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Heatherwood Golf and Country Club – Reopened to the Public


Shortly after I moved to the US and started playing golf as a teenager, I went to work at a private country club. It was my indoctrination into golf club communities, and I used to stare with great envy at the immaculate homes that lined many of the fairways within the golf community and wondered what it would be like to live on the golf course.

Since then, I have been blessed to live on a golf course, both as a resident and as a member. The ability to walk out the back door on any given sunshiny day and play a few holes in the evening or to take the golf cart down to the driving range to hit balls until my heart’s content is something I wish every serious golfer could enjoy at some point. Being able to go ball-hawking at any time is something that shouldn’t be overlooked either!

One of the courses we lived at years ago was on shaky ground financially and I sincerely felt sorry for the residents. After all, buying a home on the golf course is one thing but having the course shut down is unimaginable. To think what it would do to property values, not to mention one’s golf game.

I mention all of this for one reason. I recently had the opportunity to play “mountain golf” in Alabama at Heatherwood Country Club. Heatherwood is a residential golf community in Hoover, AL that started accepting residents in 1984. Large, majestic golf front homes line many of the fairways; homes that easily start at around $500,000. The golf course followed soon after and opened as a private country club in 1986. Arthur Davis created the original layout and In 2001  John LaFoy did a complete rebuild.

The course offers golfers 4 sets of tees and plays 6,351 yards from the Back Tees. The course rating is 70.9 with a slope of 141. At 6,000 yards (69.0/135), the Gold Tees offer a good challenge and allow you to leave with some dignity intact. Ladies will have a great time playing the Green Tees (4,887/67.9/132).

With the depression that ensued in 2008, the course shut down because of financial difficulties. Heatherwood reopened in 2017 as a semi-private facility and several renovations and improvements were made including a new double-row irrigation system, greens, and bunkers. About 100 local homeowners and other stakeholders pooled funds to purchase the property, pay off outstanding debts, and perform the work necessary to re-open the club. The property was not in as bad of shape as one might expect after eight years of dormancy, due in part to homeowners voluntarily mowing the course behind their homes and performing other maintenance. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and the course closed for a second time.

In April 2020 the facility was purchased by another group of investors and reopened that August. As of April 2022, the course is going strong and rounds are growing steadily.

Over the years, Heatherwood has played host to numerous national, local, and professional events. The course is laid out over gently rolling and cantered fairways which are a combination of premier Bermuda grasses. Heatherwood’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are some of the best in the area. As you make your way around this par 72 layout, you’ll encounter narrow fairways and strategically placed bunkers.

The golf course is full of memorable holes. Number 2 is short par 3 that plays considerably less than the 159 yards stated on the scorecard. The hole plays downhill into a green that is a lot wider than it is deep and is well-protected front and left by deep bunkers that sit about 5 feet below the putting surface which has some good slope and undulation to it.

Number 6 is a short, risk/reward par 4 that plays 245 yards from the Blue Tees and slightly uphill. Trees line either side of the fairway and reaching the green requires a well-struck shot that avoids the trees. There’s a lot of mounding in the fairway although it seems to flatten out up by the green. There’s a mischievous little pot bunker in the front and another to the left of the green.

Numbers 9 and 10 are back-to-back par 5s which are two of the tougher holes on the course. Number 9 is a dogleg left that plays 463 yards from the Blue Tees. The winding fairway is like a narrow corridor slinking its way uphill. The hole may seem short, but it plays uphill all the way as it continues to turn left. A good drive down the right side may give you a peek of the green; miss the fairway off the tee and you are likely hitting three off the tee. Deep bunkers guard the front of the green and where there are no bunkers there is a lot of mounding. From the fairway below you cannot see the green; it’s long, narrow, and has a lot of undulation.

Number 10 is the most interesting hole on the golf course. At 455 yards it’s really just a long par 4 but the way that it’s laid out, it’s a three-shot hole for many players. From the Blue tees, you run out of fairway at about 330 yards out. From there it’s about a 130-yard carry over a large gorge. Two small pot bunkers front the green. A good drive will leave around 200 – 210 yards over the gorge and into the green. The choice is yours! Before leaving the tee box, walk to the back tees and take in the view. You can see for miles.

Number 15 is a 365-yard par 4 that is rather interesting. Your tee shot doesn’t need to travel much more than a couple of hundred yards to the corner of the dogleg. From there, you’ll have an approach shot that plays downhill into a long, small green with a very picturesque lake in the background.

After your round, unwind with your favorite adult beverage in Heatherwood’s Lounge. They offer up huge servings of your favorite burgers, salads, and sandwiches too.

The clubhouse at Heatherwood Country Club is the perfect venue for weddings and special events. The banquet room features a dance floor and access to a spacious outdoor patio. The goal is to make the clubhouse the hub of the community, hosting social events and neighborhood association meetings. He also wants to reiterate that Heatherwood Golf and Country Club is no longer a private facility; everyone is free to come out, play the golf course and enjoy the clubhouse and club amenities.

To book your next round of golf, a wedding, family reunion, or just enjoy a good meal, visit Heatherwood online or give them a call at 205-502-4101.

Marsh Landing Country Club – A Return to Prestige


In 1986, well-respected Jacksonville real estate developer Chester Stokes created a gated golf community in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Stokes’ vision for his new Marsh Landing was to make the development and country club a source of pride for himself and all of the residents. Although Marsh Landing was not a “bundled” community, there were more than 1,100 homes, and, with an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, Stokes felt that the golf club would become sustainable.

As expected, Marsh Landing became a very desirable place to live. Membership was at an all-time high and the club flourished. But when the economy went through its downturn about 12 years ago, the club lost a substantial number of members and as a result a good chunk of operating revenue. Luckily, Stokes was “all-in” and invested a lot of his own money into the well-being of the club.

In 2022, seeing that the club was “tired” and in need of a major overhaul, Stokes put forth a few ideas to the Board of Directors, including an effort to make Marsh Landing a bundled community. When none of his suggestions panned out, Stokes decided that enough was enough and offered to sell the club to the members. The members decided not to exercise that option, so Chester Stokes put Marsh Landing Country Club on the market.

Enter Concert Golf Partners, one of the fastest-growing golf course ownership and management companies in the US. After interviewing several management companies, the Board submitted the Concert Golf proposal to the community who voted unanimously to accept their proposal and sell the club.

Concert Golf Partners are experts at buying clubs that are operating below their potential and turning them around by making capital improvements, streamlining club operations, and increasing membership. Concert Golf Partners never passes the costs along to its members in the form of increased assessments. They currently have 30 properties in 15 states in their portfolio. By turning Marsh Landing Country Club around, Concert Golf Partners is helping Chester Stokes and the residents realize his initial vision.

John Fairall is the new General Manager at Marsh Landing, Fairall has been in the golf business for over 30 years and has seen the good and bad of new club ownership. According to Fairall, when Concert took over March Landing, they were immediately behind the 8-ball with some of the members. “For years, these people had been told that changes were coming (capital improvements and course improvements), but it never came to fruition. We had to earn their respect and to do that, we had to follow through on our promises and commitments.”

As promised, Concert Golf has initiated a $7 million capital improvement plan and the first steps are already in progress. The driving range was recently re-grassed and equipped with TurfHound tee stations. TurfHound provides a surface that mimics the feel of real grass without requiring a lawnmower.! The renovation of the clubhouse is also well underway. According to Fairall, “We have completed the demolition phase and are now in the process of rebuilding everything!”

Shortly after purchasing the club, Concert flipped the nines back to their original routing. That’s about the only thing that has changed with the golf course since Ed Seay finished the design; the golf course is still as fun and exciting to play as it ever was.

Playing Marsh Landing is like taking a 4-hour ride through a nature preserve. The course was designed by Arnold Palmer Course Design partner Ed Seay who was able to keep most of the landscape intact and incorporate the natural features of the terrain into the layout. The course uses a lot of creative routing and features two very diverse nines. The front side meanders through serene, intercoastal marshlands with the odd towering pine tree; water comes into play on every hole. The back nine looks as if it has been carved from thick lagoons and tidal marshes. You get a break from the water on the first two holes but then it re-emerges for the rest of the round. As you would expect with a country club of this caliber, fairways are manicured, bunkers are raked to near-perfection and the greens roll true. Even though the community dates back to 1985, March Landing is still one of the most prestigious developments in the area. You’ll get the picture as you pass some impressive homes on the golf course.

The Course measures 6,851 yards from the championship tees with a course rating of 74.3 and a slope of 143. Move up to the Member tees and the yardage drops 6,468 yards with a rating of 72.4 and a slope of 135. I chose the Merganser Tees (6,176/71.2/129) which were still a challenge but let me leave with my dignity somewhat intact.

Marsh Landing offers a total of seven tees so finding a distance that suits your game shouldn’t be a problem. The course plays on Bermuda grass from tee to green. Over the years, Marsh Landing has hosted both US Amateur and US Open qualifying events, as well as the 2003 Florida State Amateur Championship and the 1999 and 2001 Oakley Invitational.

Marsh Landing has its share of memorable holes; my two favorites are Number 12 and 17. For many members, the 12th hole is the layout’s signature hole. It’s an incredible par 3 that plays 160 yards from the Member Tees. Start off from an elevated tee box over a soggy marshland into a small green protected in the front and back by bunkers. It’s pretty much all carry from tee to green with no real bailout area to speak of. Long is better than short!

Number 17 is a challenging par 5, especially if you’ve never played it before. It plays 495 yards, is almost dead straight, and is one of the tighter driving holes on the golf course. It does open up a bit in the landing area, but you can’t tell that from the tee box. There’s water on the right should you push your drive and a bunker on the left side if you hit it too well. What you may not know – I didn’t – is that a large wetland area comes into play about 130 yards in front of the green. Unless you can hit your fairway wood longer than you just hit your drive, your best bet is to lay up and leave yourself a manageable distance into the green which is protected by a large bunker on the right. Beware of the two fairway bunkers on the right just short of the marsh. Par is a good score here!

At a Country Club where the main focus is golf, you would expect to find first-rate practice facilities and Marsh Landing doesn’t disappoint. You can get in some practice at their full-length driving range where you can hit every club in the bag or sharpen your short-game skills on the chipping green. Then, move over to the practice green and stroke some putts. The friendly professional staff at Marsh Landing is there to help you take your golf game to the next level. Lessons are available regardless of your skill level at either one of the practice areas or on the golf course; they can also fit you for a new set of clubs, too. Inside the pro shop, you’ll find the latest golf fashions and styles, so you’ll not only play your best, but you’ll also look good too!

In addition to a top-rated 18-hole championship golf course, Marsh Landing Country Club features 10 lighted Har-Tru tennis courts, a large fitness facility, and a resort-style pool.

Membership is the best way to experience all that Marsh Landing Country Club has to offer. All Memberships include primary, spouse, and children under the age of 23. Each membership category has a one-time, non-refundable initiation fee, plus monthly dues.

Membership categories are a Standard Full Golf Membership with unlimited use of all golf, tennis, fitness, and swimming facilities as well as use of our clubhouse and dining facilities. There are no greens fees or court fees. A Junior Membership has all of the same entitlements and is for members and their spouses under the age of 45. A Sports Membership includes everything but golf, and a Social Member has unlimited use of the dining facilities along with all social functions. And, as a Member of a Concert Golf property, you’ll enjoy reciprocal privileges at other clubs within their network. For more information or to arrange a personalized tour, contact the Membership Director.

For more information or to arrange a visit give them a call at 904.285.6514 or visit them online. Marsh Landing Country Club’s website has a lot of good information including the layout of each hole. www.marshlandingcc.com.

The Woodford Club – Like Good Bourbon, Getting Better with Age.


When preacher-turned-businessman Randy Clay and his wife Sue turned their church software business Suran (short for Sue and Randy) over to their son Alex to pursue some of life’s other interests, there was little doubt that the couple would have more success.

Randy’s next order of business was to make The Woodford Club – a golf course he had just purchased – profitable. These days, that is not easily done in the golf industry these days.

When I first met Randy in 2020, his vision was to make The Woodford Club a totally private club. However, with 26 courses within a 20-mile radius of Versailles, KY, it would not be an easy task. These days The Woodford Club is a semi-private facility with a lot to offer those who seek membership. There’s a beautiful swimming pool, tennis and pickleball courts, fishing, and a full-service restaurant. But the biggest draw to the club is the 18-hole, par 71 championship golf course that is always well-groomed and challenging.

Randy Clay is determined to take his golf product to the next level and earlier this year hired Bob Baldassari, a longtime member of the PGA and founder of Reimagine Golf, whose expertise in player development will help bring about the next generation of young golfers and potential members to The Woodford Club.

The golf course originally opened in 1967 as Woodford Hills Country Club. A few years later it was sold and became known as Moss Hill Golf Course. Kentucky Golf Hall of Famer Buck Blakenship designed and built the golf course which is set amid the rolling pastures of thoroughbred horse country just outside Versailles. The Woodford Club hosted the Women’s Kentucky Senior State Amateur Tournament in 2020 and 2021. Aside from golf, the Club has a couple of things going for it. For starters, it’s situated in the middle of the Horse Capital of the World. Second, it’s right on the Bourbon Trail.

This tight, parkland-style course features narrow, tree-lined fairways carpeted in plush Zoysia grass leading to lush Bentgrass greens that roll true and at just the right speeds. With deceptive angles and constant, sometimes subtle, elevation changes which lead to a number of blind tee shots, both off the tee and in the fairway. Many of the greens are guarded by bunkers although sometimes the elevation changes around the green complexes are simply enough.

The Woodford Club may not be the longest course in the area, but what it will provide you with is a challenge and the need to think your way around the layout. From the back (Blue) tees the course plays 6,119 yards to a par of 71  with a course rating of 70.1 and a slope of 129. Move up a set to the Whites and the yardage drops to slightly less than 5,900 yards however the course rating drops only slightly to 69.2 with a slope of 126. Two other sets of tees, the Gold (5,331/66.0/117) and the Red (4,870/68.3/113) provide yardages and challenges that will make the round exciting and memorable for all levels of golfers.

The holes I seem to remember the most from my last visit to The Woodford Club are the par 3s, they play long and challenging. There is one on the front side and three on the back. The first, Number 2, is 184 yards from the Blue Tees and plays slightly uphill with trees that dot the landscape from tee to green. Pay particular attention to the two trees on the right side near the green. A tee shot slightly offline can easily find one of them or the bunker. Either one presents a tricky up-and-down.

Number 11 is a pretty straightforward, 180-yard par 3 into a small green with trees back left and bunkers on the right side. The green is a lot deeper than it is wide and can easily be a one or two-club difference depending on pin placement.

The 13th hole plays 168 yards from the Blue Tees and is one of the few water holes on the golf course. Your tee shot is all carry over water into a green less than 20 yards deep with a large tree on the right. Par is a good score here.

The final par 3, Number 15, plays 174 yards.  With a small pot bunker directly in the middle of the front of the green, most golfers will need to carry their tee shot onto the putting surface in order to have a fair shot at par or better.

During our round, I spoke with a number of members and regular players at The Woodford Club about the golf course. All mentioned how much they like the golf course as well as all of the changes Randy Clay and his staff have made. They also unanimously decided that the 14th hole was the most challenging. This 434-yard par 4 requires (at least) two well-struck shots to get on – or in close proximity to – the green. It’s a gentle dogleg right with a fairway that slopes right to left. The length is what stigmatizes most players, there are no bunkers or greenside hazards. The green is long and narrow and can easily be a two-club difference between a front and back pin placement. It’s not hard to see why it is considered the toughest hole on the golf course.

The Woodford Club also has a full-length driving range just beyond the clubhouse where you can hit all of the clubs in your bag. Multiple targets give you something to shoot for. There’s also a short game area and a practice putting green will help you get the speed of the greens down before heading to the first tee.

The pool at The Woodford Club seems to be a family gathering place, especially on weekends. It’s open from Memorial Day to just after Labor Day, weather permitting. There’s also a baby pool and an active youth swim team. The outdoor Conch Bar is a great place to grab a bite to eat, drink, and catch the game on TV with friends.

If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, the Jack Jouett Tavern offers some of the best cuisine in Woodford County. The Tavern gets its name from an American farmer and politician best known for his “all night ride” in which he rescued Governor Thomas Jefferson from British capture. It really says a lot when non-golfers are filling the dining room! Randy Clay kept the kitchen open for carryout during COVID and that popularity has continued ever since. The Tavern is open from 11 am to 9 pm Monday-Saturday and 10 am to 9 pm Sunday. There’s a Sunday Brunch from 11 am – 2 pm. The Tavern is best known for its selection of over 50 small-batch bourbons and The Tater Bomb – a fried concoction of bacon, cheese & potato balls served with red-eye ranch dip. They are a must-try!

If you’re interested in becoming a member of The Woodford Club, you’re in luck. They are currently accepting applications. Several membership levels are available. The Full Membership includes everything the club has to offer including golf, tennis, pickleball, and fishing. You have the choice of being a weekday-only member or a 7-day member. Looking at the membership rates on their website, it’s quite a bargain. Pool memberships and social memberships are also available.

If you need any more information about the Woodford Club, you can probably find it on their website, www.thewoodfordclub.com. If you can’t find it there, give them a call at (859) 495-2582.

Island Pointe Golf Course is East Tennessee’s Hidden Golf Gem


Eastern Tennessee is known for many things. It’s home to Oak Ridge, the site of the world’s first successful uranium enrichment operations. Bluegrass Music originated in Bristol, TN, and Coca-Cola was first bottled at a plant in Chattanooga in 1899. Knoxville was visited by over 11 million people in 1982 when it hosted the World’s Fair. It’s also home to the University of Tennessee and the Volunteers. However, the area is probably best known for its mountainous terrain and the Great Smoky Mountains.

For golfers, there are several unique and challenging golf courses. One of them, Island Pointe, is slightly off the beaten path but well worth the trip. Island Pointe is located in Kodak, Tennessee, between Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains, and was created to rival the country’s most prestigious golf clubs and bring world-class, daily-fee golf to Tennessee. One visit and you’ll be back.

This Arthur Hills design first opened in 1991 as River Islands Golf Club and was ranked as high as 10th on Golf Magazine’s Public/Private Golf Courses in Tennessee. Current owner Dan Feehan had already fallen in love with the uniqueness of the golf course and realized its potential, so when the club started to struggle financially in 2009, Dan knew that with a little innovation and some subtle guidance, the course could be returned to its former glory. So, he left the New England banking scene, purchased the golf course, and moved his family to East Tennessee.

Island Pointe is unlike any course I have ever seen with the way it weaves seamlessly into the French Broad River Islands.  Arthur Hills took that uniqueness and incorporated it into the golf course. The three islands in the middle of the French Broad River play an integral part in the design and routing of the golf course with holes 3, 4, 5, 15, and 16 sharing the islands. And, while each of the 18 holes at Island Pointe provides its own unique challenge.

Based on its slope and course rating, Island Pointe is the most challenging public golf course in East Tennessee.  From the back tees, Island Pointe plays 7,001 yards with a course rating of 74.3 and a slope of 146. Members play from the White Tees (6,223/70.3/137) while the ladies will find Island Pointe enjoyable for the Island Tees (4,873/69.1/122). There are five sets of tees in all so you’re sure to find one that suits your game.

Island Pointe is situated on more than 175 acres with breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains and the French Broad River two features you will become more familiar with as you play the golf course. The ball sits up nicely on the well-manicured Zoysia fairways – often regarded as some of the best in the area –and leads to small, well-contoured mini-Verdi Bermuda greens. This area of East Tennessee is rich with wildlife and it’s not uncommon to see river otters playing on the riverbanks and the occasional bald eagle soaring overhead.

It’s important to get off to a good start at Island Pointe and the first four holes can make or break your round. But not to worry, just take a look at all of the beauty Mother Nature has surrounded you with! The course starts with a modest 365-yard, par 4, with a slight dogleg to the right. The entire hole plays uphill so your second shot will probably require an extra club to reach the green.

Number 2 is another medium-length par 4 and starts with a somewhat blind tee shot up and over a hill with a deep grassy hollow on the right and worse things to the left! Your approach shot is into a shallow green with a steep grassy bank and a trap behind the green.  My advice is brains over brawn off the tee.

Number 3 is the course’s first island hole. From the Member Tees, the hole plays 160 yards and is all carried over water. Rocks line the shore leading down to the water with long, gnarly grass between the rocks and the green.

The 4th hole is Island Pointe’s first par 5, with the French Broad River forming the boundary on the left. Playing your tee shot down the left-center of the fairway and your layup shot down the right-center will set up the best angle into the green. This is Island Pointe’s #1 handicapped hole, and, in the event, it didn’t treat you well, look across the river at the 60-foot solid wall of rock! It’s quite impressive.

Three holes on the back nine really stand out, too. Number 15 is a 159-yard par 3 with water all down the left side into a very long and narrow green. The front left bunker comes into play more than you think.

Number 16 is a short par 5 that requires a drive over water and then an approach shot into a green with water protecting the left side.

Arthur Hills saves the best for last. Number 18 is a 400-yard dogleg left and is best played with something less than a driver off the tee.  Your approach shot plays downhill into a well-protected green with water on the left and sand on the right.

Before your round, warm up on Island Pointe’s full-length driving range where you can hit every club in the bad. There’s also a short game area and a large practice putting green. Island Pointe has some of the most extensive practice facilities in the area.

Even if you’re not a golfer, there’s still a good reason to visit Island Pointe: the food! Golfers have the best of both worlds, the food truck at the turn and the Island Pointe Grille. While it may be your typical clubhouse menu, they do it right. Fantastic hamburgers, pork sandwiches, and chicken strips. The smoked potato salad and French fries alone are worth the trip!

The ongoing goal of Island Pointe is to help families in East TN and to give golfers a whole new reason to play their golf course to help a variety of special causes. Island Pointe plans to operate as a nonprofit. Course owner Dan Feehan has created a foundation that will raise funds to help battered women, homelessness resulting from addiction, and early childhood development. While this may sound like quite an endeavor, each of these areas has touched Feehan personally through employees and friends. The official launching of the foundation, its name, purpose, and intention will be formally announced in late 2023.

“We are excited to continue to provide an incredible playing experience for all golfers while directing daily proceeds from the golf course operations to helping East TN families. The foundation will not diminish the Island Pointe golf experience in any way or increase the daily fee rate. It offers our golfers a chance to play at a first-rate facility that they know is working to make a significant difference in the community.” We are thrilled to do this for our community.”

As of August, the foundation has three fundraising events planned for the remainder of 2023: Night Golf, Thanksgiving Morning 18-hole Shootout, and a Santa’s Run.  As they move into the 2024 golf season, the golf course expects to be able to direct all proceeds generated from daily sales into the foundation.

Although it’s uncertain, the Foundation may offer corporate memberships to Island Pointe and hold tournaments and special events to raise funds for early intervention care at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

For more information on either Island Pointe Golf Course or the Foundation, give them a call at (865) 933-0100 or visit them online at www.islandpointegc.com/

Warren Valley Golf Course – Resurrecting a Donald Ross Classic


I’ve always been a big fan of Donald Ross and will go out of my way to play a course that he designed.  For the most part, his courses are not long, but the subtleties of his architecture have always made them interesting…and challenging.

A few months ago, I read about a 36-hole Donald Ross-designed facility in Dearborn Heights, Michigan that had recently been transferred to a new management company with the intent of reopening to the public. I contacted the company and spoke with Jason Pearsall, who gave me some of the history of the golf courses – all of which can be found on their website – as well as his involvement in helping to reopen these legendary golf courses. But first, some history!

On June 30, 1923, the Detroit Free Press proudly announced that “18 holes of golf will be ready for play today” at the new Donald Ross-designed Hawthorne Valley Golf Club. The short article goes on to say that the “free golf offer will be extended to July 10th, and many are expected to take advantage of this generous offer.” That day, the first nine holes on the West Side of Warren Valley opened to the public; two days later the second nine holes on the West Side opened for play. At the time, the course measured over 5,000 yards. The course flourished and two years later, on April 11, 1925, the East Side at Warren Valley Golf Course opened for public play. Warren Valley was now a 36-hole facility.

Over the years Warren Valley GC has vacillated between a private country club and a daily fee golf course and has changed ownership and management companies several times. In 2018, the course was sold to the city of Dearborn Heights to keep it from becoming a development project. Then, in 2022, after severe flooding in the area, the company managing the facility walked away from its commitment, and the facility closed before the beginning of the 2022 season.

The search for a new management company began immediately and in August a contract was awarded to Issa Brothers and Revive Golf Management. Issa Brothers would run the banquet side of the business and Revive would manage golf operations. The course remained closed for the season as course renovations and grooming were necessary. The new deal called for both Issa Brothers and the City of Dearborn Heights to make substantial investments in the golf courses, clubhouse, and maintenance equipment. Issa Brothers operates the banquet center, restaurant, and lounge, while Pearsall and his company – aptly named Revive Golf Management – oversee the golf course improvements and day-to-day operation of the golf course.

It’s amazing how quickly a golf course can deteriorate in just a year but Pearsall and the maintenance staff at WVGC set to work clearing up the overgrown areas and rediscovering fairways, greens, and cart paths. One of the biggest issues they faced was flooding. Since taking over, they have installed numerous French drains and upgraded current pumping stations to help keep flooding at a minimum. Obviously, there’s not a lot you can do when the river overflows its banks other than build higher banks, which they have done.

Flash forward to April 28, 2023. Dearborn Heights Mayor Bill Bazzi and members of the golf teams of Annapolis and Divine Child High Schools teed it up and christened the first hole. The golf course and pro shop officially opened to the general public the next day. Currently only one of the 18-hole championship courses is open with plans to have at least nine more in the coming years. Short-term plans also include a driving range, something that has never been present on the property. The banquet center will most likely open in the spring of 2024. The restaurant on the first floor has already been expanded into what will become a very nice family-themed restaurant.

The West Course at Warren Valley Golf Course plays 6,126 yards from the back (Black) tees with a course rating of 68.5 and a slope of 115. Not long by today’s standards, but it is a Donald Ross design! This is Scottish-style golf at its best with moderate elevation changes and minimal bunkering, The course is just one year into a multi-year renovation project so you’re not going to find pristine, country club-like fairways and tee boxes. What you will find is a course that is fun to play and has new cart paths, bunkers, and resodded 007XL Bent grass greens. The small postage-stamp greens are incredible, roll true, and consistently register an 11 on the stimp meter. They will challenge every level of golfer.

Your round starts out with a modest par 4, slight dogleg left, followed by a legitimate par 5 that plays 503 yards. Houses line the left side of the hole off the tee and are less in play as you hit the dogleg right. The fairway narrows as you get closer to the green. Longball hitters may be able to get on in two. Three and four are parallel par 4s that are pretty straightforward. Number 5 is the first sighting of the Rouge River which helps to create a dogleg right. A good drive that is hit down the tree line with a slight draw could easily find the putting surface. Number 6 is a slightly longer mirror image of the previous hole. Seven is the layout’s first par 3 and plays 189 yards from an elevated tee box down to the putting surface. Number 8 is a short par 4, slight dogleg left that longball hitters can have a go at. The finishing hole on the front side is a 379-yard par 4 dogleg right with a wide-open fairway into a small green protected by trees on the right.

The back nine starts with a moderate dogleg left par 4 into a well-elevated green that will take at least one extra club. Push your drive right and you can easily find the retention pond! A large bunker guards the front left of the green. Eleven is a long par 4 dogleg left that plays 413 yards from the Black Tees. Your second shot plays over the river into a small round green. You’ll need to fly the ball onto the green on Number 12, a short par 3 that plays back over the river into a green protected by a large bunker directly in front and two more on either side. The par 4, 13th hole is pretty straightforward with trees coming into play on either side as you get closer to the green. Fourteen is a hole much like Number 5, a dogleg right with the river all down the right side. Fifteen is another dogleg right and the river is still on the right. It plays slightly uphill and may require an extra club. Sixteen is the course’s second and last par 5. It runs parallel to Number 2, the other par 5, and plays about the same distance. Seventeen is a challenging par 3, 141 yards from the Black Tees into what is probably the largest green on the golf course with a newly renovated bunker front left. Your round finishes with a long 405-yard par 4, treelined on both sides into a small, undulated green.

The course will undergo several “down the road” improvements, including reconditioned tee boxes, and re-constructed and reseeded fairways.

This is just a quick overview of what you can expect on the continuing-to-be-renovated West Course at Warren Valley Golf Course. For more information or to get updates on how renovations are coming along, visit them online at www.warrenvalleydh.com.

Chimney Oaks Golf Club – Great Golf and a Whole Lot More!


For golfers living in Georgia – or traveling through the state – who are looking for a high-caliber golf course that offers overnight accommodations, great food, and won’t destroy a budget, consider a visit to Chimney Oaks in Homer. Chimney Oaks is located on Old U.S. Highway 441, not too far off I-85 and a little over an hour from Atlanta. It’s a hidden gem that is quickly being discovered!

The course opened for play in 1998 as Scales Country Club and was designed by PGA TOUR Professional Mark McCumber and Mike Beebe. A few years later it became Hammer’s Glen Country Club before being morphed into what you see today. While the layout is quite challenging, the conditioning of the course is more akin to that of a private club than a daily-fee facility, and there are no better practice facilities in the state.  However, it hasn’t always been this way.

Head Golf Professional Byron McCall remembers his first visit to Chimney Oaks. “The course was in pretty rough shape,” McCall said. “The golf course hadn’t been aerified in years and the greens were in serious need of replacement. The bunkers were filled with river sand and the clubhouse was an old farmhouse.”

My how things have changed! In 2018 new ownership took over – the third in about 5 years – and began the reclamation project. Brush was cut and cleared away, fairways and bunkers were cleaned up and groomed and the greens were replaced with TifEagle Bermuda. The club is currently in the middle of a complete bunker restoration project which is due to be completed later this year. Chimney Oaks’ efforts did not go unnoticed and in 2019 the club was rewarded with the #5 spot on Golf Advisor’s “Most Improved Golf Course in the US” list. In 2021 they made Golf Advisor’s list of the “Top 50 Courses in the U.S.”

Play the course these days and you’re sure to find impeccable playing conditions. Well-trimmed fairways and well-kept roughs lead to beautiful well-undulated greens. It’s a challenging mix of doglegs, placement shots, and a few water hazards thrown in for good measure. There is a lot of mounding just off the fairways and in the rough which can make for uneven lies. The green complexes are well-undulated and tend to be elevated with picturesque bunkering. The back 9 has several holes that are tree-lined and a few others with blind shots. There are a couple of holes where knowing where to hit your tee shot will pay big dividends in getting on or close to the green.

From the back tees Chimney Oaks plays 7,144 yards with a course rating of 74.4 and a slope of 138. The Forward/Ladies tees play 4,669 yards 66.4/115) while the Blue Tees play 6,361 yards (70.3/127). They will provide a good test for most golfers and still let you leave with your dignity intact.

There are several memorable holes at Chimney Oaks starting with a couple of short par 4s on the front side that can get you off to a great start or wreak havoc on your scorecard. Number 2 plays 310 yards from the White Tees and 339 from the Blue. It’s placement golf off the tee and will take the driver out of most players’ hands. There’s water straight ahead on the left side, so the goal is to hit your tee shot between the 150 marker and the water, and then play your pitch shot into a green that’s protected on the left side by water that wraps around behind the green, and a sand trap on the right. The green is long and narrow, and slopes left to right with a false front. It’s a fun little hole!

Number 3 is a 304-yard par 4 from the White Tees that may entice longball hitters to go for the green, although the smart ones will see the creek that crosses in front and lay up short of the water, leaving a short pitch shot into a small green with large bunkers in front and on the left.

The 8th hole is a challenging par 3 that plays 161 yards from the Black Tees straight downhill. This is where a rangefinder with slope comes in handy! The triangular green is protected by a creek in front, sand front left and another trap back right. The green slopes from back to front towards the water.

Number 11 is one of those tree-lined holes. This par 3 plays 159 yards from the Blue Tees into a small, elevated green. There are no hazards immediately around the green, however, anything hit long and left or right is probably going to find the creek and will not be playable.

The finishing hole at Chimney Oaks is a dogleg right par 4 that plays 390 yards from the Blue Tees and significantly downhill. Hitting your tee shot left of the 150-yard marker and taking advantage of the hill can easily add 50 yards to your drive. Beware of the large rocks in the ground on both sides of the fairway. The long, angular green is protected by a large green front right.

In addition to a top-rated golf course, Chimney Oaks Golf Club offers a full-length driving range and has the area’s only state-of-the-art practice/training facility. The Forge is an indoor golf training center that includes two Trackman bays with face-on and down-the-line cameras. Trackman is the most popular and effective training aid in golf and is perfect for taking your game to a whole new level.  It can also be used as a golf simulator and allows you to play any golf course in the world virtually.  Spend a few hours with some close friends, a few cocktails, and play your favorite golf course – virtually.

The professional golf staff at Chimney Oaks can use the Trackman system to fit you with the perfect set of clubs to match your golf swing, and, they have access to golf equipment from many of the game’s top manufacturers.

The restaurant at Chimney Oaks is called Oaks 148 and offers a menu that uses locally sourced ingredients to produce delicious and sustainable dishes. It says a lot about the food when non-golfers show up at the course just to eat. The menu features classic dishes such as wings, burgers, and salads as well as contemporary entrees like Smoked Brisket Quesadilla and Smoked Salmon BLT. With a warm and welcoming staff, you’ll always feel like you’re at home.

The clubhouse is brand new and offers “mini-suite” lodging facilities. The “Lodge” is located on the top floor of the clubhouse and overlooks the driving range. Six bedrooms share a common living space with a balcony and a fully equipped kitchen. Need more space? Chimney Oaks also has three single-family homes that can sleep 6 – 12 people. Not only is it a great place for a golf outing, but it can also host small weddings and special events.

The warm Georgia climate is a golfer’s dream and makes every day a possible golf day.  It’s no wonder that more and more golfers are booking stay-and-play packages at Chimney Oaks. Not only are the golf and accommodations impressive, but the serenity, beautiful views from the deck, and charming southern hospitality set them apart. There is a myriad of things to do locally – hiking, shopping, lake adventures, entertainment, dining, and a lot of history to discover. You will most likely start thinking about a return visit and possibly buying your own vacation home a few hours into your visit. To book your next round or stay-and-play package, call them at (706) 677-3333 or visit them online at www.chimneyoaksgolf.com.

Springdale Resort – Relax, Unwind, And Challenge Your Mental Health


For golfers who visit or live in the mountains of Western North Carolina, there are many options when choosing a golf course for your next round. A search of golf courses in the Canton, NC area lists more than 10 public and municipal facilities within 20 miles; add in private clubs and that number increases significantly. There’s one facility that I am particularly familiar with and it’s a must-play whenever I’m in the area:  Springdale Resort.

Springdale has been around for over 50 years and continues to impress golfers. The course was originally designed by Joseph Holmes and in 2018, noted golf course architect Ron Garl did some work for course owner Lex West that included a new irrigation system, upgrades to bunkers, and improvements to cart paths. The West family also made several other investments in the resort including a new welcome center and clubhouse, the Rocky Face Tavern – a 7000 sq ft bar and restaurant with an outdoor fireplace, heated pool and hot tub, a fitness center, and a new teen center. The new clubhouse recently reopened and won Golf Inc.’s “New Public Clubhouse of the Year” Award for 2022.

Whether you’re an accomplished, low-handicap golfer or are just new to the game, Springdale is a course that can be enjoyed by anyone. It’s located at the base of Cold Mountain and is a golf resort that combines the extraordinary beauty of the awe-inspiring natural landscape with the hospitality and simple comforts you’d expect at a golf resort.

The course itself is a one-of-a-kind golf experience, with rolling, mountainous terrain, hidden hazards, and plush greens. It’s one of the best-maintained courses in the area, as the members will attest to. There are a few blind shots out here. One significant blind shot is on the third hole. It’s a par 3 that plays slightly uphill, and you can’t see the hole from the tee box. You can see the pin, so pay attention to the GPS on the cart for further details.

Number 4 is a risk-reward par 4 that plays downhill and is shorter than the 336 yards stated on the scorecard. Longball hitters may be tempted to go for the green off the tee but beware of the pond in front on the left side as well as the two bunkers by the green. Your best bet is to hit something less than a driver off the tee, leave a manageable approach distance, and make birdie that way.

As you play the first few holes, you may be saying to yourself, “I thought this was a mountain golf course.” So far, it’s been relatively flat with a few exceptions such as the tee shot on three and a couple of elevated tee boxes. Number 6 is the first hole where you start to see some major elevation changes. It’s a XXX-yard dogleg left par 4 that plays slightly uphill, maybe half club to club longer. The green is influenced by the mountain and what you think may be an uphill putt that breaks right is exactly the opposite.

The front nine finishes with a 454-yard par 5, dogleg left. If you can catch the downhill slope on the left side, not only have you crushed your drive, but you’ll leave yourself in a good position for the next shot and an opportunity to go for the green. A good drive could leave you inside the 200-yard marker with an approach shot that plays slightly downhill into a green protected on the right side by a bunker. Beware of the creek that crosses about 50 yards in front of the green.

The back nine starts with a dogleg left 511-yard par 5 and will be a three-shot hole for most players. You’ll hit your tee shot from the elevated tee box downhill to the fairway and then back uphill on your layup and approach shots. Watch out for the creek that crosses the fairway just in front of the cart path. The green slopes slightly from left to right with a large deep bunker in front.

The 13th hole is called The Spasm; it’s Springdale’s signature hole and comes with a warning that it may be hazardous to your mental health. From the White Tees The Spasm plays 422 yards; move up to the Golds and it becomes a 335-yard hole. Not only will you save 87 yards, but you may also preserve some of that mental health you were warned about!  Trees line the right side of this challenging par 4 that doglegs to the right and to complicate matters there’s a creek that runs down the right side as well. Hit your tee shot over the bunker at the corner of the dogleg and you’ll still have a long approach shot into a slightly elevated green with more sand on the right. Anything left may find a downhill slope and leave a tough up and down.

The Spasm is followed up by another 400-yard par 4 and requires an accurate tee shot between two giant oak trees.  A good drive to the top of the hill will leave a manageable approach shot into a green fronted on either side by sand. If you can somehow catch the downslope, not only will you make your second shot considerably shorter, but you may also hit the longest drive of your life!

The 16th hole is a 449-yard par 4 that should be called Son or Spasm (or Father of Spasm, depending upon how you look at it.) It does play downhill so you’ve got that going for you! Trees line the right side, and there’s a fairway bunker on the right. Your approach shot plays downhill into a green that slopes back left to front right. Just to add a little intrigue to this long par 4, that creek you’ve encountered a few times crosses the fairway just in front of the green.

Number 18 is a great finishing hole. It’s a dogleg right, par 5, with trees on the right side off the tee.  There’s a creek that crosses the fairway about 300 yards from the White Tees. Your tee shot plays downhill and if you can avoid the creek and wetlands on your layup shot, you’ll be left with an uphill approach shot into the green flanked on either side in front with bunkers and a beautiful view of the new clubhouse.

Springdale Resort is one of those courses that never plays the same way twice. That’s why it’s a good idea to look into one of their stay-and-play packages if you plan on being in the area and want to play some challenging golf. Springdale offers guests a variety of accommodations including villas, cottages, forest homes, and treehouses. Each villa is equipped with 4 queen beds, 2 full baths, a kitchen, a living area, and a large deck overlooking the Great Smokey Mountains. Cottages are 2-bedroom, 2-bath units and forest homes are multi-level townhomes that are perfect for the entire family. Need more rooms? Springdale’s Treehouse Village is made up of 6 round houses that can accommodate up to 36 people. It’s the perfect destination for a corporate team-building event. With so many courses in the area that allow public play, their rentals make for a great base. You will have complete access to their course and amenities, and they can also help you arrange rounds at other area courses.

For more information on this fabulous golf resort or to book your next stay-and-play package, visit them online at www.springdalegolf.com.

Island Resort & Casino – Home to Two of Michigan’s Best Golf Courses


Ask anyone who’s familiar with golf in Michigan where you can find the best courses in the state, and you may be surprised at the answers you get. Gaylord is always near the top of the list as is Kalamazoo – home to Gull Lakeview Resort and its six courses. Benton Harbor has the Jack Nicklaus-designed Harbor Shores Golf Club. But if you really want to play the best Michigan has to offer, you’ll have to go north, past Gaylord and Traverse City, over the Mackinac Bridge. Once you go over the bridge, take Route 2 West until you hit Harris, MI. Follow the signs to The Island Resort & Casino and you’re at the home of two golf courses you won’t soon forget: Sweetgrass and Sage Run.

The Island Resort and Casino is part of the Hannahville Indian Community. Both Sweetgrass and Sage Run were designed by Michigan native Paul Albanese and are constantly ranked among Golfweek’s Best Courses and recognized by GOLF Magazine and Golf Digest as a part of their Best in State ranking. In 2021, Sweetgrass was named Michigan’s Golf Course of the Year by the Michigan Golf Course Association.

If Sweetgrass was located on the ocean, it could be considered a links course. Since there is no significant amount of water nearby, we’ll call it a parkland-style layout. The course is as visually stunning as it is challenging. Beautifully manicured tee boxes and fairways lead to well-undulated greens. A lot of the long rough is wispy fescue grass; easy to find your ball but tricky to hit out of.

Water or marshland comes into play on ten holes and four holes are tree-lined although the trees only come into play on one or two of them — 16 and maybe 17.

All of the holes at Sweetgrass are named, and as you play your way around the layout, you may learn something! The names are part of the rich history of the Hannahville Indian Community and come from traditional Potawatomi clans, villages, allies, medicines, and symbols.

The practice facility at Sweetgrass is located just a short walk from the first tee.  There’s a full-length driving range where you can hit every club in your bag and a large practice green that offers a lot of different breaks and gets you ready for what you’re about to encounter.

Most greens are surrounded by bunkers and rough; many times, the shape and contours of these greens make hitting the ball close seemingly impossible.

Two of my favorite holes at Sweetgrass are Numbers 15 and 17. Number 15 is undoubtedly the signature hole. It’s a short par 3 that plays 141 yards from the White Tees over water to an island green that is a lot wider than it is deep. Rocks front the left side of the green. it’s about the same length as #17 at Sawgrass with no bunker but lots of rocks around the front of the green. Par is a good score here.

Number 17 is named “Wisdom,” and if you use a little bit, you can score well! It’s another pretty hole at Sweetgrass, and from the White, Blue, and Black Tees, you’ll play over a marshland. Avoid the ornamental rock and fairway bunkers on either side of the landing area and you’re well on your way. A tee shot down the right side and left of the large fairway bunker will leave a short pitch shot into the green which is very elevated with a couple of bunkers front left.

The other Island Resort and Casino course is Sage Run which is located less than 10 miles from the main property. Sage Run offers a contrast in style and design to its sister course, Sweetgrass. Whereas Sweetgrass is characterized by soft, flowing terrain populated with wispy fescue grasses, well-manicured areas, and a lot of water, Sage Run is more rugged and raw, with rough-looking bunkers and large native waste areas. The course is consistently ranked among Golf Digest’s Places to Play.

The primary feature of the land at Sage Run is a natural drumlin – an elongated hill or ridge formed by glacial ice. The drumlin at Sage Run runs through the center of the 300-acre property and reaches heights of 200 feet in some places. A number of holes work their way on, off, and around the drumlin offering a variety of scenic views and creating a roller coaster ride for golfers. Elevation changes vary from hole to hole and range from rolling terrain to dramatic drops and rises.

Although most of the holes are considered tree-lined, you have to be well wide of the fairway for them to come into play. The course typically plays firm and fast, something to remember when you hit those approach shots, but it’s the greens that make the course stand out. Most are gently raised and average in size. They roll quick and smooth with modest undulation. That’s not to say you’ll find many straight putts; they just aren’t there. It takes a skilled greens reader to master the subtle breaks.  Another interesting feature of Sage Run is that there is only one tee marker on each hole, giving you a lot of options for placing your ball. Sage Run aims to help directionally challenged golfers by placing a painted rock behind the bunker which can be used as an aiming point on the 2nd hole.

My favorite holes at Sage Run make full use of the drumlin. Number 5 is a 156-yard par 3 that plays considerably longer than its stated yardage of 156 yards and is handicapped #5 on the layout. For most players, it takes at least two extra clubs to get up the hill. The greenside slope on the right-side funnels balls back to the green and the slope behind acts as a backstop. It’s a fun and interesting tee shot!

Number 14 is a behemoth par 3 that would play 201 yards if it were on flat ground. Unfortunately, it plays dramatically uphill and considerably longer. You tee off over wetlands towards what is the largest green on the course, although you can’t tell from the tee box! I hit 3-wood because as I looked over the prospect of being short, I realized I was not part mountain goat, which is necessary to navigate the hilly terrain. The next time I play the hole, I’ll remember the large collection area around the green.

Number 16 is a 298-yard par 4 that proves holes don’t need to be long to be a tough par. It too plays up a steep hill and a good drive that finds the fairways at the top of the hill will leave a short pitch shot into the green. This is where things get interesting because what Number 16 lacks in length it makes up for with a green that slopes front to back, lots of undulation, and a crown that runs through the middle.

The Island Resort & Casino property features a variety of accommodations and dining opportunities and a full-scale casino. When you’re not busy exercising your index finger pushing buttons on the slot machine, you can get some physical exercise at the indoor pool and small gym. Islands Resort & Casino is also a great place to hold a business meeting or small event.

The Island Resort and Casino had already made a name for itself with the opening of Sweetgrass Golf Course, which is located directly behind the casino and hotel. With the opening of Sage Run in 2019, Islands has established itself as a premiere golf destination for those looking for a great golf experience. They have some pretty incredible stay-and-play packages that also include two other stellar Upper Peninsula courses – TimberStone and Greywalls. For more information or to book your next stay at the Island Resort and Casino, visit them online at www.islandresortandcasino.com.

Herons Glen in North Fort Myers Features a Newly Renovated Ron Garl Design


Herons Glen in North Fort Myers is a gated community with 1,300 homes. Herons Glen offers its residents a ton of amenities to help keep them in peak physical condition.  These amenities include a 5,070 sq ft fitness center, six LED-lit Har-Tru tennis courts, four pickleball courts, four Har-Tru bocce courts, twelve shuffleboard courts, and a lakefront heated swimming pool with a spa. The 45,000 sq ft clubhouse features a ballroom with a dance floor and stage, dining room, and lounge. The Sports Complex is currently undergoing a renovation of its own. Oh, there’s an 18-hole championship golf course on the property as well.

The original golf course was designed by renowned golf course architect Ron Garl and opened in 1991. Gordon Lewis did a redesign of the course in 2006 and in 2021, the Herons Glen rehired Garl to do a 6-million-dollar major renovation.

For much of 2021, the golf course remained closed but on December 16, Herons Glen Golf & Country Club reopened the golf course. General Manager J.B. Belknap feels very fortunate to have worked with Ron Garl and Clarke Construction during the redesign. Belknap was the General Manager of another nearby Garl-designed course, Kingsway Golf & Country Club, that was sold and will become part of the new Sunseeker Resort in Port Charlotte.

One of Ron Garl’s specialties is practice facilities, and the new Herons Glen Golf & Country Club has some incredible practice facilities, including a full-length aqua range with 27 Turf-Hound hitting stations along with several Bermuda grass stations, an 8,100 sq ft putting green, and a chipping area. It’s not uncommon to see members on the range, honing their game or warming up before a round. Annual practice facility memberships are available.

Centrally located just south of the Charlotte County line, Herons Glen Golf and Country Club boasts the ultimate value in Southwest Florida golf and has some great membership opportunities. Herons Glen is a semi-private facility meaning you don’t have to be a resident to become a golf member. Golf memberships include seven-day advanced tee time requests via the Chelsea tee time software for events and regular golf sign-up, year-round men’s & ladies’ golf association events, and year-round club-run events. Golf carts and unlimited use of the practice facility are also included. For non-members, tee times can be booked online through several online tee sheets.

Herons Glen’s length isn’t going to overwhelm many players. The course offers six sets of tees and can be enjoyed by golfers of all levels; the scorecard goes a step further and includes a total of ten yardages that range from 4,168 to 6,458 yards.  Just pick the set of tees that best fits your game and you’re guaranteed to have a fun round.

The golf course winds its way through the community with natural preserves that bring out the best of what southwest Florida has to offer. As you make your way around the layout, you’ll find holes lined with Spanish moss-covered majestic oaks and groves of towering pines. The undulating greens, pristine lakes, and abundant wildlife throughout create a challenge amid all the beauty of a newly designed golf course. Water comes into play on at 14 holes; more if you spray your tee shots! Several holes parallel Route 41, but the trees and mounding on the peripheries do a good job of insulating the golf course from all of the traffic and noise.

The newly redesigned Herons Glen Golf Course has several holes that will stick in your memory for a while. The second hole is a short risk/reward par 4 that offers longball hitters the opportunity to drive the green. From Tee #2 the hole plays 271 yards; by taking a line directly over the trees on the left side the green is reachable. A word to the wise: if you hit your tee shot left or push it right, there’s a good chance you may never see it again. The smart play off the tee is a long iron or hybrid which will leave a short pitch shot into a relatively flat green. Number 2 is handicapped as the easiest hole on the course.

On Number 3, a 341-yard par 4, Garl takes a page from the Donald Ross playbook with three separate bunkers fronting the green, forcing an aerial approach shot onto the green. It’s also a great use of waste bunkers which frame the entire left side of the fairway.

Number 4 is a par 3 and is Ron Garl’s signature – an island green. From tee #2, the hole plays 163 yards with two separate bunkers that guard the front right. Playing out of these bunkers can be a daunting task, with the lake looming behind the pin.

Most of the members I spoke with said that the most significant change was making the 10th hole a dogleg right; a completely different look from the original dogleg left design. There’s water all the way down the right side from the tee to green and trees on the left off the tee. A good drive down the right side that doesn’t find the water will leave the shortest approach shot into the green. Pull your tee shot left and you may find one of the fairway bunkers. There’s a greenside bunker that sits between the water and the right side of the green. Par is a good score here.

Number 13 is probably the most interesting hole on the course. It’s a 369-yard par 4 dogleg left, although it’s more like a left turn.  I remember from high school geometry that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, however, taking such a line would require playing directly over the lake and a couple of houses. You may be able to get away with it during the summer months when many of the residents aren’t home, but during peak season, it’s a different story. It’s only about a 225-yard carry over the water to go directly at the green. The safe play – one that doesn’t involve homeowners or liability insurance – is to hit a hybrid or iron off the tee and leave a short pitch shot, slightly uphill, onto the green. There are a couple of bunkers in front that need to be carried on your approach shot and the green is a lot wider than it is deep.

Number 14 is yet another picturesque par three that plays 160 yards from Tee 2 and is all carry over water into a large green fronted by a single bunker between the green and the water. Par is a good score here. There’s plenty of room on the right side to bail out if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

The 16th hole is a par 4 that plays 402 yards from Tee #2 and has a fairway that is wide enough for course architect Ron Garl to land his airplane on. The waste bunker on the right side off of the tee is reachable and a good drive will leave a long or mid-iron approach shot into a green that slopes left to right with water behind it and two large bunkers on the left.  It’s one of the more challenging holes on the course.

Herons Glen is a great place to call home with a fantastic golf club and a very friendly staff. For more information on Herons Glen Country Club or to book your next round, give them a call at (239) 731-4520 or visit them online at www.heronsglencc.com.

Deer Island Country Club – Central Florida’s Only Island Golf Course


Deer Island Country Club sits on 400 secluded acres of prime, Florida waterfront real estate, nestled amidst the Harris Chain of Lakes in Tavares, Florida. This semi-private, 18-hole championship golf course was designed by renowned golf architect Joe Lee and opened for play in 1994.

Deer Island Country Club is the only island golf course in Central Florida and offers breathtaking views of Lake Dora and Lake Beauclair. With Florida’s largest chain of natural lakes as the backdrop, this is truly a paradise for golfers, boaters, and nature lovers. Homeowners and guests live an Island lifestyle, and the focus is on both the water and golf.  That said, the golf course is the island’s main attraction!

In building the course, Lee felt that a day on the golf course should be enjoyable with no need to terrorize everyday golfers. Lee has often referred to Deer Island Country Club as the most unique design of his career. His courses typically feature undulating greens, strategically located hazards that are visible to the naked eye, and uniquely designed bunkers. Deer Island has all of these and then some!

Shortly after Deer Island Country Club opened, it received a 4-star rating from Golf Magazine, and the tee sheets were full regularly. Unfortunately, the community never really took off and has struggled financially since it was built. A few years later, the original developer went bankrupt, and the subsequent owners lost the property to foreclosure. But all was not lost. Deer Island Country Club was recently acquired by local Three Volcanoes nursery owner Wally Owens who lives in the community. “There was some talk that the entire club was going to be shut down, and we were able to purchase it ourselves.” Included in the purchase price were all of the undeveloped residential lots at the Deer Island Country Club along with the golf course. Owens plans on reinvigorating and developing this lakefront development. “We live there, and we really like it. Our goal is to get some houses built and to support the golf course.” Driving around the island, the potential is without limits. The nursery may be his day job, but Deer Island Country Club has become his true passion!

There is a lot of rolling terrain in the fairways, and many can lead to trouble. The greens are small by Florida standards, and many are surrounded by large bunkers. There is water on all 18 holes although it comes into play – or at least should – on 16 of them. For those who wish to avoid forced carries over the hazards, Lee’s design offers a less penalizing way around most of them.

Deer Island is home to an abundance of wildlife. The wetlands that surround Deer Island are home to over two dozen bird species including osprey, hawks, blue herons, and sandhill cranes. You may even come across some soft shell and snapping turtles, alligators, or the occasional bobcat. And be sure to keep your eyes open for the family of bald eagles that call Deer Island home. The club is close to acquiring its Audubon Society accreditation and has the potential to become one of the top five courses in central Florida.

From the back (Golf) tees, Deer Island measures 6,885 yards with a course rating of 74.0 and a slope of 144. Move up two tee boxes to the White Tees and the yardage drops to 6,285 (71.3/139). It still provides a good challenge and may let you leave with a little dignity still intact. Deer Island offers 6 sets of tees with yardages from 4,215 yards to 6,885. Pick the tees that fit your game and you’re sure to have a good time.

As you would expect with a golf course with this much water, Deer Island Country has some very memorable holes. Number two is a 493-yard par 5 dogleg right that plays around a lake which can be an ominous site for golfers who slice the ball off the tee. If possible, play your tee shot towards the bunkers on the left with the fade. Find one of those bunkers and par gets a whole lot tougher! Water and sand protect the right side of the green as well as a bunker behind it.

Number 4 is a challenging par 4 that plays 393 yards and is Deer Island’s #1 handicap. The hole plays along the shores of Lake Dora and has at least three bodies of water that need to be dealt with; four if you count the lake! You may want to consider hitting something less than a driver off the tee, just to keep it in play. Your approach shot plays slightly uphill into a green that slopes left to right.

Number 7 is a challenging par 4 that plays 369 yards and slightly uphill from the White Tees. You’ll need to carry a lake off the tee and thread your tee shot between fairway bunkers on either side in the landing area. Be sure to take a close look at your second shot; the water in front of the green is fronted by a large bulkhead and is surrounded by a large bunker in the back. The green is angled and is a lot wider than it is deep. A right-side pin placement may be tempting but tricky!

The back nine features two par 3s that are the toughest and easiest hole on the golf course. The 163-yard par 4, 13th hole is rated the toughest, and no matter which tees you play from, it’s all carry over water into a small green with two bunkers behind it. Take your par and run! Number 15 is a 125-yard par three that has its fair share of trouble. Thankfully, it’s all on the left side. Choose the right club, hit it solid and you’re sure to have good results.

The 18th hole is a great finishing hole. This par 4 plays 390 yards from the White Tees with a fairway bunker in the landing area on the right and water on the left that you cannot see from the tee. Anything that finds the left side of the fairway off the tee is going to require you to play an approach shot over the lake on your approach shot into another small green protected on the left side by sand.

Every round deserves a proper warm-up and Deer Island Country Club’s six-acre driving range features two large tee areas at opposite ends of the range. There’s a practice bunker adjacent to the West tee as well as a practice putting green. The staff at Deer Island CC can be booked for personal and group lessons by appointment. They offer learning programs for everyone, from beginners to aspiring Tour-level players.

The best way to enjoy everything Deer Island Country Club has to offer is to become a member. As a member, you can take full advantage of all of the club’s amenities including the lakeside pool, Wi-Fi internet, and the tennis and pickleball courts. And all the golf and range balls you can handle!

Deer Island CC offers a variety of memberships including single and family, resident, and non-resident annual memberships. Some of the benefits include preferred tee times, unlimited use of the driving range and practice area, swimming pool privileges, and discounts on golf shop merchandise. You’ll find that the club is a great place to “show off” for friends, family, and business associates. After all, there’s no better place to close a deal than on the golf course.

For more information on everything Deer Island Country Club has to offer, give them a call to arrange a visit at (352) 343-7550 or go to their website. , www.deerislandcc.com.