Winter 2017 issue of Florida Golf Magazine features "The Florida Golf Architecture of Arthur Hills" Click here to read it.
Heron Creek Golf & Country Club in North Port, FL
Written for Florida Golf Magazine's by Golf Course Architect, Arthur Hills
Watch video in "Full Screen" Mode.
Heron Creek Golf & Country Club
5301 Heron Creek Blvd, North Port, FL 34287
Architect: Arthur Hills, ASGCA
27 Holes, Year Opened - 1999
Heron Creek Golf & Country Club, by Arthur Hills, ASGCA
Back in 1998, we designed 27 holes for Dr. Hans-Jurgen Reichardt at Heron Creek Golf & Country Club in North Port, Florida. Hans and Monika Reichardt have been the sole owners of the Club since it opened in 1999 and have done a fine job of taking care of the three 9-hole courses.
Recently (in the summer of 2016), they re-grassed all 27 greens, plus four 10,000-square-foot practice greens. They have also re-grassed several fairways and rebuilt many of their bunkers. Now, all three of the nine-hole courses are in magnificent condition. Needless to say, the loyalty of the membership is beyond words.
The challenging (but not intimidating) course design of the Oaks, Marsh and Creek Nines at Heron Creek includes natural beauty, sparkling water features, and elevation changes that are unique in Southwest Florida.
Of the 676 acres at Heron Creek, more than 430 acres (including the golf course) have been set aside as permanent, environmentally-protected nature preserves, creating lakes and green space for residents, as well as providing natural habitat for a wide variety of birds and other wildlife.
We worked very carefully to fit the golf course and the residential areas on the land. The neighborhood homes and the golf course complement, rather than compete with the native landscape. They are bordered by natural vegetative buffers along with stands of native trees and pristine lakes--all of which serve as quiet retreats for the abundant wildlife.
The three nine-hole courses at Heron Creek are distinctly different, but the third nine or “Creek Nine” is generally regarded as the most difficult. One characteristic that is common to all three courses is that the starting and the finishing holes are very memorable.
The Oaks Nine
One of the premier golf practice and learning facilities on the west coast of Florida can be found at Heron Creek. Situated high above the surrounding landscape, the enormous range with tees on both ends—some 400 yards apart—gives members the opportunity to experience varying wind conditions or take in a private lesson from one of the talented professionals on the golf staff. The short game practice area and learning center provide numerous shot options for those seeking to fine tune their games before strolling to the adjacent first tee on the Oaks Nine.
500 yards, par five, 1st Hole - Oaks NineThe 500 yard, par five, 1st Hole of the Oaks course at Heron Creek Golf & Country Club is located next to the 400 yard long Learning Center and Practice Range.
The 500-yard, par-5 first hole on the Oaks Nine has significant elevation changes that are unique to southwest Florida. It’s no wonder that it is one of the Signature holes. Off the tee, the landing area for a good drive is on an elevated plateau that terminates with a "speed slot" that runs downhill. Drives that are hit well enough to reach the speed slot can roll an extra 30 or 40 yards. This provides an excellent opportunity to reach the elevated green on the par 5 in two strokes.
429 yards, par four, 2nd Hole - Oaks Nine
The second hole on the Oaks Nine is one of my favorite holes and certainly one of the members’ favorites as well. This par four requires an exacting tee shot that finishes between two massive oak trees that appear to be literally spanning the width of the fairway.
If one is fortunate enough to get safely past the two oaks, it's a beautiful second shot to a peninsula-style green with a large bunker on the left side and water on the right. This is one of the many holes at Heron Creek that has been completely re-grassed from tee to green.
Many times during the day, this hole can be teeming with wildlife in the form of the great blue heron and many species of native water fowl. In addition, there is a healthy population of white-tailed deer, several families of otters that frolic around in the waters, a few bobcats, foxes and several endangered species that include gopher tortoises and scrub jays. All in all, there is a tremendous amount of wildlife to be discovered at Heron Creek!
The Marsh Nine
Not surprisingly, considering its name, the environmental story continues on the “Marsh” Nine. This loop has a healthy supply of natural areas and protected wetlands. Indeed, of the three nine-hole courses at Heron Creek, the Marsh Nine has the most protected wetland and marsh areas. The vistas from the back tees of the holes of the Marsh Nine are incredible.
190 Yards, Par three, 3rd Hole - Marsh Nine
At 190 yards from the back tees, the third hole of the Marsh course is a favorite Signature hole that is the topic of much conversation around the bar following a round.
It’s a par three with a forced carry, requiring a well-struck shot over a beautiful natural area (environmentally-sensitive wetland) to a fairly large and accessible green.
The 7-handicap rating is deceiving because this short hole requires a very good shot if the player is to find the green.
394 yards, par four, 7th Hole - Marsh NineThe 394 yard, par four, #7 Marsh at Heron Creek Golf & Country Club.
With its stunning vistas, standing on the 394-yard back tee of #7 Marsh is one of the treasured pleasures at Heron Creek. The par 4 has a large body of water which, from the professional tees, definitely comes into play.There are a couple families of American bald eagles that come back to Marsh #8 every year to nest and raise there young. They teach their fledglings how to catch fish in the ponds on the side of Marsh #7 and #8.
345 yards, par four, 8th Hole - Marsh Nine
Complete with Bald Eagles and environmentally sensitive wetlands, #8 Marsh epitomizes the design vision Arthur Hills and Dr. Reichardt had for Heron Creek Golf & Country Club.
#8 Marsh is truly the most memorable golf hole on the course, particularly in the late afternoon. Enjoying another gorgeous South Florida sunset while challenging a spectacular lake and wetland nearly overwhelms the senses.
Not just a favorite with golfers, this is also the hole where eagle families come back every year to teach their young to fish. #8 Marsh epitomizes the design vision we had for Heron Creek.
The Creek Nine
The Creek Nine is the third nine at the 27-hole championship layout at Heron Creek Golf & Country Club. Home to gopher tortoise and scrub jay, the Creek course meanders through some of the development’s most beautiful and natural landscapes. One of the more noteworthy characteristics of this nine is that very few homes can be seen from the fairways and greens.
The developer gave us enough land to properly complete the design work. We routed the three nine-hole courses through the community so that the homes never come into play. In fact, there are many holes at Heron Creek that have no homes on them whatsoever.
Perhaps the most unique of the three courses at Heron Creek, the Creek Nine takes players on a journey through a variety of “natural” adventures. For instance, as you drive your golf cart between the 4th and 5th holes, there is nearly a quarter mile of sandy cart path through a secluded habitat of natural oak canopy. All of the members love that experience!
506 yards, par five, 4th Hole - Creek Nine#4 Creek, the 506 yards, par 5 is rated 2nd hardest hole of the Creek Nine at Heron Creek. Placing your tee shot between the coquina shell bunker on the right and the sand bunkers on the left will leave you in position to have a go at this devilish little green in two.
414 yards, par four, 9th Hole - Creek NineOn #9 Creek, aim your tee shot just right of the monocle bunker near the pond for the best angle into the green. A high left-to-right shot is required on your 2nd shot to get it close and avoid the deceptively deep sand pits on the right. The 9th Hole on the Creek Course at Heron Creek is a great finishing hole.
As the round comes to a close on the Creek Course, players drive their golf carts over a large bridge that traverses Price Boulevard. When they look ahead to the finishing hole from atop the bridge, it's a gorgeous sight.
The ninth hole on the Creek Course is a great finishing hole with no homes in sight! A tranquil lake on the left off the tee is beautiful and is usually successfully negotiated by most players. However, two pot bunkers in the right rough can challenge those who are too cautious of the water off the tee.
Those who do challenge the water are rewarded with a birdie opportunity following an open approach to the long axis of the putting surface. This is an exciting and gorgeous way to finish a great round and a great day at Heron Creek! - Arthur Hills, 2017