The Takeaway: Shoal Creek put Alabama on the golfing map after hosting the 1984 PGA Championship before its encore in 1990. Clearly inspired by Augusta National with a Southern style clubhouse, onsite cottages, walking caddies, and a course routed through towering pines, dogwoods, and azaleas, Shoal Creek boasts several water features, prime conditioning, and a remote setting that has routinely made the course the envy of Alabama golf. Grade B+
Designer: Jack Nicklaus in 1977
Phone Number: 205.991.9001
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Shoal Creek Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 100 New Williamsburg Drive, Shoal Creek, Alabama 35242
Accolades: Ranked 3rd in Alabama by Golf Course Gurus. Host of the PGA Championship in 1984 (Lee Trevino) and 1990 (Wayne Grady), U.S. Amateur in 1986 (Buddy Alexander), and the U.S. Women's Open in 2018 (Ariya Jutanugarn).
What to Expect: An old school Jack Nicklaus design, Shoal Creek features green contours and design features that are much more manageable than some of Jack’s designs after his co-designing effort with Tom Doak at Sebonack. While the playability factor of Shoal Creek is appealing, the downside is that the design doesn’t feature as much variety in the hole shapes, lengths, directions, or shots as Jack has introduced in his more recent designs. The club as a whole clearly draws some inspiration from Augusta National with the bright white bunkers, walking-only policy, caddies in white, on-site accommodations, and high level of conditioning. Perhaps Shoal Creek’s best attribute though is its remote setting perched in the valley between Oak and Double Oak mountain ranges at the southern end of the Appalachians which eliminates every non-golf distraction which will always be maintained since the club purchased the mountains on either side of the club. There is some movement in the property but not a lot; certainly not as much as CC of Birmingham. The features that standout at Shoal Creek, other than the excellent sausage on the 10th tee, are the attractive par threes and risk/reward par fives. The par fives are short by today’s standards and contributes to Shoal not hosting a PGA Championship since 1990, but for the average length player they offer exciting strategy to consider. Shoal Creek is certainly the most revered course in Alabama but it will struggle to make magazine Top 100 lists at this point.
By the Numbers
|1 Star (Ladies)||72||5125||70.4||126|
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 8th Hole – 165 Yard Par 3 – A gorgeous one-shotter, the 8th plays downhill to a green completely fronted by a pond, flanked on each side by bunkers, and framed in back by towering pines to create a beautiful hole that also demands accuracy. The hole plays at least a ½ club shorter than the yardage due to the elevation change between the tee and green, but if the pin is up front it may not be worth making an adjustment and accidentally leave it in the drink. Shoal Creek has an excellent collection of one-shotters and the 8th stands out as its best.
Best Par 3: 5th Hole – 220 Yards – The first par three at Shoal Creek demands respect and attention if you hope to get down in three strokes or less. The tee shot plays a club less than the yardage as the descension to the green is significant enough to justify it. The cucumber shaped green is protected in front by a pond and in back by a bunker. Bailing out to the right is your safest bet if you don't feel comfortable attacking the flag, but the narrow green can be difficult to save par on depending on the pin placement. The one-shotters are certainly a highlight on the front nine.
Best Par 4: 15th Hole – 425 Yards – One of the shorter par fours at Shoal Creek but also the one with the most character, the 15th hole is characterized by a 50 yard long bunker up the left side that protects the soft corner of this hole as the fairways starts to bend that way. Bailing out to the right off the tee isn't an option as the heavy tree line will punish balls that come that direction so hitting a right off the right edge of the bunker is the ideal play. The approach shot is one of the more interesting shots at Shoal Creek with a narrow green that angles away from the player and is fronted by a small bunker before a large bunker flanks the entire right side. The best angle into the green comes from the left side, but you'll have to carry the fairway bunker off the tee to give yourself that opportunity. I love holes where you get to pick your poison. Do you want more challenge off the tee or on the approach? Having the choice is so much more enjoyable than being forced to play a hole a certain way to enjoy success.
Best Par 5: 17th Hole – 550 Yards – The precursor to Shoal Creek's finale is this risk/reward par five that runs parallel to Double Oak Mountain and into the prevailing spring wind. A large bunker on the right and small bunker on the left reside in the driving zone and need to be avoided if you have aspirations of reaching the green in two. From the fairway players have to make the decision on whether they can carry the waterfalling pond system fronting the green. It is a risky play, but if you have the length to do it then the reward is certainly large and the backstop behind the green should deliver some additional confidence to swing away. The fairway slopes gently off the left side, so if your ball plays on that half of the fairway you have to be careful to not let your approach shot leak right very few positive scenarios await.
Birdie Time: 6th Hole – 540 Yard Par 5 – Perhaps the most talked about hole at Shoal Creek, the 6th doesn't quite have the same character today as it enjoyed the first 40+ years of existence since the infamous tree in the middle of the fairway was removed following the 2018 Women's U.S. Open. With the removal of the fairway tree, the 6th hole begs players to go for this green in two now that nothing is there to swat attempts at it. A creek comes in from the right side of the fairway 125 yards away from the green and angles northwest to split the fairway into two sections with the right side being the line if you want to reach the putting surface in two and the left side opening up for those that layup. The creek flanks the left side of the green and must be avoided enroute to the pin to card a birdie, but as long as you do, the chance of getting a stroke back from Old Man Par here is strong. The risk/reward par fives at Shoal Creek are one of its best attributes, but the length of them doesn't lend to PGA events in the modern day.
Bogey Beware: 12th Hole – 520 Yard Par 4 – While most players will never tee it up from the Championship tee found 520 yards from the green, this hole is plenty tough from whatever tee you find yourself on. The tee box directs players to the fairway bunkers straight ahead before bending slightly right and begs players to hit a cut shot. Taking a direct line at the right side of the fairway isn't possible given the trees that impede that line of play, so to beat this hole you have to play it just the way Jack wants. If you avoid the bunkers left of the fairway you'll have a shot at reaching this green in regulation which is challenging considering its raised location. The left side of the green features a sharp dropoff to the long grass while the right side boasts a bunker and narrowed angle to attack from. During the 1990 PGA Championship, this is the only hole Wayne Grady bogied on the back nine enroute to his major championship victory; and that's when it played just 451 yards.