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.
Date: April 26, 2020