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Miner Hills Family Golf LLC (Middletown), reviewed August, 2008.

Back in June Rabbit Ears and I were looking for a course in the Berlin/Middletown area that we thought was Miner Hills, be we ended up at a defunct course (and ended up playing Timberlin).  After further recon, we can provide a review of the Miner Hills Executive Track.

In general, it's difficult for a quasi-executive (par 30) course to truly distinguish itself as a Goat Track, but Miner Hills definitely holds its own compared to others we've played and rewards those who are in touch with their "Inner Sherpa."

Overview:  A fairly new course by Goat Track standards (1994), which could be considered one strike against it, but to paraphrase
Herm Edwards, "That is why we play the Track!"

For a course that's tucked into the hills, it's pretty easy to get to, as long as you're on I-91.  Even the score card lists the directions as "exit 20 off I-91;" very New Jersey-esque.  ("You're from Jersey?  Which exit?")

The Review
Tee Boxes:  Mostly free of irrigation as far as we could tell and recently reseeded.  Not as uneven as some that we've played, but "gently sloping" enough to make large sections of them unplayable to unseasoned Trackers.  The biggest surprise came when taking a look at the "Local Rules" printed on the scorecard after the round, "Local Rule #3:  Tee ball up on all tees."  Oops.  Based on the reseeding on many tee boxes, this instruction didn't seem to be widely adhered to and was not Tracker-friendly.  While we applaud the maintenance staff's decision not to go through the charade of putting seed/sand containers on the tee boxes, we're less than thrilled about them demanding that you tee up a wedge shot from 120 yards; seems a little heavy-handed.

Greens:  The review of the greens at Miner Hills may be tainted because two of the last three 9's played prior to this one were at the Tradition and Long Hill CC, which will make any greens seem impressive and/or fast.  Needing to hammer putts was a given, but it was interesting to see the odd things the ball did within three feet of the hole:  speed up, slow down, dive, dart, etc, (of course, since there is no break on a green at a public course, the dive/dart optical illusion can't be explained).  Not sure whose idea it was to put the turtleback green on #2, but BOOOOO!  HISSSSS!  This is most unkind to the unsuspecting Tracker (which is an oxymoron, come to think of it).

Bunkers:  The first trap encountered first hand was on #2 behind the turtleback green (and some downsloping fringe that feeds your shot from the back of the green into the trap).  The sand has a much different consistency than we're used to; maybe because it was loose enough to allow you to leave a footprint if you weighed less than 400 lbs.  While the material was pliable enough to hit an inch behind the ball without creating enough sparks to start a raging brushfire, there was a fair amount of flat clay pebbles in them to keep it interesting.  Nice job of maintaining a "unique consistency."  The most imposing bunker was the mini-cliff to the left of the green on #2.  Little chance that the average "miner Hills Family Golfer" gets out of that ravine in one shot and holds the green.

Yardage Markers:  These don't have quite the same "aesthetic" as those at Fenwick (marsh grass), just painted signs nailed to trees or the occasional stump, which is Track-worthy in its own way and fits the course perfectly.  Yardage from the tees is an entirely different matter.  Granite CSGA yardage markers on the tee boxes?  Are you high?  No, a proper Track (at least a quasi-executive Track) lets you get the yardage by feel.  Well done!  If you think about using a rangefinder, just cut to the chase and have your genitals surgically removed.

Layout:  The first two holes, both par 3's, are great because you graduate from a decent elevated tee box to a seriously elevated tee box.  Once you get up to speed on the elevation changes and if your nose hasn't started bleeding, you should be able to get through the first six or seven holes without incident.  The main adventures on this course lie over the last two or three holes.

The 7th is pretty much a climb up the Matterhorn, reminiscent of the old 6th hole at Canton Public, but not nearly as difficult, although it does afford the opportunity to pound a shot right of the fairway through a fairly thin tree line onto a secondary street.

The 8th may be some kind of Jedi mind trick; an uphill par 3, with only the top of the flag visible from the tee and a sloping green behind the blind spot.

The 9th is great.  At least a 150-foot vertical drop-off on the right side of the hole.  If that area were a bit more open, it might be good for hang-gliding.  Logs laid across the right edge discourage anyone from stepping into the abyss.  On this hole, the bunkers to the right of the green aren't there to punish you, they're there to keep your errant shot from rolling off the elevated green and ending up 200 hundred feet right of and below the hole.

Track Acumen:  Miner Hills does reward Track Acumen, provided you can figure out when you need to hit it left.  The first and sixth holes provide great opportunities for a seasoned Tracker to hit the green in regulation and not have to repair a ball mark.  How?  By playing the carom off the banks to the left of those greens; kind of like a large-scale miniature golf hole, which earns high marks here.

All in all, Miner Hills earns a solid Goat Tracker grade compared to other Tracks in this category and provides a good all-around Goat Tracking experience.

Feels like about an understated GT logos out of four