While Jack Nicklaus is the architect of record, Robert Trent Jones had a hand in the development of Shoal Creek. In the 50s, Jones shortened Country Club of Birmingham’s 16th hole into a par 4. In so doing, it became easier to drive through the fairway and out of bounds on the right. In the 70s, member Hall Thompson became frustrated with the club’s unwillingness to move the tee on 16 to prevent his going OB. When his wife tired of his regular complaints about the club’s intransigence, she suggested he build his own club.
So he did.
Thompson was a perfectionist and while he wanted a course of championship caliber, he also wanted one that was playable for his friends, who would become its members. As Nicklaus was in his infancy as a designer, Thompson vetoed so many of Jack's ideas that older locals will also tell you that even though Nicklaus’s name is on the course, Shoal (as the members call it) is actually a Hall Thompson design………assisted by Jack Nicklaus. As a result, none of the par4s require an aerial approach, leaving the player a number of options (and causing him or her to think) on the approach. The same is not true on the par 5s, where water fronts the green on three of them. The finest is #6 where you can go for the green on your second shot, but with a tougher angle than if you lay up. Three of the par 3s (all fronted by water) were the same length the day I played, but short enough not to be daunting. Most fairways are wide and half of them have enough hazards to require some thinking of the tee. Greens are nicely contoured and slick: 12.5 on my stimpmeter the day I played, despite having been topdressed enough that sand was still visible.
Date: April 23, 2016