The Country Club of Birmingham was founded in 1898, moving two years after its inauguration to Lakeview then on to its current location at Mountain Brook in the mid-1920s, when Donald Ross was engaged to set out two 18-hole courses for the club membership.
Robert Trent Jones Sr. since modified the West in the 1950s before Pete Dye was called in to make further alterations in the mid-1980s. The work was actually carried out by his son P.B. Dye but not everybody was satisfied with the result of his efforts.
Pete Dye finally appeared
in 2009 to carry out a further renovation so it’s certainly true to say that
the style of today’s course is more modern than classic. Holes 15 and 16, which were created by Trent Jones, remain in place, but much of his penal bunkering has
Measuring 7,226 yards in the modern era, the West course plays more than 500 yards longer than its older sibling and is rated as a much tougher test of golf. Noteworthy holes include the par fives at the 4th and 10th and the formidable 431-yard closing hole.
Michael McCoy won the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur
Championship here on the West course. His 8&6 win margin was the third highest
since the Mid-Amateur went to a 36-hole final in 2001.
The West course at Birmingham CC has the fingerprints of three of golfs most notable designers, Ross, Jones and Dye.
The opening hole is welcoming, a short downhill par 4. You should have a short iron in, but the green is tucked behind a creek. The long uphill dogleg right 2nd is the number one handicap hole and deservedly so. Off the tee aim at the left fairway bunker. Anything right will be blocked out. This multi-tiered green with deep bunkers right only adds to holes challenges. The 3rd also bends right with a trio of fairway bunkers on the inside corner, thus favor the left off the tee. Greenside bunkers right and front left. The left side of this green has significant slope. The first par 5 is reachable, but my advice play it as a 3 shotter. The hole bends right with ample landing area, however the creek slices across the fairway at a 45 degree angle in the landing area. Choose your attack distance well and if the pin is back left go for the middle of the green. The first par 3 is long to a redan left to right green with two bunkers in front. The 6th ate me up. The hole leans right with a crest. You want to be short of this, my downhill lie led me to depositing the approach in the really deep front right bunker that I needed mountain climbing gear to extricate myself from. Depending upon the wind and the tees you are playing, it may make sense to layup off the tee. The 7th is a long left leaning par four with a blind tee shot. Favor right of center off the tee and take one less club for the downhill approach. You can boot scoot your approach onto the green from the right, however the left is guarded by the creek. The 8th is a mid-yardage valley par 3. The front ends with a good birdie oppty, downhill with fairway bunkers right and 3 small greenside bunkers.
The back starts with a good risk reward par 5. It angle left and there is a fairway bunker left so favor middle -right. Reachable, however there is a nefarious water hazard short left. Nothing worse than laying up to play smart and dunk in the water. The 11th is the shortest par 3 and the 18th handicap hole. The 12th is a driveable par four. However, OB right and creek down the left side and some crafty Dye moguls. The13th is a mid-yardage Florida par 3. The further right the pin is should act as a reminder that the middle of the green is dry and two putt pars are your friend. The 14th is a long demanding but pretty par four. Favor the left side off the tee, but be wary of the fairway bunker. Water hazard right and the green is raised. An interesting feature is the right greenside bunker that is almost at the water level creating the illusion that it is floating on the hazard. The 15th is a big boy par 5. As the hole contours left favor the right side, especially on your 2nd shot as there are half a dozen or so fairway bunkers left. The 16th is a long par four with a humungous green. Favor the right off the tee as the contour is left. There are three greenside bunkers left and the green wraps behind the final one. Hopefully, the pin will not be back there when you play. The 17th is a long par four that literally runs away from you. Favor left of middle off the tee and take one less club into this green, you want to land short as the green slopes front to back. The 18th is a pretty finishing hole with the clubhouse peering onto the green. Don’t let the left fairway bunkers intimidate you, the fairway is quite ample. The mogulling and greenside bunkers add to the 18ths charm.
I like the West better than the East. The West does not feel like a Ross course.
Either one of these courses would be considered excellent in my book. Great part of Birmingham and a lot of rich history can be found here.
I had heard many wonderful reports about this old Donald Ross layout at The Country Club of Birmingham, but the real experience is better than the already high expectations.
The West course could be described as a layout with formidable bunkering and extraordinarily tough. There are many penal moundings and aggressive shaping around the greensites (thanks to Pete Dye’s contributions). The daunting approach shots test your distance control, and watch out for the creeks running around the course just to keep you on your toes.
It was a true test of golf and an immense privilege to play here. Credit to Donald Ross for a wonderful routing and flow as you constantly change direct across this large property. Dye and RTJ Snr have touched the evolution of this course over time, but the resulting product that we play today is truly fabulous.
Country Club of Birmingham believes it’s the only course to feature the work of Donald Ross, Robert Trent Jones and Pete Dye. The routing is Ross’s work and has changed little. The Donald Ross Society visited recently and Society President John Butler declared it the finest Ross routing he’d seen. When pressed as to why, he pointed out that “you go by the snack shack twice in the first nine holes.” There are, however, other less whimsical reasons to like Ross’s routing. There are few parallel holes and the ones that exist are so different as to be quite memorable. And the holes flow along quite naturally with never a question as to where the next tee is located.
Jones’s contribution was blowing up all of Ross’s greens and elevating them. When Dye arrived in 1984, the first thing he did was jump on an excavator and dig down through the 18th green to find Ross’s original green level. He repeated this move 17 times, but his objective was renovation, not restoration and today’s greens are Dye’s ellipticals rather than Ross’s square ones. The greens are nicely contoured, however—reminiscent of Ross’s work in that aspect. Dye also added mounding around many of the greens, most quite sizeable……as high as 15 feet. This writer found those features overused. Comparing drawings of Ross’s original work to the current version also shows that the strategic challenge from the tee was more present in the original.