Blue Heron Pines Golf Club, a Ron Jaworski managed golf course, is located along the eastern coast of New Jersey. Conveniently situated, Blue Heron Pines is just 15 minutes outside of Atlantic City. Blue Heron Pines is one of the seven Ron Jaworski properties and has been recognized as “the best 18-hole course at the Jersey Shore.” Lackawanna, NY native, Ron Jaworski, is best known for his 17-year NFL career. Jaworski retired after the 1989 season and quickly transitioned to new roles with various sports organizations, including a football analyst with ESPN.
Designed by Stephen Kay, Blue Heron Pines features four sets of tees which can be played as far back as 6,800 yards from the championship tees. The course is framed by tree lines that showcase the natural beauty of pinelands. I was very much looking forward to the track testing my game, and I was specifically told by the course staff to be prepared to rely on my putter, as the course features overly large and ungulated greens.
Hole #1 is a forgivable starting hole, a straight away short par-4. If you can find the fairway with your first ball (or your breakfast ball) you can find yourself in a good spot to make birdie. Hole #3 offers a great opportunity to gain some stokes back in case you got off to a rough start. It’s a 533-yard par-5 (from the championship tees). Your tee shot needs to favor the center to right side of the fairway to give yourself a chance at getting home in two. If you’re not in position to reach the green in two, be sure to leave yourself short of the green and below the hole, as a ball above the hole on this two-tier green is a scary leave. As you make your way through the front 9 you’ll notice a number of waste bunkers coming into play. The fairway waste bunkers and greenside bunkers are definitely the most threating hazards at Blue Heron Pines. Hole #5 is a 413-yard par-4 (#2 handicap hole) and features multiple fairway bunkers up the right side. But your bail-out can’t be to the left as you’ll find yourself looking for your ball in the pine straws if you miss the fairway left. I thought this was the first real challenge on the front 9. I chose my more trustworthy 3-wood off the tee and fortunately found the short grass. The green on #5 is another green that works its way from front to back. Be sure to fly your approach a little past the hole as the soft and sandy greens at Blue Heron Pines help create extra backspin on your approach shots.
I’m a fan of short par 4s, as it allows the hole to be played so many different ways off the tee…driver, fairway wood, hybrid, or iron. This is why hole #7 was my favorite hole on the front 9. This 323-yard hole was fairly flat, but because of large fairway bunkers with tall faces, it was impossible to see where you needed to land your ball off the tee. There was only three bunkers on hole #7, but because these bunkers were huge, it felt like there was more sand than green on this short par-4. Both the tee and approach shot required precision, as this green was one of the smallest greens in depth on the entire course. Hole #7 came with lots of challenges, but fortunately I was able to walk away with a par. Enjoy the view of hole #9 heading straight at the clubhouse patio and gear up for a challenging back 9 at Blue Heron Pines.
Coupled with the challenging fairways and greenside bunkers at Blue Heron Pines are a number of holes that feature water hazards. However, there are only a few holes where I feel water is actually a threat. Hole #11 is the most unique of the par-3s at Blue Heron Pines. It’s a petite 130-yard hole which requires a full carry over the water. The massive green features two-tiers and is protected by a deep greenside bunker on the front side. This beautiful par-3 can really hurt your start to the back 9 if you don’t take enough club and find the water or front greenside bunker. As you head into the finishing holes at Blue Heron Pines, you find yourself looking forward to the par-5 #18.
Given #15 is the number one handicap hole, #16 is the longest of the par-3s (over 210 yards with an elevated green), and #17 is the longest of the par-4s, I believe hole #18 is your best chance at birdie. The par-5 #18 is your final opportunity to gain back a stroke, and it’s definitely doable. This hole is another par-5 that’s reachable in two, as long as you are able to move your drive from left to right off the tee. A dead-straight ball off the tee will leave you with a lengthy second shot into this dogleg right par-5. Be sure to double-check your aim on your approach to the green as you don’t want to find yourself in the large greenside bunker that protects the left side of the green.
Blue Heron Pines Golf Club is a sneakily-challenging course. Given the abundance of perfectly placed sand traps and waste bunkers, the course can trip up even the greatest of golfers; they are a true challenge to avoid. If you’re looking for a little getaway from the beach, Blue Heron Pines is the perfect spot for you. And be sure to check out Seven Tap Tavern after your round, they have an amazing menu with everything from tacos to cheesesteaks to mussels.