphere that reminds you of Amelia Island, in the northeast part of Florida. Griffith and his wife sometimes end their days lounging together at the fifth tee box, which gazes out over the bay.

"This is why we bought the course," Lee Griffith said.

It isn't the only scenic part of the course. No. 13 is a peninsula tee box, in the center of the layout with 14-acre Island Lake as a backdrop. This hole was once voted one of the best par 3s in Florida. The Griffiths cleared out this part of the course, resulting in a very open feel with the sun sparkling off the seven lakes.

The greens are Griffith's priority — his goal to have them the best in the area. He has a good start, especially on the back nine, though they were fairly slow as of this writing. They also plan to improve drainage areas, add landscaping and other visual improvements.

The Verdict

Hidden Lakes is obviously a short course now, so don't expect to come out and wallop your driver. It's also tight, demanding accuracy off the tee and on approach shots.

Much of the course plays through a middle-class neighborhood, but some holes have an isolated feel, particularly Nos. 4-6.

The Griffiths also found a historic cemetery on the property, the final resting place of African-Americans who helped build the Florida East Coast Railroad, which Henry Flagler built back in the early 1900s. There are plans to turn it into a park.

Overall, this isn't exactly a world-class course, but it is friendly — the Griffiths know most of the golfers by name — playable, and could eventually become an excellent golf course.

The club has a nice clubhouse and dining area and a full practice facility. LPGA-certified teacher Cindy McCallister gives lessons at the club.

Stay and Play

When you come to a place with "beach" in its name, you want to actually see it, right? Perry's Ocean Edge Resort comes through in that respect, sitting smack dab on the Atlantic Ocean; you can hear the waves crashing on shore from your room or balcony.

The resort, one of Daytona Beach's biggest, has more than 700 feet of landscaped oceanfront, whirlpool/spa, two outdoor pools with a poolside bar and a heated, indoor pool in a 10,000-square-foot atrium. It also has homemade doughnuts in the mornings that I defy you to pass up.

The resort caters to families and has a children's activities program. They also offer volleyball, bocce ball, basketball, shuffleboard and horseshoes. There are about 20 golf courses within a 30-minute drive.

Dining Out

There is a small, casual restaurant adjacent to Perry's that serves breakfast and lunch. For fine dining, try Rains Supper Club on Seabreeze — oh, you absolutely must try the Chilean sea bass — which opens up a night club upstairs after 9 p.m.

Daytona Beach has a number of excellent restaurants, among them: the Bonefish Grill, Chops, and the Inlet Harbor Marina and Restaurant.

Fast Fact

Architect Lloyd Clifton re-modeled the course in 1996.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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