Blue Heron Golf Club is yet another entry to former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworksi’s collection of New Jersey golf courses, and one of several located in the Atlantic City area. The course was designed by another New Jersey resident, Stephen Kay, during 1993.
Many courses in New Jersey and the world over try to emulate the state’s crown jewel — Pine Valley — but few go as far as to create replicas of its holes. Kay did not do an exact clone of the famous “Hell’s Half Acre” hole but the similarities are inescapable, including both the enormous waste bunker that needs carried on the second shot, as well as the forced carry to reach the green. Where Kay adds a unique twist is the tee shot over a lake on the way to the fairway. Fortunately, his version of the famous hole measures just 510 yards from the back tees.
Another popular hole is No. 7, a par four that measures just 320 yards from the back tees. Finding the green in one means challenging a “U” bunker that fronts the green. Even laying up short is complicated by a massive cross bunker heading diagonally up from right to left.
When Blue Heron Pines joined the Atlantic City area as a daily fee course that entrance served as the catalyst for a number of other daily fee courses to join the golf market catapulting interest in the area. Credit the business smarts of Roger Hansen for doing so as the property's first owner by laying the foundation for what was to come.
Architect Stephen Kay did a fine job in creating 18 playable holes and in maintaining a naturalness to the existing property so that the holes work in tandem with the relatively flat featureless property.
The main anchor around the neck of Blue Heron Pines is that the architecture is sufficient but simply not inspirational enough on a consistent basis. Kay does include a fine split fairway at the par-5 14th -- reminiscent of the 7th at Pine Valley and 3rd on the East Course at Ridgewood CC. It's just too bad more such holes could not have been inserted into the program. There's also the fact much of the property is overridden with homes.
Fortunately, the round concludes with a quartet of engaging holes not undercut by the housing involvement. At the 15th and 17th, you have two quality long par-4s with the 16th bracketing them as a lengthy par-3 hole. Blue Heron Pines wraps up things with a possible birdie finish at the par-5 18th.
Blue Heron Pines is very playable for the broadest range of players and turf quality is generally good to very good. Most golfers will clearly enjoy themselves but architectural bloodhounds will likely lose the scent and seek greater satisfaction elsewhere at other AC golf facilities providing as much.
M. James Ward