Measuring a staggering 8,191 yards from the tips, Ross Bridge is the latest addition to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Two lakes and an impressive waterfall combine with serious yardage to make this a most memorable course.
Opened for play in 2005, five years after Robert Trent Jones passed away, Ross Bridge is reckoned to be one of the longest courses ever built, though multiple tees allows it to be played as short as 5,312yards from the most forward set of markers.
Ten of the holes play along the banks of two large lakes which are connected by a spectacular waterfall dropping almost a hundred feet between the 9th and 18th greens. The addition of a gristmill to the water cascade reflects the mining history of the property.
Like many of the other Trail courses, the par threes are feature holes here, combining elevation change and water to grab player attention on the tee. Large putting surfaces provide plenty of tempting pin locations.
The 7th crosses a ridge high above the rest of the course, while the 9th features a split fairway that offers either a short, challenging route along the water’s edge or a safer option which then leaves a longer, more difficult approach to the green.
The 17th, a long par four, plays to a small, well-guarded green with water framing the right side of this downhill hole. In the background, there’s a lovely view of the 9th and 18th holes with the waterfall tumbling between the home green on either nine.
During my first trip to Alabama, the landing scenery from my airplane window in Birmingham took me by surprise. I had always visualized the state as flat, and witnessing the massive, green rolling hills forced me to recalculate my golf expectations. That enormous scale of the Birmingham experience continued when I was presented with a delicious, heaping plate of smoked meat later that evening at Saw’s BBQ.
Ross Bridge furthered my sense of Alabama’s big, brawny nature. Immediately upon arrival, we were impressed by the spacious clubhouse, towering resort, and immense practice facility. Every employee was accommodating, showing us true southern hospitality during our time on the property.
Despite the friendly nature of the staff, Ross Bridge is anything but kind if played from the tips, especially with the humidity beating down. Fortunately, the width of many holes provided inherent options which kept us energized and optimistic throughout the otherwise unrelenting round. Some of the more notable include:
• #1: Setting the tone, the 620 yard opener at Ross Bridge is gorgeously framed between thickets of trees and a lake. The tee shot must avoid a deep bunker right and the lake left. The approach is fascinating. Many players will likely need to lay up far right; should one choose this path, they must pick an exact distance as their third wedge shot will need to fly over two menacing bunkers to a shallow green. Going for the green in two is difficult, but playing aggressively to the left patch of fairway over the lake actually provides the best angle into the thin putting surface.
• #2: This dogleg left par four has an interesting, long, diamond shaped green. Hugging the fairway bunkers on the left provides the best position for the approach.
• #3: With a massive hill on the right, many players may bail out right for a favorable bounce back into the fairway at the third. However, aggressively hugging the water and swampy areas left yields a superior angle.
• #4: Many par threes over water lack character and interest, but this bunkerless hole’s multi-tiered, pocketed putting surface changes strategy of attack daily. The stone house in the backdrop is charming.
• #5: The 5th takes the player up a hill to a new part of the property. I took a picture looking back down the corridor at the clubhouse and forested areas, and when I sent it to friends, they asked me if I was in the mountains of Eastern Europe! Clearly, the topography and architecture of the Ross Bridge resort did not cease to surprise others as well.
• #6: This long par three calls for a left-to-right ball shape to a diagonal green, but should anyone slide too far right, they face a very difficult up-and-down. A very safe chipping area left is a strongly preferable miss.
• #7: The tee shot to the downhill, wide fairway at the 7th is an absolute blast to drive. From there, a cross bunker and four greenside traps visually deceive players trying to lay up and those trying to reach the putting surface in two.
• #11: Another long par three, the 11th is absolutely terrifying. Miss short, and face a shortgrass false front that will reject your shot at least 20-30 yards back. Good luck trying to flop something high off the short turf to this shallow green! Miss long, and face bunker shots back down towards that false front. This hole masterfully showcases Ross Bridge’s teeth.
• #13: At 698 yards from the tips, this par five initially seems laughable. However, playing steeply downhill from start to finish, that yardage is misleading. With ample room, players can grip-it-and-rip-it off the tee, then strategically try to carry a fairway bunker on the left for the best angle into this diagonal green complex. This was actually among my favorite holes at Ross Bridge.
• #18: The brute of a finishing hole demands accuracy with your tee shot, avoiding both the lake on the right and bunkers peppering throughout the fairway. The more distance gained on the drive, the better, as an aerial approach will be required to stick it on this green guarded in the front by more bunkers and in the back by a creek.
When I left Ross Bridge, my immediate thought was “fun, but definitely not the type of course I would play every day.” In hindsight, that assessment is unfair. Gluttons for punishment, we had chosen to play from the tips for the ‘full’ effect of the course’s 8,000+ yards. Should we have opted for a more appropriate challenge, Ross Bridge would have offered a test of virtually every club in our bag. Perhaps the only ‘weakness’ to the course is the somewhat monotonous demand for aerial shots on virtually every hole. Otherwise, with its fabulously manicured facilities, striking terrain, mix of corridors, and terrific all around amenities, Ross Bridge was a solid, surprising, and bold golf experience.
The crown jewel of the RTJ Trail and the most expensive. As the others are such great values, throw caution to the wind and drop the extra $$$. It reminds me of actresses from the 1980s, instead of big hair it has big fairways and big greens. My favorite par 3 was number 4 with a large carry. The course highlight is the waterfall between 9 & 18 green. Whiel the landing areas are expansive the fairways can narrow quickly as evidenced on 9, 17 and 18
Ross Bridge in Hoover is the fifth longest golf course in the world. From the Black tees, it plays all of 8,191 yards but has six sets of options for all caliber of players. Surrounded by the foothills and carved into the Shannon Valley, it features lots of elevation changes and forced carries that provide drama and danger.
Built on 345 acres of rolling terrain, Ross Bridge definitely has a parkland feel with a well-defined tree-lined layout and ten holes that play along the shoreline of two large lakes.
Opened in 2005, Ross Bridge was the last to be built on the RTJ Golf Trail but has already hosted PGA Champions Tour events from 2006 to 2010.
The fairways are extremely wide and the large putting surfaces make it the fairest of all the courses on the trail.
All of the par-3’s are dramatic and challenging but the most memorable is probably the 4th hole. A mid-iron is required from a terraced tee that needs to clear the lake to a shallow and difficult green which needs no bunkers to protect it.
The approach to the 9th hole is the most picturesque with a waterfall behind that spills some 80 feet between the 9th and 18th greens. The original stone face grist mill that forms the backdrop reminds us that this property was built on an old mining site.
There are many signature holes here however #13 is my personal favourite. This severely down-hill par-5 plays shorter than it looks. You need to aim it left of the fairway bunker on your second shot but not too long on your approach as the well-protected green slopes away from you.
Make sure you linger until dusk to hear the soulful sounds of a bagpiper as he makes his way to the putting green.
To read more about golf in Alabama visit Dave Finn's website at: http://golftravelandleisure.com/category/united-st...