After shaky start, Heritage Golf Links northeast of Atlanta is making a new name for itself
TUCKER, Ga. -- Heritage Golf Links has made a great comeback.
The course, located in the northeast Atlanta suburbs, opened in 1996 with a promise of a private-club experience at a public facility. Things were great; the course was only about 15 miles from the airport, easy to reach from the city's interstates, and it delivered a quality course with all the trimmings.
But when the economy went south, the players stopped coming, opting instead for more economical facilities. The course changed hands, and in 2006, it was sold to a group that included basketball legend Julius Erving.
The name of the club was changed to "Celebrity Golf Club International," and the goal was set high. But after personally getting involved with the daily operations, including some time running the cash register in the pro shop, Dr. J. soon learned that the business could not support the expenses. The lack of revenue caused the club to cut corners on maintenance and other amenities. Eventually, the course was forced into foreclosure.
The cavalry arrived in April 2010 in the form of Affiniti Golf, a management company that immediately made changes that altered the vibe of the facility. The name was changed to the Heritage Golf Links -- locals always referred to it as Heritage anyway -- and the renovations were placed on the fast track. Sand was replaced in the bunkers. The landscaping was enhanced. Sodding and seeding took place in areas that had grown threadbare, especially on the tee boxes. A new shipment of 40,000 range balls arrived. The transformation was evident.
Heritage Golf Links: The course
On a recent visit this summer, Heritage Golf Links General Manager Burdette Hawkins was working hard to keep pace on a day when 190 golfers played across the facility's 27 holes.
"This is unbelievable," Hawkins said. "To see how far we've come in the last year is incredible."
The new infusion of cash has brought old customers back to the course and reminded them why they liked it to begin with. Heritage is a challenging layout that requires players to think their way around the course. It isn't overly long -- just 6,875 from the tips -- but the slope rating of 146 is a legitimate indication of what's ahead.
"This is a good golf course," said first-time visitor Jeremy Edmondson of nearby Buford. "I'll be back."
The centerpiece of the facility is the original 18 holes, known as Legacy and Heritage. A third nine, dubbed Tradition, was added on an adjoining piece of property and doesn't have the notoriety or chops of the original layout.
Because the course isn't crazy long, it relies on other protective devices. First, hitting the rolling fairways is crucial to success; miss it, and you're likely to have a bad lie or play from a bad angle. Second, the greens are amply protected by bunkers; most require an aerial approach to the putting surfaces, so it's important to be on the proper side of the hole. Finally, the greens are generous in size, and most have levels, leaving a player with long, daunting putts if they enter the wrong zone.
The best hole is No. 18, which requires a tee shot over a lake into a narrow fairway that hugs the shore as it approaches the green. At 409 yards from the middle tees, a par on this finishing hole will leave you in a good mood for the drive home.
The par 3s are exceptional, offering different lengths and challenges. No. 3 is short and is attacked from an elevated tee to a large, sloping green. No. 5 is long, playing as long as 253, to a big, sloping green. No. 11 requires a longish shot to a tricky green, and No. 16 is another short hole but with a big sloping green. See a pattern here?
Another interesting aspect is back-to-back par 5s on the back nine. The 14th plays downhill toward the lake, which frames much of the course, and the 15th is back up the hill to a wide green that's protected by a daunting trap.
Heritage Golf Links: The verdict
Disregard any previous disappointing experience you may have endured, and come back to Heritage Golf Links.
Conditions are good (they're still working on the remaining rough spots), and the staff is helpful and pleasant, even when they're very busy.
It's worth your while to make a tee time these days. Word has gotten out, and walk-ups, while welcome, may have to endure a substantial wait.
July 5, 2012