One of eleven Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail facilities in Alabama, the 54-hole Oxmoor Valley golf complex occupies former U.S. Steel mining land, with the tree-lined Ridge course featuring some of the best par five holes on the Trail.
Alabama has a wonderful affordable, good value for money public golf option in the eleven facilities that comprise the Robert Trent Jones Trail. However, for a course such as the Ridge at Oxmoor Valley to be included in the top twenty best golf courses in the state shows that Alabama certainly values college football more than golf.
I thought the Valley course to be the equal of the Ridge with the Valley course having the superior holes but lacking in consistency.
The Ridge course is relentlessly up and down beginning with the first hole and ending with a gasping for breath uphill eighteenth. The course feels as though there are only four types of holes on it; an uphill dogleg left or right, or downhill dogleg left or right. Only the par 3’s are straight. Many of the green complexes also look and feel the same with a fronting bunker, an elevated green with significant fall-offs, and tiering/excessive slants. Nearly every hole is lined by trees. One has to wonder why a golf course was built here although Robert Trent Jones built an okay course for this challenging terrain.
The back (Purple) tees are 7055 yards rated at 74.3.141 while the Orange tees are 6527 rated 72.1/136 which is the tees we played. We were able to play three rounds on the Ridge and two on the Valley.
1 – downhill slight dogleg left, par 4 449/404 – raised green with a fronting bunker with a significant valley in front of the green. It is a terrible hole.
2 – downhill green off slightly to the right, par 5 528/513. From an elevated tee the fairway drop-offs and green drop off to left with a very slanted right to left green with a fronting bunker. There is another large valley before the green.
3 – another downhill dogleg left, par 5 539/520 to an elevated green. Fairway bisected by a pond limiting long drives. There is shale rock of about 4-5 feet at the front of the green creating a wall. Off to the left is another rock wall that will likely kick a ball back towards the fairway. This is the “signature” hole.
4 – dogleg right, par 4 389/382 from a very elevated tee playing down then up with multiple bunkers coming into the fairway creating an unnecessary dogleg. This hole has another elevated tee and elevated green with a fronting bunker. I thought this to be an okay hole.
5 – slightly uphill par 3 of 179/146 with excessively manufactured land forms fronting the green and two fronting bunkers.
6 - slightly uphill par 4 of 447/405 dogleg left to another elevated green with a fronting bunker. The tee shot is played over a chasm. This is likely the nicest hole on the Ridge course.
7 - uphill par 4 dogleg left of 379/346 to an elevated three tiered green with two fronting bunkers. This green is angled left to right and narrow but long.
8 - substantial downhill drop on this par 3 of 176/159 to a green that has a severe fall-off to the right down to the water. You cross over the water and must also carry the fronting bunker.
9 - uphill dogleg left par 4 of 421/384 with yet another fronting bunker but it does have the nicest finishing hole on the course. My understanding is that the front nine used to be the back nine so this would have been the finishing hole/green.
10 – downhill dogleg right par 4 of 414/379 where one can easily run through the fairway into the trees. There is another fronting bunker and a fall-off on the left of the green.
11- par 4 dogleg right of 446/393 to an uphill, elevated tiered/bowled green. Thankfully, there are two bunkers here.
12 – short par 5 dogleg left of 483/465 with a fairway falling away steeply to the left offering an alternate fairway that is far too narrow to contemplate driving there to shorten the hole. The approach shot is uphill to an oddly angled/shaped green with two fronting bunkers and too many undulations on the green.
13 – par 3 of 189/162 to a green with a false front and a steep back to front slope.
14 - par 4 dogleg left of 389/348 playing to a green on a hill. There is a centerline bunker that is completely unnecessary.
15 – par 4 dogleg left of 390/366 playing slightly downhill but having to carry valleys and gullies. There are two fronting bunkers.
16 – par 3 of 205/172 playing roughly level with a fronting bunker and fall-offs at the front of the green.
17 – dogleg right par 4 of 440/411 to a green with a fronting bunker and sharply sloped left to right.
18 – dogleg left par 5 of 592/572 that plays substantially uphill making it play 50 yards longer. There is a valley/gully halfway up left of the fairway all the way to the green which surprisingly, has two fronting bunkers.
The compliments I can give to the Ridge course at Oxmoor Valley are that it must be very pretty in the fall where the leaves have changed colors before they drop. Secondly, as with all RTJ Trail courses, it is good value for money. Thirdly, as nearly every clubhouse is the same, once you have been in one you will not get lost at the next stop on the Trail. Finally, if you like an overly difficult golf course built on land where a golf course should probably not have been built due to the steepness of the terrain, then this is the place for you. However, there are far better alternatives on the RTJ Trail and one should stop here only if they are trying to play all of them or they live nearby.
On my first trip to Alabama, I was struck by the rolling hills of the Birmingham area. With two rounds up lined for the weekend, I knew that I would need to mentally prepare for side-hill lies. After experiencing Ross Bridge, my playing partner and I headed to the Ridge Course at Oxmoor Valley.
Cut through a dense forest over a topographically interesting piece of land, the property itself at the OVRC seems ideal for golf. The course conditions were solid. For me personally, I left my round expecting quite a bit more than what the course delivered given the fabulous terrain.
When writing reviews on this website, I usually like to highlight memorable holes that stick with me from my round. Often, those holes’ impression are so strong I can remember features years later. Unfortunately, even after going through a virtual tour of OVRC, and reviewing my notes from the round, few holes stuck with me from an architecture standpoint.
The one hole which I found to be unforgettable was the par five 3rd. While the player cannot hit driver off the tee, there is still the important strategic aspect of playing as close to the lake as possible if you want to reach the green in two. Cut out of a quarry, there are three distinct areas to play the second shot up fascinating terraces. I have played almost 3,500 holes and have never seen this type of shelving incorporated into the playing field before. One must think their way through the entire hole.
One of my favorite aspects of reading reviews, especially on this site, is comparing and contrasting notes with other golfers. Frank’s write-up below captures the essence of the course well, and I love his admiration for his home club. Bottom line: different golfers have different preferences in golf courses, and that is healthy and normal.
Personally, I prefer courses that offer a little more width off the tee for strategy – that absolutely has to do with my game! At OVRC, many tee shots and approaches only have one successful route, and the course is a test of your ball-striking from the first tee to the eighteenth. With almost every putting surface elevated, fronted by bunkers, and surrounded by rough, it is imperative to fly the ball and control your spin. Generally, I prefer a bit more variety in green complexes and enjoy holes with run-up options. Additionally, for such a great piece of land, I thought some of the manmade mounding was unnecessary on certain holes.
If you are a shot-shaper who enjoys the challenge of a golf course with exact targets, you will love the Ridge Course at Oxmoor Valley. While this was not necessarily my favorite round, I completely understand why many golfers offer such positive praise.
My home course, or one of the two 18-hole courses that comprise the Oxmoor Valley RTJ site. Greens are bent, though this is probably the one RTJ site that has not redone its greens (at either course) with new turf - they really need to redo the greens here as they are probably the original ones from 25 years ago, though they are usually in at least very decent condition. The Ridge is more fun than the Valley course, with easier driving holes, a touch less yardage and easier approach shots. It's a touch more scenic than the Valley, with plenty of elevation changes, up/down holes and greens that are more often than not in very good shape, though they are exceptionally soft and subject to ballmarks from a 10 yard chip. The 2nd and 3rd are par fives, with the 2nd being a par five that most people don't give a moment's thought. The fairway bends to the left, though the left side will render an uphill stance to a downhill green, while the right side, being more flat, is guarded by a bunker and a steep fall off into the woods. Very tough driving hole to really nail. The 3rd hole is scenic, but because it cuts off in your drive by a lake, and the 2nd shot is to an uphill, elevated green, the hole doesn't offer much strategy on any shot. The 6th hole is a very nice dogleg left par 4, with a drive over a ravine, to a green that has two distinct tiers and quite a bit of slope on the right side. The 9th is a touch similar, with a drive that must stay right, with an elevated green guarded by fall offs and bunkers. Most greens on the Ridge have fall-offs on at least two sides, with rough, so there is some thinking that should go into the approach shot. The 10th and 11th are essentially the same hole, and the 12th is a short, downhill par 5 that offers a short iron into the green if the drive is ripped with a draw. The 17th is nice, long par 4 uphill, and the 18th is a very good par 5 that requires a serious decision on the lay-up as the fairway is pinched in by a ravine on the left, requiring a very precise lay up if you want an 80 yard pitch. The green slopes hard to the left and can be more treacherous than at first glance, which is true of several greens on the course. It is not a great course, but it is a solid course, and certainly worth playing if you're in the area. And it's open all year round.