Looking Back on 33 Years, 27 Holes

Looking Back on 33 Years, 27 Holes

When I think of words that accurately describe Bent Brook Golf Course, two words immediately come to mind:  quality and innovation.

Back on the late 1980’s our owner, James C. Lee III, had a vison of a golf course that was open to the general public but provided a playing experience that was comparable to a private country club. Bent Brook Golf Course embodies that vision.

As a public course we do not feature all the amenities of a private club such as tennis, swimming, and formal dining. Instead our focus is strictly on golf and to provide our patrons with the best course conditions of any public in the greater Birmingham area.

From our beginning in the fall of 1988, our bent grass greens and 27-hole design made us stand out from the competition. At that time, public courses with bent grass were nonexistent in Birmingham and extremely rare in the south. The combination of summer heat and higher play volume make it incredibly challenging to maintain quality bent grass putting surfaces at a southern public course. Our 27-hole layout allows us to spread the added play out, thus reducing the wear and tear on each green.

Our legacy of quality and innovation continues to this day. In recent years we have completely renovated the course with new bunkering and the installation of AU Victory bent grass, a revolutionary grass that withstands summer heat much better that previous varieties. Two prominent private clubs in our area, Shoal Creek and Vestavia, were so impressed with our greens that they decided to use AU Victory with their renovations.

In 2018 we also added numerous new tees, to shorten the course instead of lengthening it, to make Bent Brook more enjoyable for golfers of all ages, genders, and ability levels.

The final stages of extensive improvements to the Windmill nine on holes 6-8 are taking shape as we wait on Mother Nature to work her magic.  

“Biarritz” Green is as Hard as it Sounds

“Biarritz” Green is as Hard as it Sounds

As I noted in a previous post, architect Charles Blair MacDonald got the inspiration for most of his of template holes from golf courses in the British Isles.  The Biarritz is an exception to that rule.

The name comes from the par 3 third hole at the original Biarritz le Phare Golf Club in southwestern France.  It was designed by prominent English golf professional and course designer Willie Dunn Jr. in 1888.  Sadly this hole, which was known as “the chasm” no longer exists.  It was damaged during World War II and a hotel was later built on the original site.

Typically features of a Biarritz hole include:

  • A long par 3 hole with a large green.
  • The green is bisected by a deep swale and protected by bunkers on both sides.
  • It gives the golfer options such as playing a high soft shot or a low running shot.
  • The key to success is placing your approach shot on the correct portion of the green to avoid playing through the swale.

Perhaps the most famous version of this green in America is the 9th hole at the Yale University Golf Course. It was designed by McDonald in the early 1920’s and is widely regarded as the finest collegiate golf course in the nation.

Bent Brook’s version of the Biarritz is the new 7th hole on the Windmill nine.  As with our other templates, architect John B. LaFoy has done an outstanding job of creating a challenging but playable version of this famous hole.

The green is massive, measuring 52 yards from front to back and over 11,000 square feet.  The swale that bisects the green, while prominent, is not as severe as other versions.  With five different tees and such a large green, this hole can play anywhere from 85 yards to 275 yards.

To the best of our knowledge this is the only Biarritz green in the state of Alabama and we are excited to provide our patrons with the unique challenges of this iconic design.

Mickey Smith

Director of Golf

The “Redan” Hole, Windmill

The “Redan” Hole, Windmill

In a previous post I introduced you to Charles Blair MacDonald the “father of American golf course architecture” and the concept of template holes.  Today we will go into more detail about the Redan hole, which is probably the most famous and most copied of the template holes.

The original Redan hole is #15 at North Berwick Golf Club in Scotland. A British military officer who served in the Crimean War is credited with giving this famous hole its name.  He said it reminded him of fortresses or “redans” he had encountered.

Typically features of a Redan green include:

  • It angles diagonally from front right to back left
  • The back of the green slopes right to left and away from the direction of play.
  • It is protected by a large, deep bunker on the left side.  Other bunkers may be placed both short and long on the right side of the green.
  • The approach shot is played uphill with at least a portion of the green hidden from the player.

C.B. McDonald himself said, “take a narrow tableland, tilt it a little from right to left, dig a deep bunker on the front side, approach it diagonally and you have a Redan.”

The first Redan hole built in America is #4 at National Golf Links of America and was designed by McDonald.  Perhaps the most famous redan hole in America is #7 at Shinnecock Hills which has hosted numerous United States Open Championships.

Bent Brook’s version of the Redan is #6 on the Windmill Nine.  It features the typical large bunker left of the green with three smaller bunkers on the right.  The front portion of the green slopes toward the fairway with the back portion sloping right to left and away from the fairway.

Architect John B. LaFoy has done an outstanding job of creating a version of this famous hole that is less severe and more “playable” than the original while still providing an excellent challenge.

Mickey Smith
Director of Golf

Thankful for Golf in the Age of COVID-19

Thankful for Golf in the Age of COVID-19

We have all been affected by this disease.  I have personally had friends and family members who have had the virus.  Some barely had symptoms at all while others were seriously ill and had to be hospitalized.  

Hopefully, most of you who are reading this have only dealt with the inconvenience of having some of your daily habits changed.  No doubt some of you have suffered significant loss such as a death of a loved one, business closure or job loss.  My thoughts and prayers go out to you.

So far, the golf industry has survived pretty well with some courses actually thriving this year.  At Bent Brook it is has been a mixed bag.  On one hand we are seeing a high demand for golf.  On the other hand, we have seen a decrease in rounds mainly due to the social distancing requirements that mandate each golfer has a separate golf car.  This limits the number of players we can have on the course at a given time and makes it impossible for us to keep up with demand.  For those of you who have been frustrated when you cannot get a starting time, we apologize for the inconvenience and hope you understand.  Our “inventory” of starting times has been limited by factors beyond our control.  No one is more frustrated by that than we are.

Despite all the negative impacts of Covid-19 there are some positives that I am particularly thankful for.  I will list just a few:

  • I am thankful to work for a caring and generous owner.  Throughout this pandemic he has put the safety and well-being of Bent Brook employees and patrons ahead of profit.  We have consistently followed all public health orders and industry best practices, even when the result has been a loss of revenue or increased operating expenses.
  • I am thankful for my outstanding staff.  They have gone above and beyond the normal call of duty, in particular with all the enhanced cleaning and sanitation practices we have put in place.  They also covered for me when I was forced to quarantine for two weeks when a family member tested positive for the virus.
  • I am thankful for all the patrons of Bent Brook Golf Course and the Hank Johnson School of Golf.  We have endured some setbacks and inconveniences this year.  Hopefully, the worst is behind us, we can continue to make progress for the remainder of 2020 and can look forward to a banner year in 2021.
PGA Tour Debut

PGA Tour Debut

This week we have one of our students from the Hank Johnson School of Golf at Bent Brook making his PGA TOUR debut at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, MS.

Isaiah Jackson has been a student of Bent Brook Director of Golf, Mickey Smith, since 2012.  He recently won the 2020 Mississippi Men’s State Amateur and earned an exemption into the Sanderson Farms event. www.sandersonfarmschampionship.com.

Isaiah’s 2016 graduating class from Red Bay High School had 48 students.  Being from a small town and a small school he went unnoticed by Division I college golf coaches.  He played at Meridian Community College for 2 years where he had 4 tournament victories and became the top ranked player in NJCAA Division II golf.

In 2018 he transferred to the University of Memphis www.gotigersgo.com, where he won the prestigious Patriot All-America Invitational. 

The Patriot All-America is an elite individual tournament that invites players who have earned PING All-America honors at all levels of NCAA men’s golf including Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA and NJCAA.  With the possible exception of the NCAA Championships, it is arguably the toughest field in college golf.  Isaiah’s victory gave him his first taste of professional level competition by earning him spot in the 2019 Wichita Open on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Two years prior to Isaiah’s victory, the 2016 Patriot All-America was won by Cameron Champ.  Two years ago, the Sanderson Farms Championship was won by none other than Cameron Champ.

Will history repeat itself?  Unlikely, but it is fun to speculate.

As his swing coach I am hoping he plays well and learns some valuable lessons from his first official PGA TOUR start.  Hopefully there will be many more.


I can’t be with you this week, but Coach Mickey will be following your progress at www.pgatour.com.