One of the most attractive stops on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Cambrian Ridge offers golfers four 9-hole courses (one of which is a 9-hole short course) with the Sherling and Canyon loops acknowledged as the premier 18-hole configuration.
Opened for play in 1993, Cambrian Ridge has not rested on its laurels since then. Twenty years after their debut, the twenty-seven championship holes at the club underwent a three-year renovation process, starting with the Loblolly and Sherling nines.
The redesign of the Canyon nine ended in 2016, with putting surfaces modified to handle the higher green speeds achievable with the new Ultradwarf Bermuda grass. Many holes were also reconfigured to open up views of Sherling Lake.
Cambrian Ridge is the best and worst of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
It’s a brutal site with steep slopes plunging into lakes and gullies and holes that begin on one level, play to another and finish on a third. There’s little connection between fairways and greens—much less one hole to the next—with water, streams, field bunkers and sunken depressions frequently standing in the direct and only line to the hole. If you like that kind of thing, this place is awesome.
The other side of the coin is that you’ve got 27 holes here in a quite lovely setting that shows you sights not normal for south central Alabama. You may cross paths with some unexpected wildlife and the foothills provide some strange, target golf.
Cambrian Ridge pushes the RTJ trail design of truly difficult course venues even harder but the holes here feel like they’re attacking the most challenging parts of the terrain rather than finding interesting ways around them.
Of the three nines, the Canyon course, in particular, is hopscotch bordering on the ridiculous. It’s full of rugged elevations and daunting carries into semi-blind greens. It’s hit and pray golf—like a drive that starts in the right side of the fairway and then ends up 50 yards away in the left rough simply from the terrain. You need trust something will be there when you come down the fairway.
Cambrian Ridge is one of the best venues on the RTJ Alabama Golf Trail. If you only have time for 18 the Canyon/Sherling nines are superior to Loblolly. Having said that 8th hole on Loblolly a downhill slight dogleg right 423 yards requires two super golf shots and focus. A good drive will leave you with a 160-170 yard carry over a water hazard with no bailout. The Canyon nine starts with a bang, a 477 yard par 4. Granted, a 200 foot elevated tee, but how many tracks have the first hole as the number on handicap hole? The long par four 4th dogleg right is a real challenge, you must be left off the tee to have a chance. I preferred the Sherling 9. Three-five are memorable. Three appears to be a long par four on the card. However, a 200 foot elevated tee shortens it significantly. A decent tee shot will carry the fairway bunker on the right. The 4th is a nice par three over the Lake Sherling to a wide narrow green with a ridge in the center, three putts galore. The 5th is the number one handicap hole, even though it is only 360 yards and it is off another elevated tee. You must carry Lake Sherling, I would suggest aiming about 10-15 yards left of the 150 yard marker. If you are walking the finishing holes are exhausting. The 8th is 636 yards, downhill, but with a BA fairway bunker in the landing zone. Your approach must carry a water hazard to a well protected green. The 9th looks easy on the card. After all it is only 355 yards. Slight dogleg right, but it is up the 200 foot ridge. Aim just left of the fairway bunker. This is a long skinny green and if the pin is back add two clubs.
Fun, demanding course
Cambrian Ridge boasts three distinctive nine-hole championship layouts and an amazing par-3 design. Even though Golf Digest named the Canyon/Sherling combination the 3rd ‘Best New Public Golf Course in America’ in 1994, the original 27-hole facility went through a 3-year total renovation that was completed in 2016. Some of the holes were changed completely and several bunkers were removed. All the greens have been reshaped and seeded with the newest ultra-dwarf Bermuda grass. In doing so, they have now opened more views of Sherling Lake and made the course a little more player-friendly.
The Canyon course is carved out of a former hunting ground, and the first hole will both inspire and intimidate you. A long par-4 that drops 200 feet from the tee to the fairway requires two good shots to reach the putting surface. And that’s only the beginning of the adventure.
The 2nd hole is a shorter par-3 but the 3rd hole is a picturesque par-5 that will test your accuracy. This dog-leg right is all uphill and is guarded in front by two ominous bunkers. Target golf as its finest.
This dramatic design offers huge elevation changes, well defined tree-lined fairways, deep soft bunkers and large greens with swales around them to funnel any errand approaches.
What I truly liked about this design is that almost every hole has an elevated tee box, so you can see what you’re getting into or trying to stay out of.
The Sherling nine is very dramatic as it starts from the highest point in the county that swoops down and snuggles up against Sherling Lake for holes 4 through 7. The final hole is a visually stunning par-4 that climbs back up the Cambrian Ridge featuring ochre boulders that frame the fairway.
The Loblolly nine offers a lot less elevation changes with gently rolling fairways and massive bunkering to test your accuracy. My favourite maybe the 8th hole - a 366 yards downhill par-4 where your approach needs to clear the lake with a green surrounded by a corrugated steel retaining wall.
Another fantastic collection of par-3’s with water coming into play on five holes.
Cambrian Ridge is the least played facility on the Trail since there is no hotel on site and the town of Greenville only has a population of around 10,000 yet it is the still most requested by visitors. I can see why with four uniquely different layouts that will challenge every part of your game.
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