Back in 1993 it was a different time on the South Jersey public golf scene.
There were nice "local courses" like Brigantine, Avalon, Atlantis and Mays Landing. Nice golf, to be sure, but not extremely special.
Then owner Roger Hansen unveiled the brand spanking new, upscale, Blue Heron Pines. The new kid on the block was met with great reviews. The Stephen Kay design was challenging and a whole lot of fun.
Over the years new challenges have come up at the Shore. Players had multiple options. Let's face it, many golfers like to try new courses. The new course on the block gets attention.
But one thing is certain: Blue Heron Pines is a surefire, grade A, gem.
If you are one of those golfers who've strayed from this Galloway Township layout, write yourself a note: "Play Blue Heron Pines ASAP."
Kay used his imagination to carve a wonderful course through South Jersey pinelands. The course setting, just minutes from the sparkling lights of Atlantic City or the laid back beach enclaves like Brigantine, Margate and Longport, Blue Heron Pines is close to the seashore homes and only 75 minutes from Lower Bucks County.
Once you arrive, you will find a first class staff on hand to get your day off to an excellent start.
"We pride ourselves in providing outstanding service," explains head golf professional Scott Sterling. "Our golf course is wonderful, but we also have all the amenities. The Blue Heron Pines experience is special in all of its aspects, both on and off the course."
Blue Heron Pines has a wonderful clubhouse complete with a fully stocked pro shop and a stellar dining facility. Its Grille Room has an old fashioned pub atmosphere.
And the golf? Superb.
Five sets of tees allows the course to be played by a wide array of players. It can be as tame or challenging as one likes.
Kay is known for masterminding outstanding layouts, and Blue Heron Pines is no exception. He weaves the course through the stately pines while evading fair but strategically placed sand and grass bunkers, ponds, and subtle terrain changes.
After a tame opening par-4, a hole that gets one into their game, the course shows some grizzled teeth. Number 2 is a short par three that has numerous hole placement possibilities. The most challenging pin position is over a dastardly pot bunker which, if entered, is not good to say the least. Other things that could be said, well, are a little naughty and definitely not nice.
Hole number 14 has garnered a lot of attention over the years. The par-5 is 520-yards from the tips, but for those playing from the front tees it's a fair 358-yards. Several of its tee boxes require a shot over a slice of pond, with several bunkers along the left side and trees (and out of bounds for the direction challenged) to the right.
A perfect drives sets one up in the middle of a spacious fairway gazing at tons of sand. That's because an un-kept one acre sand hazard sits between you and the fairway in front of the green.
At Pine Valley's 7th hole it would be called Hell's Half Acre. At Blue Heron Pines it's simply a Great Hazard, as noted designer A.W. Tillinghast was fond of saying back in the day. The hole is imposing, but if one can put the difficulties out of ones mind it's a three shot, two putt hole for par.
"The hole scares some people," admits Sterling, "but it is a fair test."
Kay's mind designed a course where no two holes are the same. He has an excellent mixture of length and challenge. A perfect short par-4 is number 7, which from the tips is only 323 yards. Depending on tee selection, wind direction and a player's gut, it can be a drivable par-4.
Contrast number 7 with the 17th hole. A par-5 for humans but a par-4 on the scorecard, the 17th hole is long (458-yards from the tips) but fair. A rolling green is protected by bunkers and mounds, and only two perfect shots can find their way to the putting surface.
"It's a flexible golf course," adds Sterling. "It can be as tame or as difficult as you want it to be. Playing from the right set of tees for your game is imperative, and you have to consider the wind conditions."
Its undulating greens can be a challenge, but are very fair, the course is well-maintained and is a wonderful test of golf.
Blue Heron Pines has matured over the years, but it's as fresh and new as when it was opened. An outstanding test of golf, it is also a superb facility in every way. From its practice area to the golf course to the clubhouse for a libation after a great round, Blue Heron Pines is a wonderful destination.
If you haven't been to Blue Heron Pines in a while, you should make it a point of returning.
Blue Heron Pines earns a Solid A.