Established in the late 1940s, Vestavia Country Club was originally formed as an equestrian facility called Vestavia Hills Riding Club but it soon changed direction to become a country club, with a George Cobb-designed golf course built on the 176-acre property in 1951.
Lester George was brought in to upgrade the course in 2017 which involved renovating tees, greens, fairways, bunkers and cart paths on every hole. The architect also added new water features, installed a new driving range and introduced a new irrigation system.
Implementing modified mowing lines has resulted in 20% more fairway width and selective tree clearance has opened out views of the surrounding landscape. The use of the Better Billy Bunker liner system in the sand hazards also enhances the playing experience.
Template classics have been used on several holes, such as a Principal’s Nose bunker on the 11th, a Redan green at the 13th and a Biarritz green on the 15th hole. Other redesign highlights include the par three 7th, which now plays over a lake, and the drivable par four 9th.
Vestavia CC in Birmingham, AL has gone through a transformation. The original design by George Cobb was getting a little long in the tooth. Lester George was commissioned to lead the rebirth. Vestavia is blessed with a wonderful piece of property with magnificent views. Over the 70 plus years of existence the views remained but had become obstructed as trees do what trees do. Over 500 trees have been removed as part of the redesign and frankly, it looks awesome. Blessings can be curses, as Vestavia is perched on rock ledge. This was a wild card in the design and the ultimate completed project. There are significant elevation changes at Vestavia and the course probably plays 200-300 yards longer than the card indicates.
To the course, the first hole is a welcoming par 4. Leans a little to the right with a well-protected green. Putts will tend to go left and as a rule of thumb, surprise, surprise, will break downhill or essentially south. The 2nd is the first par five is called the Alps and big hitters can get home in two. There is OB right and a water hazard left. The left side does provide a better angle to attack the pin. The hole features an Alps bunker right about 100 yards out and a Sahara bunker left. The 3rd is a fun hole, downhill and bends right. A creek splits the fairway. Prior to the redesign the right side was heavily treed. These have been removed and those with big eyes and can take dead aim at the green. There is a fairway bunker on that line about 60 yards out. Mortals, like myself, should choose to play left and have an attack iron in their hands for the approach. Hopefully, you got off to a good start because the 4th is a long par four that is deserving of its number one handicap ranking. The contour tilts right. There is a nice plateau on the left side of the fairway that provides a green light approach. Sadly, the plateau was way above my pay grade, but big hitters are capable of reaching it. The green moves left to right and right of the green is NG. The first par 3 is long and uphill. If the pin is back, lucky you, as the back tier is a punch bowl. If so, favor the left side of the green and the ball will funnel to the hole. If the pin is front you will have to earn your par the old-fashioned way. The 6th is a reachable par five, however there is a hazard front left and the green is angle right to left. If you do not have a green light lie, best to lay up right and give yourself your preferred flip wedge yardage. The par 3 7th is a well-designed creative golf hole. It is a par 3 with yardages ranging from 160-185 yards. The five tees are dispersed like a fan around a water hazard. The furthest right tees have a water carry to a wide narrow green with a bunker in front one right and rear. If you are coming in from the left the green is now deep and narrow with a water carry, bunkers right, rear and left with a lot of green to work with. Nice feature to provide club members with a different perspective based upon tee location. I was told there is a plan to add another tee box back left to create a long par three. The 8th is an interesting hole. From the 7th green one exits right and walks down the southern bank of the water hazard. This tee box is long and narrow, almost 100 yards long and less than ten yards wide. The hole bends a wee bit right with a fairway bunker left. The fairway narrows after the bunker and contours right. Off the tee aim just inside the right edge of the fairway bunker. The green has a bunker right and will leak left to right. The ninth is a short fun par four. Yes, it is driveable, but not by me. There is a keep you honest pot revetting bunker about 30 yards short of the green in the center of the fairway. As these are expensive to maintain, I would call this a faux sod bunker as synthetics are leveraged here. Nice way to close out the front side with a super risk/reward hole.
The back starts off with a dogleg right. Left is better off the tee, but gauge your yardage carefully as you can end up in the fairway bunker on the outside elbow. The 11th is called the Principals Nose, because you guessed it, the Principal Nose feature is in the middle of the fairway. The Principals Nose bunkers are also faux sod bunkers. While this may appear intimidating off the tee this is a shorter par four with a generous fairway. Plenty of room right, left, short and for the big hitters, over the bunker. The green is elevated and well protected. The long downhill 12th is a demanding par four. The hole bends to the right so favor middle left. The green has a large greenside bunker left. The par 3 13th is called Redan and is uphill with the Redan going right to left and bunker front left. The swale of the redan is not as severe as most redans. Also, behind the 13th tee is a Party Patio, so depending upon the time of day and weather be prepared for some good-natured commentary. The 14th is a real par five. Uphill big time, while I am sure someone can get home in two I think attempting such would be a fools errand. My goal was to reach the fairway and I was ecstatic in doing so. Play it as a three shotter, it is the number two handicap hole and it is warranted. The green has an upper tier that is about 20-25% of the back. The 15th is rated the easiest hole on the course. Huge green with three greenside bunkers. The 16th is a dogleg right, do not let your eyes get bigger than your stomach. There is a huge unforgiving bunker on the inside elbow that extends well into the fairway and towards the green. Play safe and favor the right side of the fairway off the tee. The 17th is the shortest hole and thus it rightfully earned the sobriquet, “Short”. The design team, once again showed their creativity with tee box angles coming in from 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock. This feature changes the entire perspective of the hole, slightly downhill to slightly uphill to a raised green surrounded by three bunkers. The 18th is a birdie oppty, downhill dogleg left par 5. Favor right of center to ensure you do not have tree trouble coming in. reachable for big hitters, but for most mortals a 3 shotter where you should pick your preferred attack yardage.
This is a fun course with some super design elements, that acknowledge the past and embrace the new. The membership at Vestavia are blessed with a course that has demanding fun and dynamic elements on a fantastic property. Kudos to all who made this transformation possible.