Many golf courses promote themselves as golfer-friendly. And then at the end of the round you find yourself stumbling off the 18th green muttering, “With friends like this…”
But in the historic hamlet of Bridgeville, Delaware, sits the inviting Heritage Shores Club, which opened in July 2007. Coming in under the golf radar, Heritage Shores seems to beckon, “Let’s be friends.”
Built on 200 acres of what was flat, open farmland, Heritage Shores would seem to be there for the taking. And for the most part, its links-style layout, with wide fairways and large, accessible greens, would seem to be a hacker’s dream.
Provided there’s no wind and you can avoid the water that is present on 17 holes, it just may be. And don’t forget the 75 or so bunkers, or the fact that the 2,400 trees planted on this track will get taller and broader as the years go by. That the course is an Arthur Hills design (of White Clay Creek fame) is another subtle reminder that Heritage Shores will not play as easy as it appears.
The 465-yard (from the back tees) par-4 fifth hole contains many of the elements that go into making Heritage Shores both friendly and challenging at the same time. Just left of the tee box is a pond. The pond isn’t in play, but it does serve as a gentle reminder that this hole is not necessarily up for grabs. A line of more mature trees that converge from right and left beyond the landing area makes this hole the most visually interesting so far. A good tee shot down the fairway leaves a bit of a white-knuckle approach to the green, as a waste area bisects the fairway 50 or so yards in front.
And here is where special collection areas, extensions of many of the fairways, help to make a tough hole a little easier. Unlike the collection areas of, say Pinehurst No. 2, which are designed to punish errant approach shots by shedding them deep into gullies around the greens, the collection areas at Heritage are more akin to landing areas for golfers whose iron accuracy on approaches is not precise. Instead of punishing an approach that misses the green wide, these areas are flattish and well-groomed, allowing for a number of choices to get close to the pin and save your par. You can putt, bump and run, pitch or chip. In short, choose from a menu of short game options that best suit your style.
Page 2: Happy Golfing Grounds, continues…
The closing hole on the outward nine, a 568-yard par 5, features a generously wide corridor for your tee shot (the pond that runs down the right side is only in play for the most egregiously struck balloon slices, which, oddly enough, seem to occur at precisely these moments), then a second shot that must negotiate a squared bunker in the face of a large mound that bisects the fairway at about the 150-yard marker. Going left of that bunker means carrying your approach to the green over a pond that curls left around the greenside area. Going right of that bunker would seem to provide the cleanest and most open approach—again, with a generous area on the right to coddle an errant approach.
Another feature of Heritage’s layout is its collection of short par 4s, three of which measure less than 300 yards from the middle tees and less than 350 yards from the tips. But the tee shots on these apparent there-for-the-taking holes are either of the risk-and-reward variety, demanding drives to slender, diagonal fairways, or, in the case of the 283-yard 12th, another straight fairway that is bisected by a pot bunker plunked in the middle, right around where a less than perfectly guided tee shot is likely to land.
Heritage Shores’ four par 3s (the course is an overall par 72) offer, for the most part, ease of access, but with greens that are severely sloped to make par a genuine challenge.
The par-3 sixth hole measures only 160 yards from the back tees, but the green is a narrow wisp of ribbon that demands distance control over accuracy. The 202-yard eighth plays longer and down into a hollow surrounded by steep, arena-style mounding, which is one of the most striking visual features of this track.
Page 3: Happy Golfing Grounds, continues…
My vote for a signature hole, though, is the 16th. Measuring 218 yards from the tips, it provides a stunningly sculpted, verdant look from the tee, and that look only gets better as you get closer. It was an artist’s eye that painted the swath of bunker that lolls left and up the right side of a green, which, again, is surrounded by arena mounding and framed on the left with a generous collection area. A gently sloping green can make for slicker putting than you may have encountered up to this point.
Which is a good time to take note of the greens themselves. For a relatively new course, Heritage Shores’ greens are remarkably grown in, offering true surfaces that are a joy to challenge. At least for now, there is less break than meets the eye, and more putts tend to remain on line. That may change as these sumptuous, subtly sloping greens mature, but for now, solidly struck putts will go in from long distances.
The 18th is a fine finishing hole, a 530-yard par 5 (a square green offers visual interest here) that requires a second shot to be very mindful of the pond that comes in from the left side. There’s a generous landing area on the right, however, and a finishing par should be in the offing for most, with the promise of better things to come on your next visit.
Part of a planned 4,000-unit, active adult community, Heritage Shores offers a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse, most of which is open to the public. A grill room with a tavern and a deck overlooking the 18th green is also open, as well as a spacious dining and banquet hall that offers a Sunday brunch. Residents enjoy a library, card room, rooms for arts and crafts and games, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis, a fitness center, aerobics room and woodworking shop, all located on the floor below.
Heritage Shores is one of those courses that is perfectly suited to getting your game off the ground in spring and finishing it off on a positive note in the fall. It is a course where a good score demands only minimal mastery of your golf game. But after your personal best is duly recorded, go back to play it when the wind is up. You probably won’t recognize the place, making Heritage Shores perhaps the only two-in-one course in Delaware.