Playing Ross Bridge as your opening course on a trip to Alabama’s RTJ Trail feels like trying to learn to drive in a Cadillac Escalade. This outstanding championship venue is located in Hoover, AL, and is the third longest course in the world (measuring 8,191 yards from the back tees and covering over 300 acres.) It is the on-site companion to the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa.
What immediately strikes you is the enormous size of everything and the exquisite conditioning and attention to detail in all areas of the operation. From the pristine all grass driving range with its pyramid stacks of new golf balls, to it’s gigantic putting surfaces, to the miles of open fairways, to the long traverses from green to tee, this golf course was a delight to play.
- Even though you will be riding, prepare to do some walking. The course is so large that there are ample stretches where you are on foot from cart to green and back.
- Warm up your driver and forget about losing any balls or laying up on any holes, as this is a bomber’s paradise.
- The course’s main defenses are the huge greens and deep green-side bunkers, a lot of which are protecting the front of the surfaces. If you are in a green-side bunker, you will have a long tough sand shot, so good ball striking off the tee and a solid iron game are at a premium.
- To get off to a good start on the first hole which is a long par-5, your line should be to carry the right side of the fairway bunker, but guard against going left on your second shot layup, as water sneaks in close to the fairway.
- The par-3 4th hole has a false front. Take plenty of club and play to the back-middle of the green.
- #7 is a par-5 dog leg right. You are tempted to cut the corner but don’t as everything bounces right. There’s plenty of room left center; take it.
- This course is long. Check your ego at the door and play the appropriate set of tees; you’ll have more fun. There are five to choose from (Black – 8,191; Purple – 7,446; Orange – 6,783; White – 6,200; Teal – 5,312).
Value (4.0 out of 5.0)
We booked our play at the RTJ Trail as a package and most of the venues on the site were known for good value and came in at $79.20 which included a cart. Ross Bridge is considered a resort and commands a premium level $151.80 greens fee. If you were to play here five times, your golf vacation could become costly, and even at the stated price, I questioned the value when I booked the tee time until I played the track. It is worth every penny. Having played comparable courses in the $100 – $200 range, such as Bulle Rock and the redesigned Pinehurst #2, I can clearly say that Ross Bridge provided the best value.
Facilities (4.5 out of 5.0)
The clubhouse and pro shop are attached to the beautiful 248-room Renaissance resort. There is a grill and a fine dining restaurant to choose from, but we did not eat here so no comment on the food. The pro shop was of good size and well stocked. The practice facilities include the tremendous all grass driving rang, a short game area to chip, pitch, and hit bunker shots, and an extra large putting green located between the staging area and first tee. The course was empty on the Monday that we played and I felt like a kid in a candy store with all these wonderful amenities at my disposal. Tees, fairways, and rough are all Bermuda grass and the greens are Bent and were rolling medium fast and very smooth. Of the hundreds of courses I’ve played, Ross Bridge’s practice facilities rank third, behind only Pinehurst and Congressional.
Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)
Booking a tee time was easy and I did this by calling RTJ a couple months in advance. They will book golf and / or lodging for you at the Marriott-Renaissance resorts or just golf, which I elected to do. We stayed at the Hampton Inn on Lakeshore Drive for three nights and found the accommodations very comfortable and about a 15 minute drive to the course.
Upon arrival, the bag drop attendant was right there to meet and greet and got us loaded promptly. When we finished up, he cleaned our clubs and gave us directions to the Oxmoor Valley clubhouse, where we were to play the next day. The pro shop staff was professional and welcoming and the starter actually provided playing tips for the first hole, which was much appreciated, and mentioned where to park our cart at the second green to avoid an inordinately long walk to the third tee. We played as a twosome and were not rushed and did not push anyone all the way around. It was a truly enjoyable golf experience. On your next trip to RTJ, don’t miss this one.
We played here on Monday, October 7, 2013 and I shot a six-over par 78 from the Orange tees which measured 6,783 yards.