COLOGNE, NJ - During a trip around the Blue Heron Pines West Course, golfers will play holes that architect Stephen Kay constructed to pay tribute to such legendary courses as Pine Valley, Pinehurst #2, Bethpage Black, and Oyster Harbors.
The course, however, does not rely solely on its connection to golf's elite. It can clearly stand on its own merit.
The United States Golf Association has already decided to conduct the 2003 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at the West Course.
Blue Heron Pines features a restaurant, full banquet facilities, an award-winning golf shop, one of 15 Golf Digest schools in the country, AND two outstanding golf courses.
The West Course opened in 1993 as New Jersey's pioneer into the idea of a top-notch, daily fees golf course other than those tied directly to resorts.
"We want daily fee players to be able to enjoy a great golf course and experience a superior level of service," said Roger Hansen, course owner. "In short, we want them to feel like members for a day."
The country club caliber experience starts when golfers pull up to the bag drop and continues through the round of golf and beyond.
The West Course provides the opportunity for a strong start, but gets tougher as the round progresses. Depending on which of the five sets of tees are used, the back nine plays from 102 to 143 yards longer. It is on the back nine that two similarities to Pine Valley, the New Jersey private club that is often regarded as the finest and toughest course in golf, are highlighted.
The 11th hole plays 114 yards from the white tees and up to 135 yards from the back (gold) tees. The tee shot is almost all carry over water, but the work doesn't end if the water and a deep pot bunker in the front right are successfully carried. Blue Heron Pines touts the hole as a variation of the 10th hole at Pine Valley, but it also has some similarity to the famous island green 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course.
Like the 17th at Sawgrass, made famous through television and the Tournament Players Championship, players can make a mistake if they breath a sigh of relief following the tee shot. Both holes have tricky greens that are made especially difficult with a front, right pin placement, which makes putts from anywhere else on the green treacherously fast with sharp breaks.
Hell's Half Acre comes to mind at the 483-yard, par-5, 14th hole. Similar to the seventh hole at Pine Valley, the fairway is split by a waste area of sand and shrubs. A solid tee shot is needed to be in position to carry the waste area, which starts 188 yards from the middle of the green and runs up to a spot 101 yards from the middle.
The longest par-4 is the 17th, which plays 401 yards from the white tees and 451 yards from the gold.
In all, the course measures 6,114 yards from the white tees with a course rating of 70.1 and a slope of 128. The gold tees play 6,810 yards and the blue 6,524 yards.
Golf for Women magazine has listed the course as one of the top 100 for women in the country. The green tees play 5,720 yards and the red tees are 5,053 yards with a women's rating of 68.4 and slope of 116.
The best chance for birdie may be on the first hole, which is a straight 290-yard, par-4 where accuracy clearly overshadows distance. There are three fairway traps on the right, another trap on the left that could grab long tee shots, and water well behind and right of the green.
Although 11 is the only hole where water has to carried, there are 10 holes where water could be a factor.
The hazard at 15 is another of the reasons the back nine can play tough. The 383-yard hole has a pond that cuts into the left side of the fairway between the landing area and the green. A large waste area on the right encourages players to send most tee shots left, which in turn means more water that has to be cleared on the second shot.
The second shot at 15 can be made easier only by making the first shot more difficult by trying to carry the waste area and hit a tighter landing area on the right.
Several rows of trees line each of the wide fairways. On some holes, the trees are thick enough for errant tee shots to be lost.
Blue Heron Pines Golf Club is located just 15 minutes from Atlantic City, 45 minutes from Philadelphia, and two hours from New York City.
Blue Heron Pines West Course
P.O. Box 961
Cologne, N.J. 08213
1-888-4STAR-GOLF or (609) 965-GOLF
Fees, including cart or Powakaddy:
Jan. 1-March 11: $51
March 12-April 15: $71
April 16-May 13: $78
May 14-June 23: $99
June 24-September 6:
$99 Monday-Thursday, $125 Friday-Sunday
September 7-October 17: $99
October 18-November 30: $71
December 1-31: $51
The Blue Heron Pines East and West courses are located across Tilton Road from each other about 12 miles west of Atlantic City. Everything but the round of golf itself will make it very clear that the two courses are part of one operation signified by the Blue Heron logo.
Even parts of rounds on the two courses will seem similar, but there are also distinct differences in the way the two courses play.
Depending on personal taste, some golfers will prefer the West Course, designed by Stephen Kay and opened in 1993, while others will favor the East Course, designed by Steve Smyers and opened Memorial Day Weekend, 2000.
For those who simply love getting a look at many different golf courses, there is plenty of reason to try to play both.
The East Course plays more to a links style and can be up to 400 yards longer than the West Course. The East is the type of course where trouble comes in the form of mounds, sand bunkers, fescue, and other wild grasses, that although penalizing, do offer the opportunity for recovery.
Trouble on the West Course is more likely to come in the form of actual penalty strokes from a shot into a water hazard or a ball lost in the thick rows of trees that border each hole.
Even the greens play differently. Green-side recovery on the West Course is more likely to require a pitch from the rough. On the East Course, collection areas allow for more chips that fit into the running kind of shots that could be favorable elsewhere on the course.
Slopes blend the collection area and green and make for more putts with significant breaks.
Players wanting to try both courses can save on the greens fees. Peak season weekday fees for each course are set at $99, including cart, but golfers seeking rounds at both courses can play the two for $175 by making arrangements for the second course as part of their first day at Blue Heron Pines. (TR)