Come watch the best women in golf hit the links.
And while you’re here, see if it inspires your own game.
This May 28th through June 3rd, somewhere around 150 of the greatest women in the sport of golf will descend upon the legendary Shoal Creek Club for the 73rd U.S. Women’s Open Championship. They’ll pit their skills against themselves, each other, and an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed championship course that winds its way through the dense pine forests between Oak Mountain and Double Oak Mountain in the foothills of the Appalachians just outside of Birmingham. The list of reasons you wouldn’t want to miss this tournament is long. Watching the best players in golf go head-to-head is certainly way up near the top. Watching them play the exquisitely designed Shoal Creek course is right there as well. And, if you didn’t watch a single ball struck and just wandered through the dappled loveliness of the course, you’d come out a winner. Best of all – it’s in Birmingham, which means, while you’re here you’ll have the opportunity to play some excellent golf yourself (should you so choose). And, when you’re not watching or playing golf, you can wine and dine like you can in no other city in the South. So, get busy and get your tickets ordered here.
Mark Twain is credited with saying that golf was “a great walk spoiled.” We don’t know about that but we do know that being in Birmingham offers you the chance to spoil yourself a little bit and allow us to make a few suggestions as to how to use the time you aren’t watching the pros.
Robert Trent Jones at Oxmoor Valley
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is an ambitious project begun in the late 1980s that strings together 11 sites, 26 courses, and 468 spectacular holes of golf. At Oxmoor Valley, you’ll find 54 of them. Built on former mining land owned by U.S. Steel, the two courses (The Ridge course and The Valley course) are hewn out of the peaks, swales, draws, and hollers of the tail end of the Appalachians, and offer experienced golfers and duffers alike all the great golf they could want. Elevation changes and water hazards present a nice array of challenges, and with its serene, secluded setting, don’t be surprised if you interrupt your game to take in the site of a bald eagle flying over, or a deer that has decided to play through.
After a day on these links, we might suggest any number of spots to whet both appetite and whistle. Might we recommend, for example, that you start down in the Uptown part of Birmingham and enjoy Brazilian, rodízio-style, steakhouse dining at Texas de Brazil, exquisite Mexican at Cantina Laredo, or perhaps a taste of comfort food at The Southern Kitchen & Bar. And if you’re still feeling frisky after dinner, you could top off your day over at Topgolf, barely a 7-iron away from any of these and other excellent eateries.
Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa
One minute, you’re rambling along a serene secluded road just west of the city of Birmingham, the next you’re looking at what can only be described as the castle of a Tudor king surrounded by his personal golfing grounds. Welcome to the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa. The 259-room resort and accompanying spa offer a suite of amenities so extensive it must be left for another day of writing. But the golf, aye, there’s a thing o’ beauty! Voted one of the 50 Best Golf Courses by Golf Digest, the course, at 8,191 yards, is one of the longest in the world. Not to worry for those of you who don’t pound the ball like Bubba Watson, there are multiple tees arranged according to your ability. And the holes? You’ll not find 18 more beautiful holes strung together like these pearls. Like Oxmoor Valley, the course is nicely nestled in the terrain and sports ample challenges regardless of your level of play.
While you’re over in this part of town you might want to finish your day at one of the area’s classics – America’s oldest family-owned restaurant, the James Beard Award-winning Bright Star.In business since 1907, and owned and operated by relatives of the current owners, Jim and Nick Koikos since 1923, the Bright Star has made name for itself serving up fresh Gulf seafood, excellent meats and fresh vegetables. We recommend the Greek-style snapper or snapper throats, or, if fish isn’t your bag, you’ll find the Greek tenderloin completely beyond reproach.
Highland Park Golf Course
It’s hard to believe you could find a beautiful little course like Highland Park nestled in the heart of downtown Birmingham. Originally opened in 1904, Highland – the oldest golf course in Alabama – has a rich history. Here, a 14-year-old Bobby Jones defeated local celebrity, Jack Allison in an amateur invitational – one of his earliest victories. Here, Birmingham received Presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. Here famed blind golfer, Charley Boswell, once challenged Bob Hope to a ten-dollar Nassau… at midnight.
Redesigned in 1998, the course offers the scratch golfer and weekend warrior substantial challenge. At about 5,800 yards from the tips, this par-70 course is the antithesis of Ross Bridge. But don’t let its length fool you; it’s a shotmakers course. Take the number-one handicap hole as an example. The fairway narrows at about 250 yards to a rounded point with water to the right and front and trees to the left. From there, you have a short iron to a two-tiered green that just begs you to three-putt. Loved by locals and visitors alike, Highland Park is definitely one of the better “walks” in Birmingham.
In this part of Birmingham, you’ll have all sorts of eating and drinking opportunities. If you’re in the mood for fine dining, you’ll want to consider Highlands Bar & Grill, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Ocean, Bottega, or Chez Fon Fon (all located over in the Five Points South neighborhood). Or, you could head over to Avondale and take your pick from any number of excellent little bars and eateries: exquisite gourmet grilled sandwiches at Melt, fresh oysters at Fancy’s on Fifth, brick-oven pizzas at Post Office Pies, soul food at Saw’s Soul Kitchen, Asian fusion at Hotbox, to name a few. Local craft brews at Avondale Brewing or a Moscow Mule at 41st Street Pub and Airplane Sales might be a nice way to cap the day.
With a fair Scottish name like Ballantrae, you know it has to be great golf. Designed by internationally renowned golf architect, Bob Cupp, Ballantrae Golf Club has won national accolades as “The Best New Affordable Public Golf Course,”(Golf Digest) and one of the “Top 50 Courses for Women,” Golf for Women Magazine. Located just south of Birmingham in the bedroom community of Pelham, Balantrae meanders through a scenic valley surrounded by gorgeous southern Alabama woodlands and breathtaking views. At 7,310 yards and with a slope rating of 125, Ballantrae offers an superb “walk” right here in the heart of Alabama.
Nothing says, “I earned a night of eating pizza and drinking beer” like walking around a golf course. Here in Birmingham, we’ve got Pizza covered. Of course, the aforementioned Post Office Pies is an excellent choice. But there are others of note. For example, if Chicago-style pizza is your jam, you’ll want to check out Tortuga’s. On the other hand, if you prefer something more akin to a traditional flatbread style pizza, you’ll want to swing over to Bettola or Bottega. Jim Davenport’s Pizza Palace is an old Birmingham standby that’s hard to beat. Then you have Slice, the Filling Station, and Bird’s all bringing their own twists to the classic Italian pie.
Bent Brook Golf Club
Opened in 1988, the 27-hole Bent Brook Golf Club, can be found southwest of downtown via Interstate 459. Each of the three nine-hole designs, Brook, Graveyard and Windmill, has unique features. Brook is threaded by a natural stream, bringing water into play on a number of holes. Graveyard is the site of a small cemetery which remains on the property, while Windmill, as you might have already guessed, is the site of a landmark windmill. Bent Brook’s clubhouse is built in a farmhouse style, designed to fit the dairy farmland on which the course was built. At Bent Brook you’ll enjoy Bent Grass greens and Tift 419 Bermuda fairways. Four sets of tees ensure that, regardless of your skill level, you’ll find the “walk” pleasant.
After playing Bent Brook, we might recommend swinging back around I-459 to the area near the Summit shopping center. There, you’ll have a number of after-golf options ranging from upscale Mexican (and the finest selection of Tequilas to be found) at Fresco Mexicana Moderna, and non-pretentious fine dining at Satterfields or FoodBar, to pub fare at Blackwell’s Pub & Eatery or Black Market & Grill.
The Oaks Golf Course
Just south of Birmingham, you’ll find Oak Mountain State Park, a rambling , 940-acre park straddling Double Oak Mountain. The Oaks Golf Course, an 18-hole, championship course designed by Earl Stone, meanders through the valley at the mountain’s base. Consistently ranked by Golf Digest among the top public courses in the country, The Oaks runs 6,842 from the tips with a slope rating of 120, and water in play on 9 of 18 holes. You’ll find most of the fairways wide and forgiving, making for a relaxing walk under the majestic shadow of the mountain. Best of all, because it’s in a state park, the greens fees are extraordinarily modest.
Mark Twain might not have been all that with a mashie. That would explain the famed writer’s animosity towards such a beloved sport. Regardless, if you prefer your walk with a bag of sticks on your shoulder, Birmingham is the place to be and most definitely the place to celebrate afterwards
Fore & bon apetit!