Laid out across the rolling landscape of Hunterdon County, the Heron Glen Golf Course occupies an expansive property that was once part of the famed Kuster Farm, with bent grass carpeting the layout from tee to green.
The biggest issue facing stand-alone municipal courses -- more accurately defined as taxpayer-owned facilities -- is successfully combining strategic interest, along with a clear conjunction for playability for the broader masses.
Heron Glen arrived on the Garden State golf scene in 2002 and remains the only course owned and operated by Hunterdon County.
Architect Dan Schlegel's design hits the difficult bulls-eye with a spot-on effort. Heron Glen gives ample width on nearly all the non-par-3 holes. However, in order to score low, you'll need to hit quality approaches close enough to have opportunities for birdies.
The putting surfaces are appropriately contoured and large enough to accommodate the traffic that comes from such layouts.
The competitive scene in the public ranks in New Jersey really took off starting around 1990 when such places as Crystal Springs and Blue Heron Pines entered the scene.
Heron Glen is a strong enough layout to make a top 6-7 grouping of such taxpayer-owned layouts. That competition is quite intense when you include such stalwarts as Hominy Hill in Colts Neck and Neshanic Valley in Somerset, along with the recent updating of such venues as Galloping Hill in Kenilworth.
For many coming to the Garden State the probability in playing the elite echelon of private clubs -- Pine Valley, Somerset Hills, Plainfield, et al, may prove hard to accomplish without some sort of membership invitation. Fortunately, the public side of the golf aisle is quite good and Heron Glen provides a fun, challenging layout handling the broader masses of golfers and doing so at a very reasonable cost.
Well worth checking out.
M. James Ward