New Blue Heron Pines Ranked New Jersey’s Best Public Venue

Blue Heron Pines Golf Club’s East Course has been ranked the top daily-fee golf course in New Jersey. The Steve Smyers-designed East Course, which opened last Memorial Day as a sister course to the Stephen Kay-designed West Course, is the only daily-fee track among New Jersey’s 20 Best Golf Courses, according to the rankings compiled by The Jersey Golfer.

Led by Pine Valley Golf Club, deemed by many as the best golf course in the world, New Jersey’s courses were judged on the basis of quality land, first-rate routing, shot values, memorability, aesthetics and conditioning. Blue Heron Pines East was rated 17th. The rankings are done biannually by The Jersey Golfer.

”This may be the earliest after opening that any course has made such a list,” said Rodger Gottlieb, Blue Heron Pines vice president of marketing and communications. “To be in the company of Pine Valley, Baltusrol, Plainfield, Metedeconk, Ridgewood and others is quite an honor. We take great pride in it.”

When Blue Heron Pines (now Blue Heron Pines West) opened in 1993 it was the first true upscale daily-fee course in the state not connected to a resort, according to Gottlieb. “When (developer) Roger Hansen of Ole Hansen and Sons, Inc. decided he was going to build a second course, there was an expectation that because of the reputation the West Course had carved out for itself, the East Course had to be very special. The West Course was a tough act to follow.”

Led by Hansen, Smyers and Ole Hansen and Sons President Tom Kuhar, Blue Heron Pines set out to build something entirely different but equally impressive: a links-style course as opposed to the parkland style of the West Course. “The feedback we have received, including this ranking in The Jersey Golfer, is validation that we succeeded in doing so,” Gottlieb said.

”The East Course,” said Smyers, “was not an easy one to design. It was an unremarkable site, with barely four feet of elevation change. In addition, the soils and vegetation had little diversity. We needed to create different landscape forms.”

Smyers developed a hillside between the 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th holes, and arrayed those holes off and around the hillside. He also developed edges with native trees and used different native grasses to differentiate and delineate low and high areas. Declaring the East Course “an absolute gem,” The Jersey Golfer pointed out that while the term “links” as applied to most courses is usually hype, this design is true to the links character, playing firm and fast and giving the golfer numerous options on every hole.

While Smyers’ distinctive bunkering punctuates each hole, his putting surfaces received highest accolades: “The East Course features an array of contours that neatly divide sections of the putting surfaces without being overly savage.” In the same issue of The Jersey Golfer, The East Course received five stars, the highest rating bestowed by the magazine, indicating “an absolute must play.”

Playing 7,221 yards from the tips and 6,807 from the regulation tees, East Course slopes at 135 and 133, respectively. For a tee time, call 609/965-3700.