LITTLE RIVER, S.C. -- Phillip Colianni stumbled upon Heather Glen Golf Links -- the price was right, and the course was close to his vacation spot across the border in Calabash, N.C.
Colianni had made several trips to South Carolina's Grand Strand in the past, but he said he found a new favorite in Heather Glen.
"It was by chance, looking through the Yellow Pages," said Colianni, a 30-handicap player from Baltimore. "It's probably my favorite course I've played. I like the layout.
"On a scale of a 1 to 10, I'd give it a five [in terms of playability]. For a high handicap, it's forgiving."
It's also memorable, for the inexperienced or the more tested players.
Heather Glen's three nines are surprisingly similar when it comes to slope and rating. Each nine (Red, White and Blue), however, has a distinct flavor that stands out from the other two.
The Red nine, often used for the front, is the shortest of the three. It measures 3,366 yards from the back tees. Instead of raw distance, it utilizes waste and pot bunkers, some of which are significant portions of the fairway. The fifth hole, a 415-yard par 4, forces players to navigate two waste bunkers, water directly in front of the tee box, extensive mounding on the right side of the fairway and a dogleg left.
The Blue nine has a true Scottish feel. Pot bunkers are in play from the start. Four line the first two greens, and none of the four are easy outs. The Blue nine may also be the tightest of the three, with several tee boxes showing slim corridors for that opening shot.
Take No. 8, for example. Players are asked to drive the first half of a stream into a landing area without hitting the second bend of the water. You're also charged with avoiding four bunkers. From there, it's a dogleg left again, with a green protected on three sides by water.
Heather Glen's White nine may be the most enjoyable, if for no other reason that it opens up some. The signature hole is "The Spectacle," the eighth hole. The 387-yard par 4 allows for a "safe" tee shot to the right side of a major water hazard that cuts across the entire hole. Players can shoot for the left, squeezing it between water and another waste bunker.
The scorecard also adds an unusual and appreciated touch. As opposed to simply listing the handicaps for each nine, it gives players an accurate range for whichever two sides are played that day.
The diversity of the three nines is what also turns first-timers into repeat customers. Mixing and matching the three changes the feel from one round to the next.
Inside the traditional Scottish-style clubhouse rests a large pro shop and bar and grill, complete with full menu and drink service. The course also houses a driving range.
Heather Glen and the other three members of the Glens Golf Group -- Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club, Possum Trot Golf Club and Glen Dornoch Waterway Golf Links -- use the Simply Great Golf Academy, a school led by longtime pro Mike Passmore.
Colianni saw a smaller alligator swimming just yards away from the opening tee box moments after hitting his first ball of the day.
It added to the aesthetics, he said, and set the mood for a solid round -- at least visually.
"It's a nice course, scenic," Colianni said. "It's in great shape. It's just a pleasure to play."
The greens on at least two of the nines underwent minor upkeep during the summer of 2013. But it was apparent Heather Glen didn't need much work. The fairways, tee boxes and greens were all not only in top shape but also consistent, making the course that much better.
September 12, 2013