The Heritage Golf Club still creates a buzz

By Patrick Jones, Contributor

WAKE FOREST, N.C. -- Course architect Bob Moore of JMP Golf Design Group has fashioned challenging and diverse layouts around the world. Among his creations are Roddy Ranch in California, Rainbow Hills in Indonesia, and Rajpruek in Thailand. Three of his golf-hole visions have been inspired enough to be chosen among the "Top 500 Golf Holes" by Golf Magazine.

Moore, who lives nearby in Chapel Hill, and earned a master's degree in landscape architecture at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, has left his creative imprint on golf tracks around the globe. But one of his best creations, and perhaps one of the most unique, is a 45-minute drive from home.

The Heritage Golf Club, located just east of U.S. 1 in Wake Forest, opened for play in October 2001. In 2002, it was voted the state's "Best New Course" by North Carolina Magazine's golf panel, the state's de facto rating organization. In its short existence, the course has hosted the North Carolina Open, a Carolinas PGA Section event, and has been a qualifying location for the area's annual Nationwide Tour stop the past two years.

David Sykes, the club's head professional since its opening, has been nothing less than thrilled with the response The Heritage Golf Club has received and what it has brought to the mix of the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) golf scene.

"There's nothing like it around," said Sykes. "It's just a great design. There's been a big buzz since this course opened for play."

The Heritage Golf Club is the centerpiece of the 1,065-acre Heritage Wake Forest master-planned community that eventually will include 2,200 homes and schools for grades K through 12. The golf course derives its name from the surrounding development, which strives to honor and blend in with the traditions, architectural styles -- and heritage -- of the nearby town of Wake Forest.

The layout, though, is anything but conventional.

Moore created a course that is, in his own words, "not traditional, as far as appearance and strategy, in North Carolina."

With 100-plus strategically placed pot bunkers and plateau levels in the fairways, he branded the style of The Heritage Golf Club as an "American links" course.

"It's a marriage of a lot of Scottish design philosophy with an American landscape," said Moore, who also fashioned courses in North Carolina at Nags Head Golf Links and North Shore Country Club near Topsail Beach.

"This land is not a links landscape, it's the Carolina Piedmont. But we've given it a Scottish feel. The random pot bunkers truly set up the strategy on this course. The course is unique for this area."

Once golfers choose their route through the cross-bunkered fairways, they will find more traditional American greens complexes for their approach shots, with collection areas on every hole.

The semi-private course, built on the site of a former dairy farm, winds through rolling and scenic wooded terrain. Most holes are framed by an estimated one million mature pine tree planted decades ago by a previous owner of the land.

"Pines make a beautiful background to golf holes," said Moore. "The soil is different here, but, as far as the backdrop, it makes you almost feel like you're in Pinehurst." Natural lakes on the property come into play on several holes, including a knee-knocking drive over water on the par-5, 526-yard finishing 18th hole.

With five sets of tee boxes, the par-72 Heritage Club ranges from 5,053 yards off the red tees to 6,929 yards from the back, or "medal," tees.

After checking in at the pro shop of the 15,000-square foot clubhouse, golfers can warm up before their round on the driving range, an 8,000 square-foot putting green and a separate chipping green with practice bunker.

The straightaway 532-yard, par-5 first hole provides the opportunity for an opening birdie if you can keep your drive on the upper right side of the two-level fairway and thread your approach shot clear of the three pot bunkers guarding the front of the green.

'Beach' restoration at The Heritage Golf Club is a lesser concern for the grounds keeping staff than at most courses -- the pot bunkers use one-third the sand of a contemporary American course. But for golfers trying to score, staying out of the mini traps is at the top of the course management to-do list.

Moore estimates that a trip into one of the steep-faced grit pits costs up to a shot and a half. "They are small, but they are penal," he said. "Staying out of the bunkers is by far the biggest challenge on this course."

A good start is a necessity on this course because the No. 2 handicap hole is second in line. It is a 454-yard, par-4 dogleg left hole with a dramatic downhill tee shot. The approach shot is also downhill and can be run onto the front of the green on the right side. A challenging pitch shot awaits golfers who miss on the left side of the cross-sloping green.

Another challenging hole facing golfers on the front nine is No. 5, a par-3 that requires a tee shot over water. Though just the 13th handicapped hole, it plays to a demanding 187 yards off the back tees. There is plenty of landing area for golfers bailing to the left trying to hug dry ground, but they face a distant pitch to save par when the pin is tucked on the back right.

On the back nine, No. 12 is another par-3 over water. Proper club selection is critical on this hole that plays to 154 yards. The green is just yards past the pond's stone bulkhead and requires finesse, good judgment and steady nerves when the flagstick is up front.

No. 14, a par-5, plays to 596 yards and is the longest hole on the course. This downhill, snaking double dogleg begins a demanding series of finishing holes.

A lot of potential career rounds will be put to the test on the 18th hole. Golfers face the most demanding tee shot on the course. Golfers can try to bite off as much of the lake running down the right side while trying to avoid the pot bunkers scattered throughout the landing area. A solid drive makes this green reachable in two shots. The common theme on this course, the approach must steer clear of the multiple pot bunkers that protect the finishing green on every side.

The 18th might be considered by most to be the course's signature hole. Moore, though, said he has "never embraced the philosophy" of building expressly named signature holes on his courses. "If you do a good job, every hole will be memorable," he said.

It's for certain that the uniquely designed Heritage Club promises to be one of the most memorable contributions to the Wake Forest, N.C., golfing scene since a fellow named Arnold Palmer played his collegiate golf just a mile down the road at the former Wake Forest College. What's more, it's an affordable golf option for Triangle golfers. As of March 2003, green fees are $49 Monday through Thursday and $62 Friday through Sunday.

Fast fact

Bob Moore has designed courses in Thailand and Indonesia, in addition to his N.C. credits.

Patrick JonesPatrick Jones, Contributor

Patrick Jones was the senior producer for ESPN's "Lower Your Score with Tom Kite" CD-ROM instructional golf training series. He spent six years as a full-time sports writer and was awarded first-place honors for column writing from both the Florida and Texas sports writers associations.

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