Twenty years ago, The Sea Pines resort was made up of a triumvirate of courses. Harbour Town has always been the crown jewel, but that design was supplemented by two other courses located relatively close by. The Ocean Course and Sea Marsh. Both courses offered more reasonable greens fees and vacationers the opportunity to play golf without getting their teeth kicked in the same way that can happen at Harbour Town.
However, as the island and golf evolved, Sea Marsh stayed the same. It started to become dated and overlooked. Enter Pete Dye. The resort brought in Pete Dye to renovate the course and bring it up to par with the other courses on the resort. His initial restoration was met with mixed reaction. Some of the new holes were visually spectacular. He had transformed the space and created some really intriguing holes on what had formerly been rather benign territory. The problem? He over did it. Some of the green complexes were terribly difficult, and I think he inadvertently made the course obscenely difficult. After a second stab at restoration, Heron Point finally has it right. It has found its mix in a much more playable form. We still have some of the dramatic hole designs and landscape, but the course is playable for all levels.
This review will be for those who are looking to play from tees located at 6000 yards and over. There is also a set of tees designed for families that makes the course play about half that distance. Simply put, that is a unique and fun way to play golf. However, this write up will focus on those looking to play the fuller length of this course.
First of all, this course is fun. Unique hole designs and routing through marsh and wetlands leads to some very intriguing holes. Dye did a great job of making the routing feel natural. The course does play amongst numerous condos, so their is always the feeling of the resort, but for the most part all of the residences are out of play.
The front nine heads out toward the marsh and players will be welcomed to the first tee with a challenging tee shot over water and sand. From the tee, the shot looks brutal, but as is so common with Pete Dye courses, there is plenty of room hidden by strategic mounding and bunker design. The second hole is a driveably par four if players can work the ball from right to left. Mounding and bunkers will catch errant tee shots forcing players to choose the amount of risk they are comfortable with.
The fourth hole is one of the tougher par threes on Hilton Head. Playing at 175 yards or longer, if players want to hit the green, it is almost all carry. The green run from left to right and gets deeper in the same direction. For a right hander, any fade or slice will almost surely catch the lagoon. Those looking to bail out left will have to contend with bunkers and some difficulty mounding.
That hole is followed up by the Par 5 fifth which in my mind is the best par 5 on the course. The tee shot is guarded by water on the fight and a pesky hazard on the left. Should players find the fairway off the tee, they will be rewarded with the opportunity to go for the green in two, however that shot is very risky as another lagoon guards the left side of the green. Once again, Pete Dye gives players the choice to go for glory. By playing from station to station on this hole, par is easily attainable. But the shot at a birdie and the fact that Pete makes you believe that you have a chance is so appealing. A very compelling and fun par 5.
The most scenic hole may be the short par three thirteenth. Nestled within the tall pines, this hole is a short iron for most players to a green guarded by a lagoon short and left. The target is tiny but if players are able to hit the green they will be left with a makeable birdie putt. Their is room to bailout to the right, but par is no guaruntee. Once again, the design makes players to commit to either an aggresive or conservative approach. Those that are able, to pull off the shot will be rewarded.
As is the case with many of Pete Dye’s courses, the finish at Heron Point is strong. The eighteenth is guarded by water on the entire left side. There is plenty of room to the right off the tee, but it makes for a longer and more challenging approach. Those who choose the aggressive line down the left side of the fairway will be rewarded with an easier approach. Anybody who can walk off this hole with a par has done really well.
Heron Point is a fun course that is much more playable since the most recent redesign. If players want a test, they can go to the back tees which measure over 7000 yards. However, there are many different tee boxes including a set that is designed for families and those that are just starting the game. I think that is the appeal to this course. It has been designed to have something for everyone. The conditions, location, and design all make this course the perfect compliment to the other courses at Sea Pines.