A private invitation-only club located in the picturesque Dunnavant Valley, south of Birmingham, Shoal Creek was opened in 1977 and found infamy when it hosted a controversial PGA Championship in 1990. Beautifully set within view of the Double Oak Mountain, the layout was designed by Jack Nicklaus and has a pleasant sense of seclusion as it is well removed from outside disturbances and the holes are cut through established oak, birch and pine trees that stretch high into the Alabama skies.
Blending attractive foliage with a meandering creek and several ponds, the holes are well routed across the site and the design noted for its modern length, fast, sloping greens and narrow fairways. Although none of the holes are genuine world-beaters, most are soundly conceived and fun to play. The strategic 15th is a particular favorite, the approach crossing a deep gully and the green angled to leave those driving safely down the right with a very difficult shot. Other notable holes include the par five 6th, which is twice cut by a diagonal creek, and falling cross-water par threes at the 5th and 8th. The severely contoured green on the 4th is also very good, as is the approach into the raised 2nd green, the pitch into the 17th and the strong hillside par three 13th.
Home to one of Nicklaus’s most understated layouts, Shoal Creek is a fine club that provides its membership with terrific facilities and a well-cared-for golf course in a peaceful setting. While some of driving zones have become a little dated by technology, the layout remains a strict test of your game and can easily be tournament readied by speeding greens and growing roughs. Once ranked among the Top 50 courses in the world, Shoal Creek doesn’t really belong in such exalted company but it does stand out in quality-starved Alabama.