Opened in 1968 and designed by Robert Trent Jones and Ron Kirby, the Heather course is the oldest – and many still say the best – layout at Boyne Highlands Golf Club’s 72-hole golf complex.
The complex at Boyne Highlands is a golfer's paradise with several different courses to enjoy. Arguably, the best of the bunch is the Heather -- the handiwork of the renowned Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The course has not been altered in a major way from what Jones originally provided -- although the 18th, which I will examine shortly, was changed just a bit.
The RTJ Sr. philosophy is certainly alive and well. The Heather features extended tee boxes and often large flanking bunkers - especially greenside.
Jones made famous his "heroic" style of architecture and there are a few examples of that at the Heather. The par-5 5th is a smaller version of the type of hole Jones famously created with the 13th at The Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach. Here the holes moves left instead of right and the overall yardage at The Heather is far shorter than the Palmetto State counterpart.
Three of the par-3's play over water and frankly the style of hole is overdone here. The 4th is especially demanding with a shot of 200+ yards needed to safely reach the center of the green. The 6th, the second par-3 on the outward half, is nearly a facsimile image of the 4th. The most interesting par-3 comes late in the round with the striking uphill 16th which features a quality green split into different subsections and highlighted by a demanding far right pin location protected by a large solitary bunker.
Although dense woods flank nearly all the holes-- there's more than enough sufficient space to play shots. The facility also has been proactive in making sure the canopies do not extended unnecessarily too close to the line of play.
The issue with The Heather is that the architectural style of Jones has moved out of fashion given the type of top tier courses available today. When the Heather opened there was not the depth of competition that exists today. The bunkering pattern is often way too predictable and redundant.
The most talked about hole comes with the closer -- one you will not forget. Originally, Jones did not see the need for a large water hazard being included but ownership saw the location as being ideal on two fronts. The water would provide a source for usage property and be an ideal detention basin. In addition having the water would beef up the demands of the 451-yard finale. Golfers must decide how close to play to the edge of the hazard. From the back tees the end of the fairway comes at 292 yards. Playing from an elevated tee can shorten that distance a good bit. Even when finding the fairway the approach must be played over the same pond to a green protected fiercely in front. The slightest mishap can easily mean a quick splash in the pond. There are bailout options so the playability of the hole is preserved. Frankly, the 18th really carries the day at The Heather.
All in all, The Heather is a fine layout. The subtle details and varying elements with bunker placements and green designs is not as sophisticated as one sees with other nearby courses but the layout still holds up well and is worth a play when in the neighborhood.
by M. James Ward