The Takeaway: The better half of a 36 hole facility, the West course is classic Donald Ross layout with modern day touch ups from RTJ and Pete Dye. With compelling hole designs, engaging elevation changes, and challenging greensites, the West course brings a lot of elements to the table that make a compelling argument that it is the best course in the Yellowhammer State. Grade A-
Designer: Donald Ross in 1929; Robert Trent Jones Sr. 1959, Pete Dye 1986
Phone Number: 205.879.4611
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Country Club of Birmingham (West)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 3325 Country Club Road, Birmingham, Alabama 35213
Accolades: Ranked 1st in Alabama by Golf Course Gurus.
What to Expect: The Country Club of Birmingham is a 36 hole facility located just 10 minutes from downtown Birmingham and 15 minutes south of the airport; making it incredibly convenient to access. The East course is a Donald Ross design, as is the more celebrated West course, but the West course has seen several changes over time while the East course has stayed more true to its Ross roots. The setting with its rolling hills and mature trees delivers a classic feeling to the design though the renovations by Robert Trent Jones and Pete Dye have removed the Donald Ross feel the course originally had. That being said, Oak Hill Country Club East’s course in Rochester, NY is the course I thought of the most which is another Donald Ross design. The more I reflected on Birmingham’s West course the more I was impressed by it. The course features fantastic elevation changes, memorable hole designs, constraint changes in direction, engaging shots, exceptional conditioning, beautiful greens, and plenty of challenge. What else do you want? Another thing I appreciate about the West course is that the course is a solid challenge, but you could play it everyday and almost never lose a ball; which is a feature you love having at your home course. The one-shotters stand out as a great collection with different looks and shots required while the closing stretch of holes is as stout of a test as you’d ever want. Players can walk or take a cart to get around the course which contrasts Birmingham’s other storied club, Shoal Creek, which is walking-only with caddies. In the end, Birmingham’s West course isn’t going to blow you away with over the top features or crazy hole designs, it is simply going to deliver one really good hole after another and culminate in one of the best courses in the South.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 7th Hole – 483 Yard Par 4 – A great par four that is as testing as it is memorable to play. From the tee, players can see that the fairway tilts from right to the left towards a bunker that sits 265 yards out on the left side. The rolling fairway often leaves a downhill lie that plays at least a ½ club less over the drop to the putting surface. The left side of the green is flanked by a bunker as well as a creek which makes missing on that side death; especially since recovery shots will play back to the shallowest depth of the green. The putting surface features sloping edges so an aerial attack is the only guaranteed way to get on this green as ground shots can quickly be shed away if they aren't precisely executed. This is a great hole that takes full advantage of the exceptional terrain at The Country Club of Birmingham; be proud of carding a par here.
Best Par 3: 8th Hole – 189 Yards – Playing from the western tip of the property back to the northeast, the 8th hole features a plateau green that is fronted by the steepest face on the course with a bunker waiting at the bottom. The bunker might as well be a coffin because saving par from there is almost as likely as conquering death when players are staring at a vertical bunker shot that plays over a virtual wall to the shallowest angle of the green. The putting surface angles away from the player from front left to back right so pin positions in the back third are for suckers unless you are in the zone with your mid irons off the tee. The only bailout area is left of the green so if you aren't going to hunt the flag, you can rely on your short game instead.
Best Par 4: 14th Hole – 450 Yards – The West course features some of the most demanding par fours in Alabama and your success, or failure, on them will often mark the pivotal moments on your scorecard. The 14th is one such occasion with a challenging par four that plays straight south into the springtime prevailing wind. The tee shot plays over a pond and a creek before reaching the fairway that is protected by two bunkers on the right and a single bunker on the left. Successfully navigating that trouble will leave you an approach to a skinny green with a pot bunker and pond on the right while the left hosts a steep hillside. A cut shot off the left edge of the putting surface is the ideal ball flight to attack this green and if you come up short you'll be left with a straight-forward chip to set up a par save. If you don't get too greedy here, you can take your par and move on.
Best Par 5: 10th Hole – 550 Yards – Off the tee players see the bunker on the left side of the driving zone that must be avoided for any chance at reaching this green in two. What players don't see if their drive doesn't carry far enough though is the pond that eats up much of the layup zone and is quick to swallow your Pro V1 if you don't take it into consideration on your second shot. The shape of the green mimics the shape of the pond on its left with both running from front right to back left which makes attacking the back third of the green a bear. The risk/reward is all in the second shot where laying up will leave you with a downhill lie to a green flanked by a pond; so you'll have to decide when you want to get aggressive and where to dial it back.
Birdie Time: 12th Hole – 339 Yard Par 4 – Lace up your kicks and boot a field goal between the trees that frame the tee box and you'll be in great shape to finish this hole off with a birdie. At just 339 yards, the green is reachable for long players but getting all the way to the putting surface isn't necessary to take a stroke back from Old Man Par. Staying up the middle or left side of the fairway opens up the angle to the green and takes the bunker out of play on the right side. Wherever your tee shot lands, you will have a scoring club in your hand and should take dead aim at the flag location but you rarely have that bright of a green light on the West course.
Bogey Beware: 2nd Hole – 469 Yard Par 4 – One of my favorite holes in the Yellowhammer State, the 2nd at the West course commands respect and for players to be on their 'A' game right away. The tee shot plays a bit downhill towards a bunker before the fairway bends right and ascends uphill to the greensite. The approach shot is as daunting as it gets at The Country Club of Birmingham with two bunkers engulfing the right side and the narrowest of openings to the green afforded up the left side. It is all carry for any hope of finding this putting surface that bubbles out larger towards the back third; but players don't see any of that from the fairway. There is no getting away with mistakes here; a great tee shot followed by a better approach shot is the only way to find this green in regulation; something that most amateurs struggle to pull off back-to-back.