You’ll face elevation changes, slick greens
Public golf in Alabama has the benefit of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and one of the best is one of the RJT’s original sites, Oxmoor Valley in Hoover.
The Valley Course at Oxmoor Valley is closed for renovations at the moment and should reopen this fall. But the Ridge Course and the Short Course are open for play. Here’s a snapshot of what’s available now.
The Ridge Course at Oxmoor Valley
The Ridge Course is widely considered one of the most difficult layouts on the trail. As its name indicates, the layout runs along a ridge line, and two of its main features are its numerous elevation changes and severely sloping fairways.
The course’s starter will offer some detailed instructions. Pro tip – listen to him and then take his advice. It’s easy to hit balls down the center of the fairway only to see them trundle off into the rough, never to be found. The Ridge Course’s challenging nature is reflected in its slope and rating which range from 122-140/69.5-73.5
Conservative is the proper way to play the course, which plays to par 72. It features five sets of tees that play from 4,974 to 7,055 yards. Most players tee it up from tees that play 5,518 to 6,527 yards. The yardage is just a number, though, as the elevation changes make some holes play longer or shorter than indicated on the scorecard.
Level lies are rare on the Ridge Course, which offers spectacular vistas from elevated tees. One of the memorable holes is No. 12, a par 5 where the tee sits 150 feet above the fairway. The hole is both breathtaking and heartbreaking.
The cart ride from the tee to the fairway winds along a steep and wooded path that makes you feel like you’re in the jungle. When you emerge, it’s to one of the few flat, wide-open fairways on the course. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Instead, it’s where the fun begins. Farther along is a creek and a double elevated fairway leading to a three-tiered green that appears embedded in rock.
The Ridge Course underwent a renovation in 2018 and some of its huge, undulating greens were softened to make them a little more player-friendly. That doesn’t mean negotiating them is easy. They’re fast with plenty of slope to keep players from getting comfortable.
The Short Course at Oxmoor Valley
Among the notable assets of the Robert Trent Jones Trail are its short courses. They’re challenging, budget friendly and can be played in about half the time of a round on the championship courses. They’re not your basic pitch-and-putt courses. In certain instances, you’ll use every club in your bag depending on how you play them.
Like the Ridge Course, the Short Course features four sets of tees playing from from 1,817 yards to 3,244 yards. From the back tees, the course features five par 3s over 200 yards in length, so play the tips at your own peril.
Like the Ridge Course, the Short Course’s main feature – aside from its large greens – is the elevation change. The Short Course is picturesque and intertwines with the much Ridge Course.
The signature hole is No. 14, a long, steep hole that requires a long carry over a ridge with a lot of brush. Like its Ridge counterpart, the Short Course greens are slick and challenging.
To enhance your enjoyment of the Trail’s short courses, try this – instead of playing a fixed set of tees, use a staggered tee approach. Start at either the forward tees or tips and then move forward or backward each ensuing hole. This will result in more variety on your tee shots, ensuring you use most of the clubs in your bag.
Where to stay near Oxmoor Valley
If you’re planning a weekend trip, the Trail’s Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa is just a couple miles from Oxmoor Valley and offers a five-star experience featuring world-class amenities.
And finally, for locals, a $39.95 annual RJT pass is good at every RJT course. It gets you a reduced rate, discounts on merchandise, and points that count toward free golf. For more information about the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, click here.
Alabama Golf News contributor Dr. Richard Wallace is an instructor at the University of Alabama
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Featured image: No 1 at Oxmoor Valley’s Ridge Course, courtesy RJT