Birmingham, Alabama is just the 50th busiest travel hub in the United States, but it’s Top 5 among America’s most popular golf-travel destinations. So our Metro Guide series heads to the heart of the South — home to famously friendly hospitality, mouthwatering barbecue, Lambert’s “Throwed Rolls” and, of course, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Here’s what you’ll find within an hour of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM).
Highland Park (7.5 miles from BHM): If you appreciate the roots of the game, you’ll find plenty of history at Alabama’s oldest golf course, established in 1903. One of the Bobby Jones’ first victories came at Highland Park, and a renovation back in 1998 accentuated the views of the downtown skyline. And tee times are just $54 on weekends and holidays.
Oxmoor Valley (18.2 miles from BHM): Home to the RTJ Golf Trail headquarters, this rugged site built on forming mining land is a great value round and scenic treat as well. With 54 holes (The Ridge, The Valley and the 18-hole Short Course), there’s plenty of variety when it comes to golf, and the Appalachians backdrop provides a diverse scenic setting. Oxmoor Valley rates top out at $79 for the Ridge and Valley, and the Short Course costs just $29 for 18 holes.
Ross Bridge (18.6 miles from BHM): We shamelessly plug this course as one of the 10 Most Underrated Courses in America — simply can’t understand how it is not ranked as the No. 1 public course in Alabama every year. Ross Bridge is big and bold and loaded with in-your-face drama and architectural muscle, waterfalls, lakes and memorable hole designs throughout. Peak rates are in the $120-$130 range — relatively reasonable for a shouldn’t-miss golf experience.
Ballantrae (30.5 miles from BHM): For some reason this semi-private Bob Cupp design also flies under the radar, with weekend rates peaking at only $65. It’s a fun loop, close to the city and has seen its share of events and accolades (hosted the Alabama Open for three years and won Best New Affordable by Golf Digest in 2005).
Limestone Springs (32.9 miles from BHM): This Jerry Pate course is a true adventure of a round. A bit on the higher end cost-wise (rates top out at $109 on the weekends) but well worth the drive for the experience. And Limestone Springs has onsite cottages for overnight accommodations.
Timberline (38.9 miles): Another Pate design, this semi-private course works its way through hardwood and pine trees that create an old-world ambiance. Rates top out at $65, making it yet another of the many value options throughout Alabama.
FarmLinks (54.2 miles from BHM): Our love of FarmLinks golf course (and the ever-growing Pursell Farms resort that surrounds it) is about so much more than golf. It’s about family, fun, values and everything the Pursell family holds dear. FarmLinks is a friendly rollercoaster of a round in some of the best conditions you’ll ever find (the family founded a fertilizer company in 1904). Rates are in the $100-$120 range.
Signature Golf Holes
No. 3 at Oxmoor Valley – Ridge: This 5-par takes you over a pond then uphill to a green buttressed by the shale cliffs that make the Oxmoor terrain so distinct.
No. 5 at FarmLinks: Simply stunning and one of the more memorable holes you’ll find anywhere, this 3-par features a 172-foot vertical drop and at least 172 miles of incredible panoramic views.
No. 7 at Limestone Springs: It’s a short 3-par over water to a tricky green with the signature “log cabin” always in sight.
No. 17 at Ballantrae: Castles in Alabama? Yes. And you’ll find them at Ballantrae, especially on this beautiful 3-par on the lake.
Civil Rights Story: Alabama was at the heart of the civil-rights movement of the 1960s. Landmarks such as the 16th St. Baptist Church and centers such as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute shine a spotlight on this tumultuous time in our nation’s history
Topgolf Birmingham: Can you count Topgolf as a tourism highlight? Golfers do. And so do we. Sometimes “more golf” is the answer to “What do we when the sun goes down?”
The Birmingham Zoo: They have a Red Panda. Who doesn’t love Red Pandas?
Paramount Downtown: Did I just call a bar a tourist highlight? Yes and No. Technically it’s a “Barcade” that offers an American garage experience mixed with a hefty dose of nostalgia — Skeeball, Ms. Pacman, Donkey Kong and more, plus plenty of pinball machines.
Museum-Mania: From the McWane Science Center to the Birmingham Museum of Art to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, there’s pretty much something for everyone’s interest in Birmingham.
Places to Stay
Renaissance Ross Bridge: Modeled after the overseas chateaus of the United Kingdom, the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa is a Golf Trip Experts favorite for your ultimate stay-and-play experience. The rooms are stylish, comfortable and perfectly appointed; the pool area (with hot tubs both indoors and outdoors) is inviting for the entire family; and the sunset bagpiper caps each day with a nod to the Old World. Ross Bridge is an idyllic host to golfers and families alike.
Pursell Farms: The Pursell family farm doubles as an outdoor lover’s dream with hunting, shooting, fishing and golfing — pretty much everything you could want out of a ranch-style resort. The golf cottages and cabins are designed with groups of traveling golfers in mind, and the new 40-room Inn at Pursell Farms has expanded the lodging options even more. Between the FarmLinks golf course, the adventure activities and the leisure setting, you’ll leave Pursell Farms feeling like a different (and probably better) person.
Dining Hot Spots
Saw’s Soul Kitchen and Saw’s Juke Joint: I consider this place to be the “World’s Longest BBQ Restaurant” in that you can essentially smell and taste the food for the entirety of the 3.4 miles between Saw’s Soul Kitchen at 215 41st St. South and Saw’s Juke Joint at 1115 Dunston Ave. Both are equally great, and the real winner eats at both.
Brock’s at Renaissance Ross Bridge: Sometimes the best dining is right underneath you. As in, just a few floors below your room. And that’s certainly the case at Brock’s, the marquee restaurant at Ross Bridge Resort. Our Golf Trip Experts have had some truly memorable meals at Brock’s, where Mediterranean flair meets farm-to-table, resulting in unforgettable entrees (the steaks and pasta dishes are some of the best we’ve found).
Old Tom’s Pub at Pursell Farms: Another “don’t leave the resort for great food” option is found at this Scottish-American gastropub. More of an upscale bar with an exceptional menu, Old Tom’s is the kind of place where you just want to hang out with friends, shoot pool (on Gomer Pyle’s table) and sample pretty much everything on the menu — Shrimp & Grits Pizza, Country-Fried Steak Burger and Hay-Roasted Pork Chop among the many options (and don’t forget the milkshakes!)
For more information about Alabama golf and travel, visit GolfAlabama.org.