The third expedition of our season long Kentucky’s Best Golf Tour led us to Heritage Hill Golf Club on the south side of Shepherdsville, Kentucky.
Located just 20 minutes south of downtown Louisville and just minutes from Interstate 65, Heritage Hill is located in a veritable metropolis compared to our treks to StoneCrest and Eagle Ridge. Though, once one arrives at the course, they would never know that civilization lies just across the Salt River valley from Heritage Hill.
The course is laid out upon a beautifully serene set of hills and rolling pastures at the base of Kentucky’s Knobs Region, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the nearby Louisville Metro. The all-in-one cart barn, pro shop, snack bar combination only further reinforces that Heritage Hill is a country retreat.
This was the Bullitt County that I remembered from my misspent youth: a really beautiful, scenic area with more than a touch of “country” thrown in for good measure (I spent my formative, adolescent years living just several miles down Highway 44 from the Heritage Hill location).
Designed and built by Nicklaus disciple Douglas Beach, Heritage Hill opened as an upscale public course in 2007 to rave reviews.
The course plays fairly wide open across the rolling Bullitt County terrain, though there are several holes that are carved from the thick, rocky forests of the Knobs, including the par 3 holes numbers 2 and 11.
The course is bunkered extensively with a nice, coarse river sand, which along with the sometimes massive-sometimes subtle elevation changes were the primary defenders of par at Heritage Hill.
Unfortunately, either through maintenance cut backs or recent storms, it appeared to us that the bunkers hadn’t been raked for at least several days prior to our Sunday morning round.
At 6,779 yards from the Blue Tees, our entire posse agreed that the course played very fair at that distance. The uphill holes were generally a little shorter distance, and elevated tee boxes were the norm for most of the longer par 4 and par 5 holes.
From the Blue Tees, Heritage Hill played to a course rating and slope of 71.0/131, which felt about right. Being out of position was about a half-stroke penalty, though a really long player could probably get away with a solid “bomb & gouge” game.
Candidly, I had my best day off the tee of the entire season, so the many failures to take advantage were my own mistakes, rather than some inherent unfairness or trickery of the course’s design.
And then there were the greens. The greens at Heritage Hill were, by far, the slowest greens any of our group had experienced in recent memory.
By slow, I mean that they were so slow that it was laborious to get the ball to the hole on an uphill put of any distance. There were some greens upon which the collar and the edge of the green were indistinguishable.
There are lots of large undulations on most of the Heritage Hill greens, which were actually quite large themselves: the obvious kind of tiers and undulations that you can see ahead of time, with very few unexpected or undetectable subtle breaks.
On most greens, there was an opportunity to be above the hole or below the hole, from which I could glean no advantage either way, despite their rolling smoothly and consistently.
On multiple occasions, almost invariably on each green, as a group we experienced at least one downhill putt or chip that should have run out stop unexpectedly…in the middle of a downhill slope of the green.
It took a full nine holes to even begin to accurately guess how hard to hit a putt, which a new challenge I definitely wasn’t mentally prepared for ahead of time.
In fairness, no longer living in Bullitt County, I have no idea whether the course had received an onslaught of thunderstorms in the days prior to our round, making mowing unfeasible.
Or if, perhaps, growing the bent grass greens out was a conscious decision by the maintenance staff to try to enhance the putting surfaces as the muggy, sweltering summer heat so damaging to bent grass greens begins to consume the Ohio River valley.
Either way, the green speed is definitely something to be aware of during your round at Heritage Hill.
Overall, the Heritage Hill experience was utterly enjoyable. The closing three holes are probably the signature stretch of holes at the course, with number 18 being particularly memorable for teeing off from atop one of the course’s knobs down to a fairway at least 75 feet below.
The traveling circus of Mark, Bryan, and I were joined by Tim, the father of the best man in my wedding, who possesses the perfect, mild-mannered temperament to be a welcomed fourth to our group of not-too-serious golfers.
Despite the less than luxurious facilities, the staff at Heritage Hill could not have been nicer. Given our 10:00 a.m. tee time, I was particularly happy with the quality of my bratwurst at the turn, just as my lunchtime hunger was beginning to take hold.
Longtime readers will note that I’m not particularly optimistic about food at the golf course, so I want to take a second to commend Heritage Hill for exceeding my meager expectations.
Heritage Hill is a fun golf course to play. Despite carding a primarily bogey-golf round, at no time did I feel like I was overwhelmed by the course. If the wind had been stronger, that opinion may have changed on a few holes, but I’ll stand by our group consensus that the course was fair to the golfer.
There were only a handful of blind shots, primarily a product of so many elevated tee box locations.
It’s always easier the second time around any golf course, but I don’t know that one gains a significant advantage having been through Heritage Hill before (to be fair, Tim had played the course several times, so his local knowledge probably did help our group a fair bit).
Fuzzy greens aside, the course was in great shape, which by all accounts is the norm at Heritage Hill. Originally part of an immense housing development, only a couple dozen houses are currently present on the back nine.
If development and construction ever resume, I’m sure the character of the course will change, as rolling fields and forested vistas are replaced by additional markers of civilization’s progress.
But for the foreseeable future, Heritage Hill deserves to be in the conversation as one of the best public golf courses in Kentucky.
It doesn’t quite fit into any convenient pigeon-hole stylistically, and is hard to describe as anything other than just a really nice, really fun golf course to play. Although, if I had to narrowly define it, Heritage Hill would be a bomber’s paradise (a concept with which I have no experience).
I highly recommend it, and at little more than an hour’s drive from Lexington, I look forward to many happy returns.
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