Par 28

Level 3 playing from 851 – 1,448 yards

The 8th and 9th holes may be the last things you'll remember after playing Heron, but the first thing to notice is the spectacular piece of land this course is built on.  It’s impressive that The Villages Developer chose to carve a golf course from this setting instead of building premier homes on it.  Heron sits along the marshland next to Lake Miona.  It’s best played when the foliage is full and green.  Unlike the Pelican course next door, Heron is not a particularly difficult track – but your senses will surely be stirred, hopefully more so than your shots.  Let’s play this beauty!


But like many courses, the first hole has nothing stirring about it - but be patient – the course gets way better. Shoot #1 and move on!  #2 is a real golf hole – one of The Village’s best. In fact, it’s on my Postcard List as one of the 18 most beautiful!  You can see in the picture that it has all the visual requirements for a perfect golf hole - lots of water and sand in front of a huge green with your first view of Lake Miona beyond.  Try not to be distracted but take a moment after your drive to appreciate the surrounding scenery.  Your 3rd drive is short but requires a get-up-and-go shot because you’ve got to drop it straight down on the green or see your ball dribble away into bogey land.  The flag is most often right behind the trap and the green really slants and rolls to the right.  And any miss hit will be an impossible chip - and just for added fun a couple wood storks tend to roost nearby to give you their "side-eye" while you try to putt!  Never underestimate the trouble that can arise from the shortest holes!  Speaking of short, #4 is the only par four, but it's so short I don’t recommend using a driver.  Unless you can draw the ball, that tree on the left may severely hinder a long drive attempt.  The smart play is to use a long iron or hybrid and aim for the 100 stake.  But smart is easier to do when sitting behind a computer screen.  Once out on the course I rarely attempt it!  Watch out for the two traps on the right too!  


Head northeast for the beginning of a wonderful sweep of holes that ride along the wetlands – one of the best stretches in The Villages!  The 5th's green has distinct ridges in the back corners – hope the cup is not placed up there!  #6 has a simple beauty to it - grasses and palms flank each side with stunning Live Oaks as background.  This hole could be included in any golf course, not because it's difficult, just because it looks the part!  You’ll turn to the opposite direction and face the lake again for the 7th.  The green funnels toward the center valley so most putts will be nicely uphill. 


Ok, drum roll please............... The 8th hole is the most unique green in The Villages. And that's a pretty bold statement!  It’s a semi-circle around a sand trap - like the proverbial riddle wrapped up in an enigma, for the Winston Churchill fans out there!  Bottom line: even if you land the green, you may not be able to putt at the cup!  I wish the developer would have built up a larger hill on the back of the green so you could putt up and bend it around and down the other side, but maybe that would have been too “miniature golf-like”!  I’m not suggesting a windmill or clown’s nose be added, just some fun way to get from one side of the green to the other.  Regardless, you won't forget the riddle that is Heron 8!  But the clown's nose type of fun doesn't end on 8 because you close out your round with the toughest shot on the course, and one of the 9 hardest greens in The Villages!  Your nerves will stay on edge as you approach the 9th tee because all you can see is a portion of the green peaking over the top of marsh, framed within dense trees.  But it too is an enigma, because the shot is harder than it looks.  It's one of my favorite closing holes (click here for a full list of top fives).  The 9th is just 132 so don't sweat the little things (like trees, marshland and more trees).  And remember, just like this entire piece of land, your last drive on Heron is all about location, location, location!

Toughest to Easiest:  

9, 8, 2, 4, 3, 5, 7, 6, 1 – toughest greens 8 & 3

Heron 9 is a great closing hole (if you like Pelican)

And Heron 1 looks really good (from the putting green only)

But it's the green on 8 is Heron's craziest bird!

It's nearly impossible for a photo to justify the wrap-around surface of Heron's 8th green.  It's a 3-foot rise to the center ridge, but it's the sand trap that is arches around that makes it most incredible.  Hopefully you won't have players behind you so you can take a few extra practice putts!


Click here for the list of the other 8 hardest greens

From the blacks!   

#8 instantly goes from being the most unique green in The Villages to one of the hardest holes if you shoot from the black tees.  It’s 195 yards and the water on the right most certainly now comes into play – along with that crazy trap in the center of the green!  Shoot twice for fun!  The rest of the track just plays one club up.  Give it a try!

Go Green!

You’ll be thanking your lucky stars when you tee off on #2 and #9 from the green tee box.  And if you’re playing with others who are hitting from gold or blacks, you can look back and wave at them while they shake their head in disbelief.  The angle changes on these two holes is absolutely amazing! 

What’s nearby? 

One of the most beautiful drives in The Villages starts nearby Heron. It's beautiful, peaceful and thirst-quenching! From the starter shack, drive back to Bailey Trail and turn left.  Soon you'll see the Lake Miona Rec Center.  Cross over Bailey at the entrance gate and continue past the driveway to the east.  The path will take you under a tunnel and continue straight north on the right side of Beuna Vista alongside Mallory Hill Country Club’s Virginia course.  The cart path winds through an incredible grove of massive, majestic Oaks with Spanish Moss draped down.  Take the Stillwater Trail tunnel to continue on Beuna Vista north toward the Palmer Legend Country Club.  Along the way you’ll see gardens and picket fenced villas and the beautiful Riley Grove golf course.  When you arrive at Palmer, head back to the outdoor patio and reward yourself with the perfect drink to finish your day – an Arnold Palmer of course!  Location, Location, Location!

My impressions are based on playing from the Gold tee boxes.  The Black and the Green tee boxes pose different challenges or benefits described as well.  The rankings of the toughest to easiest holes are just my opinions - yours will be far different, as will your favorite courses and most difficult and attractive holes.  I welcome your opinions or thoughts on any of this - click to leave a comment.