Alamance Country Club is another feather from the Tarheel State in Donald Ross’s cap, located between Durham and Greensboro. Bob Cupp worked at the club at the end of the millennium in order to restore Ross’s greens and bunkers, as well as to add a series of new tees to lengthen the course to a more modern yardage, just a bit under 6,900 yards.
The most testing stretch will come early in the round, where players will face lengthy members of each par class. No. 6, a par five, is the longest hole on the course. Although “just” 534 yards, it defends against eagle opportunities by making a sharp dogleg, with plentiful bunkers at its elbow, and an uphill tee shot.
The No. 1 handicap hole follows, with a 460-yard par four that requires length to get to the green in two and accuracy to have any chance of scoring on its putting surface, one of the larger greens on the property (it, like the preceding par five, also features a blind tee shot).
No. 8 may not be the longest par three on the course, but the fronting bunker makes running it up on this 200-yard short hole an impossibility.
Golf course architects are invariably remembered for their most hallowed designs. While this may make sense for designers with small portfolios, it minimizes the accomplishments of other historic greats. This is especially true for the visionary Donald Ross. Defining Ross solely by his most famous routings disregards what may be his most impressive achievement: constructing hundreds of lesser-known clubs which thrive today even without a spotlight.
Alamance Country Club is a fine example of a Ross course that does not receive significant attention, but that delights members every round. Ross’s penultimate design is not laid upon land with any dramatic features, yet it presents a compelling variety of challenges. Key elements of the routing that create interest include:
• The fact that the green is not visible from the tee on almost every par four or five. Most long holes bend in one direction or another, or feature blind shots from the tee. Knowing the day’s pin placement can considerably alter the preferred angle of attack.
• A thoughtfully maximized property. Alamance Country Club sits on a compact piece of land, yet no two consecutive holes are routed in exactly the same direction. With even a light breeze, the player will need to rethink their strategy on almost every shot.
• An uncluttered presentation. There is nothing forced about Alamance’s appearance. Bunkers are not needlessly planted around greens where there is already a challenge, and there is a refreshing lack of unnecessary artificial mounding. The holes flow over the topography that existed well before there was a golf course.
In 2020, Alamance Country Club’s membership commissioned a renovation to the course that kept it faithful to the original 1946 plans. This unified admiration for the club’s roots is a testament to Ross’s genius as an architect. It was not simply Ross’s well-known masterpieces that defined his career. Instead, Ross should be applauded for putting forth his best effort on all of his projects. Ross left an indelible mark on golf all over the nation, and his spirit is alive and well in small-town Burlington, North Carolina.