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June 18, 2024

Dora’s Horse Creek offers plenty of bang for your buck

By Gregg Dewalt, Alabama Golf News Editor
The view on No. 15 at Horse Creek

Our new series: Alabama value courses

DORA – One of the benefits of playing public golf in Alabama is the many course options available to players of all ages, skill levels and bank accounts.

Upscale facilities such as Kiva Dunes on the coast, Farm Links in the middle of the state and Limestone Springs and Cherokee Ridge in the north offer plenty of bang for the buck.

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail sites throughout the state are a bargain at any price, but especially for golfers who purchase a Trail card for under $50.

Perhaps the best thing going for those non-country clubbers who enjoy playing a variety of courses is that Alabama has a plethora of value options. There are numerous courses that don’t boast the names of signature designers and may not have the most pristine conditions, but will test your game, provide a day of fun on the links and not put a huge dent into your bank account.

Horse Creek Golf Course No. 9
Horse Creek Golf Course No. 9

This will be the first story in a series highlighting some of those courses.

One of my favorite options for a day trip is Horse Creek Golf Course in Dora, built on the site of a reclaimed strip mine about 35 minutes northwest of Birmingham.

The city of Dora owns and operates Horse Creek, a par-72 layout with 419 Bermuda grass fairways and tifdwarf Bermuda greens. Landscape architect Robert Kirk designed the 220-acre course that opened in 1999.

Horse Creek is not long by modern standards – the championship tees stretch to 6,893 yards. There are four other sets of tees – blue (6,552 yards), white (6,141), yellow (5,265) and red (4,828). It’s challenging and fun, especially when the fairways are firm and fast.

“We built it with a bulldozer, two tandem trucks and a backhoe,” Kirk said. “We laid it out so that standing on the tee you can see everything you do and there were big landing areas.”

Kirk did a nice job in avoiding the temptation to over-bunker the Horse Creek Golf Course. What bunkers there are – and there aren’t many – are strategically placed and generally well-maintained.

“We wanted to make it enjoyable, so we didn’t want to have all these bunkers,” he said.

Horse Creek Golf Course: Two distinct nines

The 11th hole at Horse Creek Golf Course
The 11th hole at Horse Creek Golf Course

The best examples of his bunkering are on the fourth hole and the sixth hole. Both are doglegs to the left and Kirk put in a fairway bunker on each at the turn. The temptation – No. 4 is a scant 344 yards and No. 6 is 397 yards – is to play up the left side to shorten the hole. The reward for carrying the bunkers is a short-iron into Horse Creek’s smallish greens. The risk is that those bunkers can gobble up tee shots, leaving awkward approaches.

Horse Creek’s 18 holes consist of two distinct nines. The front has a bevy of doglegs – both left and right, gentle and severe – and players who can work the ball in both directions have a distinct advantage. Hardwoods line the mostly generous fairways on the front, but that doesn’t mean you can spray the ball. Any shot that ends up in the trees generally means a punch out.

Horse Creek Golf Course gets more interesting when you hit the back nine. While there is no water to navigate on the front, it comes into play on five back-nine holes starting on No. 10, one of Horse Creek’s strongest holes.

The tee shot on No. 10 is one of the few blind shots on the course with water along the left side of the fairway and fronting an elevated green. When the course is firm and fast, any tee shot up the left side can easily end up in the water. Likewise, any mis-hit approach shot likely will find the water on this 418-yard par 4.

The 11th hole is 389-yard par 4 with a double fairway and water up the right through the green. The safe play is to the left (upper) fairway. Any tee shot that drifts to the right is destined for the water.

The back nine also features the risk/reward 327-yard par 4 No. 15. Hitting from an elevated tee, there definitely is an urge for longer players to cut the corner on this severe dogleg left, but it’s a blind shot that brings a front greenside bunker and water into play. The prudent play is to lay up and hit a short iron approach.

A clubhouse and grill were added in 2017.

The 15th green at Horse Creek
The 15th green at Horse Creek Golf Course

A nice aspect is that there is no real estate development surrounding the course. Also, Kirk routed the course intentionally so that every hole is its own entity.

“We laid it out to where every hole is by itself,” he said. “All the holes are basically flat except for No. 18, which goes up and the three holes that drop off.”

Weekend/holiday rates, including cart, are $43. Daily rates (Monday-Thursday) are $33. For information, go to

Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News

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All images courtesy of Horse Creek Golf Course

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