The Country Club of Birmingham was founded in 1898, moving two years after its inauguration to Lakeview then on to its current location at Shades Valley in 1926. At this time, Donald Ross was hired to set out an 18-hole course and so the East made its debut shortly after the club had settled into its new environment.
Ross was called back three years later to expand the golf facility to 36 holes and his second 18-hole East course has since been modified by Robert Trent Jones Snr in the 1950s then by Pete Dye, who made further changes from the mid-1980s onwards.
The course was closed for much of 2009 for further renovation, so you could say that today’s course is more in the modern rather than the classic mould. Holes 15 and 16 that were created by Trent Jones remain intact but much of his penal bunkering has been removed.
Measuring 6,948 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.
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.