December 11, 2015

Atlantic City Golf Vacations: Course Spotlight: Ron Jaworski's Blue Heron Pines Golf Club

For those familiar with Ron Jaworski’s exuberant, wonkish NFL analysis on ESPN, it’s easy to imagine him haunting the film room when he played, consuming game tape at ungodly hours. In truth, the quarterback known as Jaws spent his off days almost as concerned with par-4s as he was 3–4s. “I was away from the media, away from fans, away from talking about the game,” he says of his weekly golf outings. “It was where I would recharge my batteries.” Ron Jaworksi purchased Blue Heron Pines in the summer of 2011.

As its name would suggest, Blue Heron Pines Golf Club plays through stands of towering pines. The trees provide more scenery than intimidation but the golf course offers plenty of other challenges including strategically placed traps and enormous water hazards. The undulating greens are also lightning fast. The layout starts out gently but becomes more difficult on the back nine. Blue Heron Pines' 11th through the 15th holes are a string of tour-worthy holes that are the highlight of the golf course due to their beauty and difficulty. The 11th hole is a seemingly easy par 3 that is a play on the well known 10th hole at Pine Valley. This short hole features a steeply sloped green, water, and a deep pot bunker. The stretch finishes with the trickiest of the course's par 4s where golfers will have to navigate water, a bunker, and a double-tiered green.

Blue Heron Pines is a traditional parkland style course. This is target golf at it's best where narrow tree lined fairways provide natural hazards. The course won't overpower you, but most misdirected shots will result in a recovery shot back to safety. Blue Heron features three of the toughest finishing holes in golf. Number 16 is a 218-yard, par-three with an elevated green, number 17 is 450-yard, tight par-four and number 18 is 529-yard, par-five that requires three precise shots to find the green. Blue Heron Pines was ranked in the Top 50 Public Courses in the United States by Golf World Magazine and holds a four-star Golf Digest rating.

In many ways, Blue Heron Pines embodies the architectural philosophy of Kay, best known for his work at The Architects Golf Club in Phillipsburg, N.J. Kay also designed the nearby McCullough's Emerald Golf Links in Egg Harbor Township as well as Harbor Pines Golf Club..
"I always try to make the back nine more difficult than the front nine," he said. "It is definitely that way here. If you look at my courses, (hole) 18 is usually easier (than on most courses), but I get them on 17."
True to his word, Kay's front nine starts off at a leisurely pace. The 315-yard first hole, the shortest par 4 of the round, allows the chance to score right out of the parking lot.
The easiest par 5, the 530-yard 18th hole, sends them home with a smile. But no. 17 is a dastardly difficult hole that is the longest par 4 on the course from the gold and black tees.
Six ponds impact more than half the holes, especially on the course's best stretch of golf from holes 10-15.
A trio of foreboding bunkers and a pond guard the left side of the 10th green, finishing off a 395-yard par 4 cut through the trees. The pint-sized, 130-yard 11th hole plays over the same hazard to a narrow putting shelf.
It's ironic that the shortest par 5, the 518-yard 14th hole, plays the hardest. Bending slightly to the left, the 14th fairway ends at a large wide waste bunker that wreaks havoc on good players going for the green in two or average players hitting their third shot over it. It's the best risk-reward hole of the round. The par-4 15th hole, the no. 1 handicap at 421 yards, vies for honors as both the prettiest and best hole. It takes a healthy poke to clear the huge right-side bunker, setting up a scary long iron over a pond to the green.

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