New ownership enhances quality facility
Since it opened in the mid-1990s, Heritage Golf Links has been regarded as one of the best daily fee golf courses in Atlanta with perhaps the most ideal location of any facility in the metro area.
That combination, however, was not enough to ensure commercial success, as two separate ownership entities were unable to capitalize on the club’s combination of quality layout and prime location.
The club, located just outside Spaghetti Junction on the DeKalb/Gwinnett border, was renamed and fell into decline under the ownership of former NBA great Julius Erving, who acquired Heritage in 2006 before losing it to foreclosure in 2010. The efforts of Textron and Affiniti Golf Partners enabled the club to emerge from foreclosure and the work of brothers Jim and Adam Owen, who purchased the club in 2013, helped restore the luster Heritage had displayed in its early years.
Heritage Golf Links was acquired by Texas-based Triumph Golf in June of last year, and the company is in the midst of significant improvements to the club, which sportS two very recognizable names in Atlanta golf circles as the new General Manager/Head Professional (Scott Curiel) and Director of Instruction (Tim Weinhart).
(NOTE: Curiel has since taken a job outside the state.)
Curiel was the long-time Director of Golf at the Standard Club in the north Fulton suburbs, with Weinhart working as an instructor at the Standard Club in recent years. Curiel and several of Triumph’s owners have their golf roots with ClubCorp in Texas, with Curiel and Triumph Founding Partners Billy Sitton and Mike Feild all sharing Texas backgrounds.
Triumph Golf, which is based in Houston, owns or operates clubs in Texas, Illinois and Ohio along with Heritage, the company’s most recent acquisition. Because the company is able to pay cash for its acquisitions, it does not start with a mountain of debt, which helped lead to the struggles that plagued Heritage under previous owners.
Curiel says Triumph “looks at about one hundred courses a year and may pick only one or two. They are experts at acquiring properties. They know the cream of the crop and they are very picky.”
Triumph’s goal with Heritage is to make it “the best daily fee/semi-private club in Atlanta,” says Curiel, with the new ownership prepared to invest in upgrading both the condition of the course as well as the club’s infrastructure.
Heritage is one of just a handful of 27-hole daily fee facilities in the Atlanta area, with the original 18 designed by Georgia-based golf course architect Mike Young, and the newer Tradition nine designed by Tim Cate, who has done most of his work in the Myrtle Beach area.
The new Heritage ownership inherited members from the previous owners, and is looking to expand on those numbers with a “Loyalty Program” that includes several levels of membership.
For an annual fee of $69.99, golfers receive discounted rates off the weekday and weekend greens fees along with free breakfast, lunch and two drinks with each round, a free round of golf for each 12 played and reduced pro shop prices on soft goods and apparel.
The Loyalty Plus membership is designed for players who spend much of their time on the range and offers unlimited range access along with the other Loyalty Club offers for $49.99 per month.
The Associate Golf Membership includes Monday to Friday golf course access, unlimited complimentary greens fees, cart fees, and two free drafts or soft drinks per round along with special events and free clinics hosted by the teaching staff for $250 per month, with children or spouses included for an additional $45 per month.
The Platinum Membership provides full weekday and weekend access to the course, along with the other benefits of Associate membership for $250 per month, with children or spouses an additional $63.
In addition to 27 holes of golf in a totally development-free environment, Heritage Golf Links also features one of the Atlanta area’s largest and finest practice facilities, with Weinhart taking charge of the club’s instructional operation last Fall.
Weinhart is an eight-time Georgia PGA Player of the Year and a well-regarded instructor, and heads up a facility that includes high-tech swing instruction equipment and six covered hitting stations, with an indoor area devoted to putting. Improvements to the teaching center are in the planning stages, with the already expansive practice area for the Golf Academy expected to be enlarged and enhanced.
Joining Weinhart on the Heritage teaching staff are veteran Atlanta area golf instructors Oswald Drawdy and Jeff Jerrel, former tour pro Richard Swift and Andy Hwang.
The Tim Weinhart Golf Academy is one of three in the state that are part of the Golf Channel Academy network of facilities. Weinhart will contribute instruction videos to the Golf Channel Academy web site, with the web site providing “one more place for people to find us,” Weinhart said.
With a sizeable range, a quality instructional facility and an accessible location, Heritage Golf Links is a magnet for those who love to practice, but it’s the excellence of the 27 holes that is the club’s primary draw.
Thanks to the work of superintendent Andy Neely, Heritage has fully recovered from the sub-standard conditions the course was in when Neely took the job more than five years ago. Neely said Heritage will return to its practice of over-seeding for the winter later this year, and will be one of the few Atlanta area courses with green grass on the fairways once the weather turns cold.
With warmer weather on the way, among Neely’s challenges at Heritage is to keep the heavily undulating putting surfaces in top condition and at the proper speed to prevent the club’s demanding greens complexes from overwhelming players of modest short game skills.
Neely points out that Heritage was designed “for the high end player,” with the superb greens among the best and fastest bent grass surfaces in Atlanta and the primary defenses on all 27 holes.
Heritage is not an especially long course, particularly the newer Tradition nine, which plays to a par of 35 with three par 3s and measures just under 3,000 yards from the Gold tees.
Don’t let the absence of significant length fool you. Although the original 18 tops out at 6,875 yards from the tips, Heritage is rated as the second most difficult daily fee course in the state behind Echelon, but is not as intimidating as its numbers if you play from the proper sets of tees.
There are several holes on the original Legacy and Heritage nines that require some fairly hefty carries from the tee for the distance challenged among us, and at 6,453 yards, the blue tees (72.2/141) are likely more of a challenge than most golfers of modest ability can handle. The white tees measure a more comfortable 5,750, but still have a slope number of 131, and provide all the test a non-single digit handicapper would want.
The forward tees eliminate the forced carries and are very accommodating for women or juniors just getting started.
A member’s set of tees combines the blues and whites with five of the more demanding holes played from the whites, reducing the length by more than 300 yards. The difficult finishing hole could be added to that group with a 200-yard-plus carry off the tee over water from the blues.
Despite the lofty slope numbers, the original 18 is very playable for golfers of all abilities if you play from the set of tees that best reflects your ability. Other than a pair of tour-length par 3s and four par 4s with forced carries from the tee, the Legacy and Heritage nines offer plenty of scoring opportunities, with a “pace of play” policy in effect to make rounds faster and more enjoyable.
With a few exceptions, all 27 holes at Heritage are relatively generous off the tee, with the newer Tradition nine a bit tighter as well as shorter. The moderately rolling terrain is a factor on all three nines, with very few flat holes but no severe elevation changes. Water hazards are at a minimum, but some wetlands areas also impact play, with a creek that runs through the Tradition nine mostly a non-factor.
In addition to its more demanding group of holes, the original 18 includes a pair of short and inviting par 3s and a quartet of par 5s lacking in length but featuring some bunkers in varying locations that are best avoided.
Because of the challenge of the putting surfaces, Heritage places a premium on quality approach shots to avoid some putts over and across the pronounced tiers and ridges that are a part of many of the greens. Few courses will test your ability to gauge speed and break on lengthy putts as much at Heritage, but the quality of the greens will enable you to hole a few from more reasonable distances when you encounter the relatively rare putt with little break around the hole.
In addition to the challenge posed by the putting surfaces, the large, occasionally deep bunkers at Heritage will give your sand game a workout if you find them. With some of the greens slightly elevated, a deft, vertical short game is also an asset if you miss to the low side.
The Tradition nine, located across the street from the original 18, was designed to complement the other two nines, particularly in the green designs. Apart from a short par 3 and a drive and pitch par 4, Tradition is not appreciably easier than its sister nines, and has the unique feature of beginning and ending with a pair of par 3s over some ominous looking front bunkers. The third par 3 is significantly friendlier apart from one of many greens with a sizeable ridge that divides it into distinct tiers.
Like the previous owners, who were both career PGA pros, Triumph Golf is led by individuals with long careers in the golf business as both players and operators. That experience will help Heritage finally achieve its status as one of the premier daily fee/semi-private clubs in metro Atlanta, while offering a very affordable product for its regular visitors.
The excellent Heritage Grill is well known in the area and has become a lunch destination for many area residents and businesses, and the club is a popular host for golf outings, luncheons and parties.
For information on Heritage Golf Links, or to book a tee time or event, call 770-493-4653 or visit www.heritagegolflinks.com.