Heron Glen

6,531 yards, 131 slope from the Blues

Heron Glen is a municipal course in Ringoes, NJ, which is about 20 minutes north of New Hope.  HG was designed by Daniel Schlegel, who also designed nearby Mercer Oaks East and a course I love to play, Springwood, in York, PA.

The Glen is what you could call a no frills course.  The pro shop and club house are in a bungalow type building and both are pretty small.  No one will mistake either for the digs at TPC Jasna Polana, but they were still nice places.  I’ll get into detail below, but the point is that golfing is the focal point here, which is nice since it’s a golf course and all.

Course:  The course defines itself by numerous and large bunkers along either side of most fairways and greens along with swales, contours and hills to obstruct your view of the green, create some interesting lies and use to get your ball bouncing/rolling towards the hole.  The rough and fescue are the main problems off fairway.  There is an occasional waste area or ravine you must carry as well.  Water does not come into play (except for 18 a little bit) and there are only a few dog legs.  Wind actually affects play on a few holes as well.

Generally, I thought Heron Glen was a good play.  It was fair without being boring, course conditions were nice (except for the aerating greens) and even though the course was crowded, we never had to wait to hit.

Right off the bat though, I will say that this is not a good value and is probably over priced, for out of county residents at least.  New Jersey charges non-county residents much higher green fees, so it was $60 for me during peak hours on a Saturday.  There is also a $15 charge for a cart, so I paid $75 to play here.  That’s probably too high for what you get.  Some how though, I think $60 is just about right, so I’d recommend foregoing the cart and walk instead.  The course is certainly walkable.

One other thing I’ll get out in the open right now.  The greens were being aerated, but no one informed me of this either when I booked or when I showed up, nor was there any discount.  That’s a big issue for me, as your score for that day isn’t accurate.  Especially if you’re paying full price, there really should be something in place to at least warn golfers of it.  I basically felt misled once I got to the first green.

The first hole is a par 4 with a generous fairway that dog legs right and down hill.  There is a bunker short left and short right of the green.  Again, the greens were aerated, so it rolled like a plinko board.  The second is a par 5 that dog legs slightly to the right.  There are bunkers along the fairways and then up around the greens.

First hole looking backwards towards the tee

Tee shot at the Second

The third is a par 4 that is on the shorter side with more bunkers that the other holes around the green.  The fourth is another par 4 that starts a trend you see more on the back 9; bunkers on either side of the fairway to collect any off center tee shots.  The fourth only has one of these bunkers on the left, but most holes have them on both sides, making center tee shots critical.  The fifth is the first par 3.  There is an elevated tee with bunkers in the rear of the green and front left.  The green is multi tiered and on the larger side.

Tee shot at the Fifth.  That butterfly wanted credit for getting in the photo.

The sixth is probably the first hole I found interesting.  It’s a short par 4 with a split fairway and a waste area creating a forced carry to the green.  The split fairway gives you a couple options.  You could lay up to put you in place for a safe second shot to carry the waste area, or you could test the right side where you must carry a bunker to get on the fairway.  A well struck tee shot in that direction rewards you with a shorter second shot to the green.  The green slopes severely from left to right.

Tee shot at the Sixth.  You can see the split fairways, but the separation of them is not so obvious

The seventh is the second par 3 on the front nine, a very short one to an uphill green with a bunker far right.  Here’s where you get that ace.  The eighth is a nice par 5 mainly because the disbursement of bunkers challenges your second and third shots.

Approach shot at the Eighth

 The ninth is a straight par 4 where you deal with the wind a little bit.

After the ninth, we got a nice little lecture from the golf ranger because we drove to the cart path from the signs, but cut at a little bit of an angle.  We’re talking five yards here, but the ranger felt that deserved a 10 minute lecture on driving the carts 90 degrees from the signs.  You got it.  Since we’re being so highly technical and strict here, when exactly were you going to let us know about the aerated greens?

I liked the back 9 better than the front.  I played the back 9 better, but there were a few more stronger holes as well.  The routing is different because it includes an extra par 3 and 5, which leaves one less par 4.  The tenth is a par 5 that dog legs slightly left and down hill to the green.  The second shot is blind with the dog log and mounds on the left, so local knowledge is pretty important here.  The tee shot bunkers are on the left.  There is the added adventure of range balls flying at you on your second shot, so keep that in mind.

Tee shot at the Tenth.  The bunkers collecting errant tee shots is a common theme here

The eleventh is an interesting shortish par 4 with a blind tee shot due to a large mound on the left.  Again, local knowledge helps here because tee shot placement is important to set up your approach shot.

Tee shot at Eleventh

The twelfth is a par 3 about 160 yards that is protected in the front with bunkers.  The green appeared to have some nice slopes, but for us it was aerated and rocky.

Tee shot at the Twelfth

The thirteenth is a par 5 with a larger ravine that you must carry on your second shot.  The green and second part of the fairway is set downhill, so the approach is actually a little easier than it looks.  The fourteenth is a par 4 that travels uphill to a green protected by a bunker on the front right.  There are bunkers along the left as well, trying to force you to go up the right side on bring the green side bunker in play.  Going up the left takes care of that.  The fifteenth is the longest par 3 on the course.  Yet it is downhill, very wide and forgiving with a large green.  Pretty easy hole and it is the 14th handicapped hole on the course of that reason.

The sixteenth could be a great hole, but suffers from a terrible flaw in my opinion.  Your tee shot is to an uphill fairway, then immediately goes downhill until the fairway ends into a ravine.  The problem is that the ravine is not marked on the scorecard, so there is no way to know about it if you’re playing here for the first time.  And it’s a par 5, so a well struck drive will go into the ravine, as the downhill fairway feeds right into it.  This very situation happened to my buddy, who bombed his tee shot only to realize about the ravine later.  Taking driver out of play on a 500 yard par 5 seems a little contrived to me and the lack of notice of said ravine is further befuddlement.  It’s a shame, as this hole then dog legs right to one of the better greens on the course and bunkers in all the right places.  It’s a very picturesque hole as well, unfortunately.

The “secret” ravine at the Sixteenth.  My friend searches for his bombed tee shot in vain.

The Sixteenth on other side of ravine

The seventeenth is the last par 3 to an uphill green where we met a 2-3 club wind.  The wind made this hole interesting.  Otherwise, it was just a longer version of the seventh.  The eighteenth is a closing par 4 with water on the left and a strong head wind playing longer than it shows on the score card.

Honestly, there was nothing here that got me really excited about the course.  The holes all melded together into a bunch of rolling hills with scattered bunkers.  The few interesting holes (6, 8, 11, 13, 16) are not distinct.  I really didn’t feel all that much character from the design.  It’s a little disappointing, especially because I think Springwood (the course mentioned above that Shlegel designed) drips with character and is one of the better well kept secrets in PA.  What Heron Glen does provide is a solid municipal course for the county residents.  I would be glad if this course was in my county, but there is nothing here that puts this in the ranks of a high end daily fee course.

The length of the par 3’s definitely fit my eye, as I enjoy shorter par 3’s where you have a chance at the old one shotter.  I also liked the different routing on the back 9.  The par 3 to 5 to 3 was fun.  We were paired up with a father-son two some that were a pleasure to play with and most of the players there appeared to know what they were doing.  Grass tee range and they let you chip at the practice green.  You can expect an enjoyable round here and some times that’s enough.

Range.  There were a few demo tents there as well.

Putting/chipping green.  Note the line of carts at the First hole.  Still, no waiting.

Gripes:  I’ve already ranted above, but no notification for the green aeration is a major faux pax.  Green fees for out of county residents are too much for what this place provides.  I bristle at a $15 cart charge, but understand they’re encouraging walking.  I got a small bucket of range balls that literally had 11 balls  in it.  In HG’s defense, I told the counter person and they gave me another one for free.  The ranger complaining about cutting that 5 yards was a little over the top and absurd, particularly with the aerated greens issue.  We saw the cart girl once on the front 9, then never again.  The ravine on the sixteenth must be marked some how.

Bar/grill:  They have a small area and some outdoor tables.  Food and drinks were fine, nothing more than lunch fare stuff.

Clubhouse:  Also on the small side, but well equipped.  Nothing on sale and no deals.

Nearby:  We found this place called Jake’s.  Nice bar with great beer and whiskey selection and great food.  A couple miles north on 202.

Getting there:  From Philly, it’s best to take 95 to 31 to 202.  A little over an hour.