(June 2010) Heron Creek is a semi-private country club in North Port, FL. The club opened in 1999 and features 27 holes of golf. The three nines at Heron Creek are all championship layouts designed by famed architect Arthur Hills. Here at Heron Creek, Mr. Hills had plenty to work with. The topography is highlighted by lush landscaping, large stands of palmetto, oak, and pine trees and, most importantly from a design standpoint, rolling hills. That’s what sets Heron Creek apart from other courses in the area; elevation changes. Although they are not profound, they’re there. You will also find spectacular lakes and ponds that are home to abundant native wildlife.
Five sets of tees make Heron Creek enjoyable for golfers of all abilities. Low handicappers will have their hands full from the tips or blue tees, while average golfers will enjoy a fair round from the whites. Ladies playing from the forward tees will find that much of the trouble is taken out of play. Most golfers will find all three nines at Heron Creek challenging, but not intimidating.
There are some significant water carries on each of the three nines, although bailout room is usually available for those seeking to play cautiously. As with all great Arthur Hills designs, the risk-reward factor is present on many holes; cut off as much of the doglegs as you dare, but be willing to pay the price if you hit a bad shot. Bunkers seem to be strategically placed along the landing zones of the undulating fairways and around the mostly elevated greens. Other hazards in the form of overgrown marshlands, ponds and lakes are plentiful.
You will find a full complement of practice facilities at Heron Greek which include a targeted grass range, a short game area with sand bunker and a large putting green. The modern clubhouse includes a spacious and well stocked pro shop, beautiful restaurant/lounge/outdoor patio, and banquet/outing capacities for up to 200 guests. There also are beautifully appointed locker rooms with showers for men and women.
Creek Course – (yardage is from the Blue tees)
The Creek Course is the newest of the three nines having opened for play in 2002. It is also the shortest nine at 3365 yards.
Number 1: Par 4, 345 yards. A good player that has control over his driver should feel free to hit over the trees on the left side on this dogleg left par 4. Watch out should you happen to push it right as houses and OB await. There is a little water that needs to be cleared on the left. A decent drive will leave an approach shot of about 120 yards to an elevated two-tiered green that is well bunkered.
Number 2: Par 4, 340 yards. Number 2 is a relatively short par 4; you may want to leave driver in the bag on this hole. Fairway bunkers come into play on both sides off the tee; it’s a slight dogleg left with a lot of mounding. Keeping your tee shot on the right side of the fairway can really open up the hole; just avoid the two pot bunkers on the right side of the green. Anything left of the green will most likely find the woods. There are two bunkers behind the green that are not visible from the fairway. The green features a lot of undulation and can be tough to putt depending on pin position.
Number 3: Par 3, 161 yards. A medium length par three that features a large green fronted by sand. The woods come up tight to the green on the right; anything right of the green is probably lost.
Number 4: Par 5, 496 yards. This is the first par 5 on the Creek nine. There is water on the right; anything short and right is going to find the water. Number four is lined with woods left and right and can be a tough driving hole. Did I mention the houses on the right as well? Avoid the huge waste bunker on the left side that stretches all the way down to the green on your layup shot as well as a small pot bunker on the right side. Your approach shot is to an elevated green that is long and narrow and features a lot of undulation.
Number 5: par 3, 148 yards. From the tee, it looks like all that lies between you and the green is a marsh: a deep, overgrown marsh. At first glance it appears that you either choose the right club and hit the green or forfeit a ball. But don’t despair if you hit it a little fat off the tee; there is a large bunker between the marsh and the green as well as a little opening right. Should you find yourself in the bunker or on the right side, you will be faced with a chip shot up about 6 feet of elevation to a large green. Don’t get me wrong, par is still a good score on this hole.
Number 6: Par 5, 531 yards. This is a real pretty par 5; a dogleg right with water all down the right side. If you are fortunate enough to hit your ball down the right side and not go in the water, you can realistically have a go at the green in two from inside 250 yards. Should you not have a shot at it, leave yourself a manageable approach distance to an elevated green that is fronted by a nasty little pot bunker. Water lurks on the right side of the green. Be careful on your layup as the water comes out into the middle of the fairway.
Number 7: Par 4, 442 yards. This is yet another pretty hole. Keep your ball left off tee; miss hit it right and you’re in the woods. There is a waste bunker to contend with left and long. Play your approach shot slightly downhill to a medium sized green with a huge bunker on the right side. Nothing wrong with par on number 7!
Number 8: Par 4, 405 yards. There is water that is reachable on the right which is not visible off the tee. Your approach shot is slightly uphill to a long narrow green surrounded by bunkers.
Marsh Course – (Yardage is From the Blue Tees)
Number 1: Par 5, 500 yards. You’ll need control of your driver off the tee if you want to score well on this fairly short par 5. There are woods right and left off the tee on this slight dogleg right as well as fairway bunkers straight away. For most golfers it’s “hit it and hope.” The layup shot is wide open and a good one will leave you about 100 yards to a large green that is protected on the right side by a massive bunker with a grass “island” in it. Get behind the island in the trap and you will not be happy.
Number 2: par 4, 396 yards. The water on the left has to be carried if you want to score well. It leads to a narrow landing area. On your approach shot you will notice a lot of mounding in front of a large green with lots of undulation. Number 2 is a tough par 4.
Number 4: par 4, 355 yards. Number 4 is a dogleg right with bunkers straight away as well as woods and water to the right off the tee. You will find more water that comes into play up by the green. A large deep bunker guards the front left side of the green. Find the bunker and you will need to clear a lot of small mounds that lie between the trap and the bunker and can leave some tricky chip shots should you muff your bunker shot. The elevated green takes away any type of a bump and run shot.
Number 5: par 5, 552 yards. Unless you are familiar with the course, you might not realize that this hole is a dogleg right. The preferred shot off the tee is a fade. If a fade is not in your repertoire, be sure to favor the right side of the fairway; the water you see to the right also comes into play if you hit a long, straight drive. The layup shot can be tricky; remember the water on the left I mentioned earlier? It cuts into the fairway, making the landing area small. Take one less club and leave a little longer approach shot; it may just save a stroke or two. The right side is no bargain either as there is three small bunkers awaiting errant shots right. The green is no picnic either; you will find a lot of undulation.
Number 6: par 3, 153 yards. Water comes in tight on the left side with woods to the right. The large green is slightly elevated.
Number 8: par 4, 325 yards. This is a short, tricky par 4, especially if you have never played the course. Water comes into play on both sides of the fairway off the tee. The marsh area off the tee is easy to carry; you need to pay attention to the bunkers that lie straight ahead as well as the large bunker slightly off to the right. Successful navigation of your tee shot will leave an approach shot of around 120 yards. Your approach shot is to a well elevated green; there is room to the right to bail out. Anything left of the green is probably wet. There are three small traps on the right side; all but the greenside bunker should not come into play on your approach shot. This hole really tests your distance control; par is good.
Number 9: Par 4, 364 yards. This dogleg left par 4 features water down the left side; water comes into play on the right side on approach. The two trees on the left are a good aiming point; take the ball over the trees and you’ll have an approach shot of around 150 yards to a green protected on the left by deep bunkers as well as a pot bunker behind the green. Number 9 is a nice finishing hole.
Number 1: Par 5, 496 yards. Number one starts you off with a blind tee shot up over a hill with trees on and out of bounds on the right that can – but shouldn’t – come into play. There is a little pond to carry which can pose a problem if you hook it off the tee; otherwise it should not be an issue. If you hit a good drive, you stand a great chance at rolling down a slight hill and having a go at the green in two. Most players will choose to layup; I suggest hitting it out the right side of the fairway to leave a more open approach shot. Sand fronts this elevated green on the left side. This is a beautiful starting hole and not something you would typically find in this part of Florida.
Number 2: Par 4, 389 yards. Accuracy is way more important than distance on number 2. Trees on either side of the fairway create a small window in which to hit the narrow fairway and maximize distance. It seems everyone in our foursome was hitting out from the trees! The approach shot is no picnic either; a lake on the right side makes sure of it. The green is somewhat elevated and very wide with lots of undulations making even a short two putt an interesting challenge.
Number 7: Par 4, 369 yards. You will want to favor the left side of the fairway off the tee to take the wetlands on the right out of play. You’ll also want to avoid the wetlands on the right on your approach shot; the mounding on the right side of the hole can make things very interesting.
Number 8: Par 4, 315 yards. Long ball hitters shouldn’t be afraid to try and hit a big drive down the right side over the wetlands; this will leave a wedge to the green. Anything long and down the left side will most likely leave a blind shot into the green. Conservative players may want to go with a three would or long iron off the tee instead. Although there is no sand up by the green, the mounding around it can make for some pretty interesting lies. The green slopes left to right and is crowned in the middle.
Number 9: Par 5, 517 yards. A daunting task awaits you off the tee; you’ll need to hit it over the water on the left side and at the same time avoid the fairway bunker on the right. From there you will have a decision as to whether or not try for the green in two. For most golfers, it goes like this: hit a good drive; hit a layup shot down the right side short of the fairway bunker; hit an approach shot into a green that sits slightly below the fairway and two putt for par. The wetlands on the left side short of the green make it very interesting for someone having a go at it in two or anything hit down the left side. The green slopes left to right and is two-tiered. This is actually a good birdie hole if you play your cards right.
Last Word: If I lived in the area, this is one course I wouldn’t hesitate to join. It’s not your typical flat, Florida course; Heron Creek has a lot of character. There is mounding everywhere, subtle elevation changes and punishing bunkers. These are some of the most punishing bunkers I have seen outside of Scotland. Pot bunkers are everywhere; in fairways, beside ponds, even hidden behind greens. Hit the ball over the green and you are likely to find out what I mean. Many bunkers won’t allow you to advance the ball; you will need to come out either sideways or backwards. Finding a pot bunker off the tee can ruin your day, let alone what you thought was a good drive. The par fours offer a variety of short holes that require accuracy off the tee as well and long holes that require length both off the tee and on approach. The par threes are not overly long from the blue tees; move back to the black tees and a few of them can be intimidating. The greens are something else; lots of undulation and very few putts that have no break.
Heron Creek offers many different membership options including a 60 day, play all you want membership that includes all of the club’s amenities. For more information on Heron Creek, visit them online at www.heron-creek.com or give them a call toll free at 877-334-3766.