RTJ Golf Trail at Oxmoor Valley: Ridge Course (Birmingham, AL on 04/30/16)

We were at it again for another 36 hole day on the trail! This time we were in Birmingham, eventually working our way towards Huntsville. We stayed near the I-20/I-459 interchange and headed into the hills to get to Oxmoor Valley. We went from driving in the city to a highway in the country in the blink of an eye and somehow ended up with mountain views while hitting golf balls at the range!

Our morning round was on the Ridge Course and what a good name for it! Over the last couple rounds, we had enjoyed the sites at Grand National and Capitol Hill, and Oxmoor Valley was no different. Oxmoor Valley is up in the hills with tree-covered ridgelines on both sides of the clubhouse. I live a short drive from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and the scenery here felt very similar to what I’d find on a course there. The scenery is probably going to be one of the main reasons to play the Ridge Course. I chatted with the proshop for a few minutes after the round and it seems that most people prefer the Ridge Course because of the dramatic elevation change and the views.

Again, we played the Orange tees which are 6527/70.6/123. Similar to some of the other RTJ Trail courses, I was surprised to see that the rating and slope weren’t higher! The elevation change is going to be the main difficultly here and is the thing that made the Ridge Course unique from the other courses that we played on the trail. You’ll probably need a little luck estimating the drops and climbs if you want to get the distance right. There are plenty of uphill climbs to the greens so you’ll face semi-blind shots too. If you haven’t played much golf in hilly areas then you might be in for a long day with all the uneven lies, especially for the higher handicappers. You’ll get uphill, downhill, and sidehill lies, probably even a combination of two at the same. There some spots of mountain golf and I’d even go as far to say that the Ridge Course is a bit “gimmicky”. My tip would be to always miss it on the high side!

Sure, the elevation change might be a bit much for my liking, but as a whole I liked the course because it has many design features that I enjoy. First, it has the views! As you can see from the pictures it is quite scenic with the nearby mountains and there is even remnants from mining activities before the course was built. Second, the yardages varied significantly and I came close to hitting every club in the bag on my approaches. The par 5’s are the most diverse in this regards as they play between 465 and 572 yards. Finally, the Ridge Course allows for some sideways shots off the tee. The 1st hole had me scared, but other than that tee shot and the 6th, you can track down some misses. I found a couple wayward drives and pitched those out, but at least I found them! Off the tee, it always seemed like there was a bailout if I didn’t want to try for the hero line with a driver.

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to individual holes on the Ridge Course! It is a course where I could spend all day typing, but I’ll just highlight the two holes on each nine that stood out to me. On the front nine, the 2nd and the 8th are memorable. For me, the 2nd signaled that the course was going to have an incredible amount of elevation change. It is a 513 yard par 5 that plays significantly downhill to the green. It might not be the most difficult task to get around the green in two shots, but if you layup it might be just as tough to be by the green in three! The layup area narrows and angles to the left, meaning that an average shot can go bounding down the hillside on the right. That’s what happened to me and I had to be careful not to throw my back out hitting my third shot! Besides the 18th, it could be the worst hole on the course. The 8th, a 159 yard par 3, is my favorite hole on the course! It features probably a two club drop to the green with water lurking short.

On the back nine, the 12th and the 18th were the holes to remember. The 12th is the shortest par 5 (465 yards) on the course so plenty of golfers might have a chance to get there in two. The ideal shot is a couple of draws as it doglegs left, but I played my usual fade with a 3 wood and a hybrid and ended up pin high in two. It is no gimmie birdie though! The green is narrow and slopes off on all sides, so I didn’t even end up with a birdie putt after my pitch. It appears that there is a second fairway to the left, but it is extremely narrow and offers a worse angle into the green over some bunkers. I’m not sure why someone would go that route. The 18th, at 572 yards, is the longest par 5 on the course. It is ranked as the #1 handicap but that’s only going to be partly due to the distance. The green is pretty much straight ahead from the tee, but with approximately 100 to 125 yards left the fairway slides right and disappears into a hazard. Our playing partners told me about this, but I didn’t take enough off my layup. My ball got a big bounce and ended up in the weeds which spoiled a decent shot. I don’t mind a par 5 that bashes you with yardage, but I think that should be the only difficultly on such a long hole. If you have a good round going when you get to the last, be careful!

One advantage of the severe elevation changes on the Ridge Course is that it drains well! Carts were 90 degrees and the fairways and bunkers were beautiful! The greens were smooth, but slower than they looked. That might have something to do with the fact that these greens are bentgrass. Bentgrass greens don’t like the heat and we are creeping towards the summer season. The tees left a little to be desired as some where uneven and had a lot of divots. Overall, the conditions were consistent with what we experienced on the other trail courses and I didn’t have any complaints.

In case you are curious, it was another long round as it took us 4 hour and 45 minutes.  There are holes out there which will definitely slow you down. Apparently I’m in the minority when it comes to my course preference at Oxmoor Valley! I liked the Valley Course, which I’ll be reviewing next, better. I think the Ridge Course is plagued by a couple weak holes and the elevation change brought an element of luck into play.

#1 (404 yard par 4):

1-1 1-2

#2 (513 yard par 5):

2-1 2-2

#3 (520 yard par 5):

3-1 3-2

#4 (382 yard par 4):

4-1 4-2

#5 (146 yard par 3):

5-1

#6 (405 yard par 4):

6-1

#7 (346 yard par 4):

7-1

#8 (159 yard par 3):

8-1 8-2

#9 (384 yard par 4):

9-1

#10 (379 yard par 4):

10-1 10-2

#11 (393 yard par 4):

11-1 11-2

#12 (465 yard par 5):

12-1 12-2

#13 (162 yard par 3):

13-1

#14 (348 yard par 4):

14-1

#15 (366 yard par 4):

15-1

#16 (172 yard par 3):

16-1

#17 (411 yard par 4):

17-1

#18 (572 yard par 5):

18-1 18-2

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