I miss, I really really miss, the executive golf courses I grew up with.
This has come into the forefront of my mind recently when my 19-year-old ice hockey playing, extreme sports loving son, decided he wanted to hit some golf balls.
Mr. Thrillseeker, Liam never liked golf. Too slow. Too boring. If it isn't dangerous, he doesn't like it.
But for some reason he wanted to hit some balls. Off to the range we went, and he pounded balls for several days.
Not a lot of good shots, a lot of frustration, but maybe that was the ticket. It was harder than it looked.
Now he's hooked.
For those who have been in this situation, you know the next part of the story. Picture a company golf outing, where everyone plays. People who have never picked up a golf club are suddenly out there, swinging and missing, slicing, shanking, topping, you name it. Golf balls are going everywhere.
Everywhere but straight.
The thing is, in a company outing, you are among friends. You generally have the course to yourself. Screw up, and everyone laughs.
But not when you are a father and son looking for a place to play.
Some golf courses are just not conducive to people who are learning the game. That fact got me thinking to when I was learning the game in Delaware County, Pa. There was Clayton Park, a short course that offered a challenge at an inexpensive price and wasn't filled with strong players.
There were several pitch and putt courses to work on one's short game, and even the Springfield Golf Club was about 5,600 yards from the white tees. I played the red ones, from about 4,900-yards. It was perfect for a player learning the game.
When I moved to Bucks County, the Bristol Golf Ranch off Route 13 was an excellent executive golf course. Honing my game there, I moved on to Bensalem, Middletown, Bucks County and the now plowed under Warrington layouts. But I remember those days on learning the game on the shorter courses, and wished there were more around where my son could learn without causing a commotion.
At the shore recently we found the perfect place, the Heritage Links Golf Club in Palermo, N.J. Located on Highway 9 (had to write that, Bruce) just minutes from the Ocean City, Sea Isle City and Strathmere beaches, this nine hole test is everything you could want in a short course.
This is not nine flag sticks stuck in a farm field. No, Heritage is a real golf course. A challenging 1890-yard test with a USGA slope rating of 107 and a par of 30. There are seven par-3 holes and two par-4 holes. While a driver isn't required, it does use allow players to use every club in the bag.
Water comes into play on four holes, bunkers are sprinkled around the layout, and the Jersey pines are sprinkled around the course but are not overbearing. The greens are a little slow, which works well for newcomers to the game, and there are the ever present shore winds that kick up about 11 every morning.
A favorite hole is the par-3, 145-yard fifth hole. This well bunkered hole has an ampitheater look to it, and it's large green seems to want you to hit it. But with prevailing winds, out of bounds to the left and those bunkers it's not an easy par. Number eight is a 338-yard test. Cutting the corner means evading a lake, while the shorter hitters can easily play it as a dogleg.
"Heritage is a perfect fit for a family's shore vacation that includes a little golf," explains professional Robert Kleckner, a Neshaminy High School grad who doubles as pro and general manager at Linfield National in Montgomery County. "You can play 9 holes in the early morning and be on the beach the rest of the day. And at Heritage you can use every club in the bag."
In short, the Heritage Lins Golf Club has some bite to it, won't break the bank and is a pleasure to play. Liam loves it, earning a couple pars and beating the old man with one of them.
It's a course easy enough to walk, although pull and power cards are available. All at a decent price, too. A great golf experience for newcomers to the game and those more seasoned players looking for nine holes of challenging play at the shore.
Rating: Of "short" golf courses, the Heritage Links rank a must play A. Practice putting green on site, but no driving range availability. Call 609-390-4500 for details.